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Romans & Gifts

Romans 12: 3, 6-16

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.

At Dr. Charles V. Willie’s funeral last Saturday, this excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans was read. It was a powerful reminder that we each have been given different gifts. We are to use the gifts God has given us and to do so cheerfully, loving sincerely, humbly; living in peace with everyone; overcoming evil with good. As we awake each day to more news of war, deep division in our country, voices of hatred louder all the time, and the destruction of our planet, this feels like a tall order. Cheerful hope seems naive most days. On Saturday, I sensed Dr. Willie’s voice, his hopeful spirit; his commitment to justice and peace, to love and to neighbor. He took seriously the gifts God gave him and trusted that the gifts were real, valuable, useful, and filled with love and power. He honored his gifts throughout his life and his work in the Church, as a teacher, a sociologist, a writer, a family man. Like any life, he faced struggles and seasons of challenge, but he lived with deep faith that God had called him to a particular life in a particular time and had given him the gifts to serve well, to be true to himself and to God.

This message is encouragement for each of us too. God has given each of us different gifts. Mine are not the same as yours. Yours are not the same as your parents’ or your children, or your neighbor. Our gifts may be quiet ones. Perhaps you make a casserole from your grandmother’s recipe and bring it to someone who is grieving. Others may write music, or recite poetry. Some speak before large crowds, run for public office, write books or symphonies, develop new medical procedures; and others are most authentic with a hand written note or a phone call.

Sometimes our gifts bump up against other people’s gifts, when we expect everyone in our community or in our family to be more alike than we actually are. It takes love and a willingness to really know someone in order to appreciate the gifts God has given to them. It takes patience and discernment with ourselves in order to appreciate and value the gifts God has given us, and then to steward those gifts with gratitude and trust that God is working always in us and with us.

I was thinking about all this in the context of our Baptismal Vows; the promises we make when we are baptized and confirmed, and when we renew our vows together in church. The words we say are the same, but how each of us lives out the promises depends upon who we are, what gifts we have been given, what our passions are. How you answer the call to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to love your neighbor as yourself, to strive for justice and peace, to respect the dignity of every human being, and care for the earth” will be particular to you. Each of us is a unique expression of God’s love; entrusted and equipped in different ways.

Can you identify and cherish your gifts, giving thanks to God for how you are made?

When we are working and living from the beauty of our particularity, we are most open to the gifts of others, most free to live and love as God intends. As we live in hope for spring, Easter joy, and more fellowship in our beloved community of Trinity Church, please reach out for conversation about how you can joyfully use your gifts! We are blessed by one another when we live into the gifts God has given each of us. Here are a few ideas, but I know God has many more than I can think of! It’s fine to try something out as part of your discernment. It’s fine to dream up and offer something you have always wanted to do!

Trinity’s new Parish Care initiative, led by Molly Stone and Jace Tilton, offers a variety of ways to participate and try out some of your gifts. Even if you are home-bound yourself, you might write cards, or make phone calls, or pray for those on our Parish Prayer list as part of your daily prayers. We have in-person opportunities to welcome visitors, newcomers, and old friends by serving as an usher, greeter, bringing treats for coffee hour, serving as an adult helper in Church School. Wednesday Noonday Prayer offers the chance to speak with the upcoming Sunday preacher to share your “take” on the lessons, and offer encouragement and insight to the preacher as well as smiles to others who are there. Healing Prayer offers an intimate weekly gathering for study, discernment and prayer with a wide-ranging conversation from different spiritual perspectives. Coming to funeral services even if you didn’t know the person well or at all, is a way to honor life in community, support the grieving, and hear words of Resurrection news for yourself.

You get the idea! Your presence is a blessing. You are wonderfully made, by a God who has bestowed particular gifts to you. In this new season, when all things are new, what is the invitation for you?

In Christ,



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