Friends! Not only do you get me preaching twice in a row, you once again get Paul talking body talk. Paul really does love the God-bod image. This time though, the body talk is in service of how each of the parts work together, how the community of Christ engages and interacts “For the common good” (as Paul puts it).
This is a Pentecost text because it is about the fullness of the Spirit’s action in the new church. The Spirit is actively filling the members of the church - at Corinth and in every place and time - with gifts to be “activated” in service of the church (and I would say also the world - but that’s me not Paul.) The gifts work together the way a body works together. And they can also work against each other.
When I was seeing a Quaker Spiritual director - someone steeped in the way of presence in Spirit - I was helped to see the spiritual gifts as innate. Our gifts are so a part of ourselves that our gifts become almost our native language. Like language and culture, we might more highly value our own than that of others because we can’t understand it. In addition, when we can’t understand someone else’s gift we may feel it unnecessary. That lack of understanding can be the cause of conflict and misunderstanding.
Language of Enneagram is not a language that I speak but I suspect that those of you who do may be able to translate this to type. I do not know that way of engaging in giftedness but i do have a little bit of insight into love languages. The idea of “Love Languages” was developed by psychologist Gary Chapman and I was introduced to it in couples counseling as a way to help my spouse and me to understand each other and communicate. Each of us has a different “Love language”: Words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, acts of service. When we’re “spoken to” in that language we feel loved and connected to our partner.
For example, my primary love language is “acts of service” but my spouse’s is words of affirmation. So we often talk past each other when trying to express our love and appreciation. I’m looking for someone to do the dishes after dinner - that says love to me. I don’t necessarily hear “I love you” in the expressions of gratitude and affirmation for a delicious meal. But also because words of affirmation are not my love language - I forget to articulate my own appreciation and encouragement and gratitude, which is how my spouse feels loved.
This is the passage that leads into the loooove passage to the Corinthians. The one we heard a few weeks ago. Even though we’re not hearing them in order, it seem right that this should be the first step. Before we can learn to love each other - need to speak each other's language - or at least have an appreciation for that language. Someone who does not speak the spiritual gift of prophecy, might find that gift to the church annoying or distracting or troublemaking. But prophecy - the telling of truth to power and naming injustice pushes the church body to be more Christ-like. The body will communicate between its members more fluidly if the hand is learning the language of the eye.
Many years ago I saw a Cirque du Soleil show in which I spent almost all of the show with my mouth agape and gasping in awe at the way the acrobats and dancers engaged their whole bodies in the performance - and at how their bodies worked in concert with each other. Even the musicians and the clowns. There was no part that was not used with intention and beauty and strength and grace. But it takes a lot of training and practice for one of those acrobats to be able to do that - for anyone who is an elite athlete to be able to make their body work in the way that it does. It takes practice for the Body of Christ as well.