Water into wine? What’s your gift?

Water into wine? What’s your gift?

January 20, 2013
Stina Pope

In John 2:1-11, Jesus and his friends are invited to a wedding in the neighborhood, his mother was friends with the mother of the groom, and they run out of wine. Unthinkable! This is a major social faux pas, and the mother of the groom is ready to kill her husband for not buying enough wine. Mary says, just hang on for a few minutes. She knows someone who might be able to help – her son. She’s seen some of the things he has done. He has a gift for making things happen. So she goes to him and says: They have no wine. He replies: So, do I care? But then, she tells the servants – she must have been a very good friend of the family, because these are not her servants she is ordering around! She tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.

We know the rest of the story. There are big stone jars, he tells the servants to fill them with water, no small matter, and then when they are finished, to draw some out and take it to the steward. They do exactly as they are told, and the steward is astonished. It is not only wine, after he had been told that there was none, it is very good wine, the kind you serve before the guests are drunk. As usual, the servants are the ones who really know what is going on.

But the point of this story for today – and let me say that there are several points that can be made from this story, but the one for today is that Mary was clear that Jesus had a gift for making things happen, for changing things, even for changing their very substance. And, he was willing to use his gift.

On to 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services or ministries, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates or produces all of them in everyone.” This is so important for us to understand – and perhaps the most important word in that sentence is the last one: everyone! God produces gifts in everyone. There are a variety of gifts, a variety of activities, a variety of services, a variety of services, but they all come from the same source, and everyone has gifts. The question of the day is: what are your gifts? What is the task you have been given to do at this point? Our spiritual tasks change, just like our other tasks change, given our situation in life. So the first thing is to think about what our tasks are right now, and that will give us the key to thinking about what the gifts are that we have been given to accomplish those tasks.

So on to the next part of the passage: “A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another.  All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.” Again, each part of this is important.

The gifts we are given are not for us, but rather for us to use for the common good. I have not met anyone lately who has the gift of turning water into wine, but even that! Jesus did not turn the water into wine so he could have a good party with his buddies. He did it so that the family was not shamed for generations – and they would have been.

The list of gifts that are here are generalities, and not exhaustive at all. That is, this is to give us an idea of what we might look for, but there are lots more besides these. There is the gift of a word of wisdom. I have been the recipient of this gift. A Filipino woman I met at a dinner was telling me the rather sad story of her life, how she was left with 4 children under 9 when her husband died suddenly, and she had to decide what to do next. In listening to her story, I realized I had heard “a Word” of wisdom for me in what she had said. I went home and told Sue that I had received “a Word.” It changed my life.

There are other types of gifts. A word of wisdom is not the same as a word of knowledge. Other people have the gift of faith in ways that the rest of us do not. There are gifts of healing – notice that this is plural, there is not just one gift of healing, there are several kinds. Some people can perform miracles, others can prophesy, which is telling the deep truth about what is happening, not fortune-telling, others can tell the difference between good and bad spirits, others can speak in tongues, which may be languages they do not know or the language of angels, and other can interpret the meaning of those languages.

And then again, so important: the one Spirit is the one who gives these gifts to each person. And they are given to be used.

So again, what is the gift you have been given to do the task you have in front of you?
I know of one woman who cannot get out of her home because of mobility issues. But she has a telephone, and so her gift is to call others and cheer them up. Another woman cannot use the phone for very long, it is too heavy for her to hold. Her gift is to pray. She asks people to send her prayer requests, so that she may exercise her ministry of prayer. Another woman I know has a very busy life, but she also has the ministry of prayer. Every Saturday morning her Facebook entry reads: how may I pray for you? And people send her their prayer requests. For her it is a special time to be quiet and pray in the midst of her busy life. Bishop Charleston also prays for many people on Saturdays.

For the parents of young children, the tasks seem never-ending. And yet, it is appropriate to pray for the gifts of patience and endurance, and love.

What I am trying to say here is that the gifts of the Spirit are given to do whatever tasks are there for us. They may have fancy names like prophecy, but more often they will have names like helping a friend fold the laundry, and smiling at someone, and releasing anger. Many times the biggest gift that we will be given is simply that of love.

I hope you will think about this idea of gifts. It is difficult to figure out what your own gifts are, much easier to identify the gifts of another. So here you are! I am giving you permission to help others identify their gifts. But that comes with a caveat. When someone tells you that you seem to have the gift of something – stop and listen, and then, say thank you! We need your gift in this difficult world!

(look up Bible verses easily at www.biblegateway.com, I use the Common English Bible version)