Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
As of July 5, Ada Chapel has reopened for in-person worship on Sunday mornings. Here is what you need to know about resuming meeting for worship.
1.) Friends should not feel pressured to return to meeting if they are not comfortable doing so. Worship will continue to be posted every week on the Ada Chapel blog for Friends who wish to continue worshiping at home.
2.) If you are not feeling well on any given Sunday morning, please stay home. We want to protect those among us who are high-risk.
3.) Masks will not be required, but if you have been wearing one regularly, wearing it to worship is encouraged.
4.) There will be hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes set up throughout the meetinghouse so that Friends can sanitize their hands, and so that we can wipe down common surfaces, such as hand rails, pews, and hymnals.
5.) Friends must spread out in the pews. Sitting in family units is fine, but leave some space between your family and the next family.
6.) Friends must be respectful of other Friends’ space. Congregating after worship, hugging, shaking hands, close talking, etc. is discouraged.
Rose, as she is recovering from surgery. Violeta and Ross. Our country. All those who are in harm’s way. All of those who are sick, or who have loved ones who are sick. Healthcare workers, first responders, and all those who continue to potentially expose themselves to infection. Our neighborhood and our community. People of color in this country. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our leaders in all levels of government. People in the recovery community. Parents, children, the elderly, and others who are isolated. Everyone who is feeling discouraged. All of those who have lost jobs, or who are struggling financially during this time. Parents who don’t know what to do about sending their kids back to school. Those who are grieving. Those who are feeling anxious about the spikes in COVID 19 infections.
Hymn- He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Revised Queries #3: Do I strive every day to love my neighbor as myself, as befits Christ’s followers?
Luke 1:39-55: In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would bea fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
A quick disclaimer—today we are going to get a little woo-woo. So far in this summer sermon series about spiritual gifts, we have mostly discussed what I will call the “traditional” gifts. We have talked about giving, compassion, exhortation, and leading—those everyday sorts of gifts that are mentioned in Romans 12. But there is a second list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament—in I Corinthians 12—and we haven’t explored any of them yet.
This group of gifts are spiritual gifts that church people, over time, have decided to call the charismatic gifts. These are spiritual gifts such as the gift of healing that Miriam Speaight preached to us about in June. Like the traditional gifts, these charismatic gifts come from God, and they help us to serve God and to serve others. The difference lies in the nature of the gift. For lack of a better word, the charismatic gifts are little more miraculous than the traditional ones. The charismatic gifts tend to stretch the limits of our minds and our understanding of what God can or can’t, or will or won’t do. They shock us, they take us by surprise, and they open us up to an abundant view of the world that had been in front of us all along—we had just been missing it. So, buckle up, Friends! Let’s keep an open mind and have open hearts as we shift towards mystery today.
In I Corinthians 12, the first two charismatic gifts that Paul mentions are words of wisdom and words of knowledge. Technically, these are two separate spiritual gifts. But because they are so similar to one another—in some ways, dependent upon one another—I think that it makes sense to think about them as a set. The gift of words of knowledge describes the experience of the Holy Spirit telling you something that you did not previously know, and leading you to speak about it. The gift of words of wisdom operates in same way as words of knowledge—except that the Holy Spirit imparts wisdom upon a person rather than knowledge. In both cases, the purpose of this gift is usually to offer guidance or encouragement to someone in your life.
Words of knowledge and words of wisdom—while not the main point of today’s scripture reading—do make a pretty big guest appearance. When Elizabeth is greeted by Mary, she is filled with the Holy Spirit and suddenly becomes aware of the fact that Mary’s child is the Messiah. At this point in the birth story, Mary is the only person who could possibly know that. But God gives Elizabeth this knowledge. And then, upon hearing this declaration of knowledge, Mary bursts into some words of wisdom! She offers Elizabeth encouragement and hope—explaining that God has not forgotten His people, and that her child is going to change the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary presents this gorgeous, powerful piece of poetry about the Messiah to Elizabeth. This Spirit-infused exchange was important for both women. Mary must have needed to hear from someone who wasn’t a celestial being that her child would be the Messiah, and Elizabeth must have needed assurance that the Kingdom was on its way. They also each got to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit, which is something special all in itself. Words of knowledge and words of wisdom might sound strange—especially if you do not consider yourself charismatic—but they have the potential to do a lot of good.
Just like in the Biblical exchange between Elizabeth and Mary, modern-day happenings of words of knowledge and words of wisdom tend to occur within the bounds of a close relationship. That’s one of the differences between these two gifts and prophesy. Prophesy is for a group of people. You might know some of these people very well, but you also might not know any of them at all. Words of knowledge and words of wisdom are more personalized. Words of knowledge and words of wisdom—when they happen—usually come from a person who you are close with. And in that same vein, if the Holy Spirit imparts you with words of knowledge or with words of wisdom, they are probably meant to be shared with a person who you know and love. If you have received a message from God and felt led to share it with somebody before, but you aren’t sure if its a words of knowledge or a words or wisdom situation or something different, this is a helpful way to discern that.
Personally, I do not have either of these spiritual gifts. So unfortunately, I can’t speak directly to what its like to have them. And honestly, I’m not sure that the charismatic gifts in general are methodical enough in nature for anyone to give a step by step guide of how they work. Just like salvation experiences, or encounters with the Holy Spirit, I think that this might be one of those things where it is a little bit different for everyone. But, I did receive words of wisdom from a good friend once, and I can tell you what that was like.
For months prior to this experience, I had been dealing with a difficult situation at work. And on this day that I went to see my friend, I just happened to be feeling really drained. That day had been absolutely terrible, and I was extremely frustrated with one coworker in particular. I hadn’t shared with my friend the details of my day, or the anger that I was feeling, but I did tell her that work had been really stressing me out. All at once, in the midst of our conversation, she said to me, “God is wanting me to tell you something. Do you mind if I share it with you?” I was a little surprised—I had never had anyone tell me that they had a message from God for me before—but I told her to go ahead. She told me that God wanted me to know that there was enough room for everyone to walk their own path, and that I needed to focus on me. As my friend spoke, I was shaken to the core. I can’t explain very well what happened. It’s difficult to put into words. But I felt this gentle, but urgent force welling up inside of me—sort of like a soft breeze, but also like a fire—and I just knew that her message really was from God. I knew from the feeling, and from the fact that my friend hadn’t had any way of knowing that her words would speak so directly to my situation. I felt relieved, refreshed, seen, and convicted all at the same time. I think I actually teared up a little. I ended up following that advice when it came time for me to collaborate with my coworker the next day. I just let go, and I let her do her thing while I did mine. I prayed for help whenever I knew that we would find our work rubbing up against each other. And as you might have already guessed—it totally worked.
If, like Mary, Elizabeth, or my friend, you have had the experience of God giving you a message and telling you to deliver it to somebody—then you might have one or both of these gifts. If you have this set of gifts, it is very important for you to stay grounded in God and for you to find a spiritual practice that keeps you connected with God. If a person with either of these gifts stops relying on God, they might find themselves giving people their own words of knowledge or wisdom rather than God’s. Putting our personal opinions out there, or seeking power or attention is not what these gifts are about. And just like how we have to consistently practice listening with the people in our lives who we care about, listening to God requires practice. Silent meditation—like what we do in silent worship—is a good tool to have in your tool belt. And don’t forget to pray! Talking to God keeps us grounded. To use the gifts of words of knowledge and words of wisdom well, and responsibly, requires that a person build a solid relationship with their Creator.
If you’re not sure either way—here are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, having these gifts does not mean that one has a never-ending flow of messages to deliver from God, every minute of every day. Words of knowledge and words of wisdom are not gifts that are always turned “on”. Even the Old Testament prophets were not constantly talking. Frequency of messages does not necessarily count you in or out. Also, a person’s reaction to your message is not entirely indicative of whether or not you possess these gifts. If you told someone something that you felt led to tell them once, and they looked at you like a weirdo, so you assumed that you should never do anything like that ever again—I’d encourage you to pray about it. Not all Christians believe that God still uses other people to talk to us. There are varying beliefs about this out there. So, if you tell someone who doesn’t believe that words of knowledge or words of wisdom can happen that God has a message for them, then they are probably going to be taken aback. But their reaction isn’t about you, its about them. And, remember to check your motive. Consider where these words are coming from. Are they God’s words, or are they yours? Are they your purely ideas, or did God play a part in it? If you find yourself sharing words of knowledge or words of wisdom for any reason other than that the Spirit is telling you to, then this might not be one of your spiritual gifts. To help you as you explore, be sure to spend time pursuing a strong relationship with God. Perhaps find somebody who has this set of gifts and ask them some questions about how they realized that they had it. Maybe try speaking out of the silence during silent worship the next time that you have the chance to test the waters.
If you don’t have the gifts of words of knowledge or words of wisdom, well—this might be the first week all summer that I don’t have a list of homework for you! Pray for those among you that might have these gifts. Remember that we are a body, and it takes all kinds for us to function. Ask God that He might help these folks to hone their gift and to grow. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of one of these gifts, it can be alarming—but it can also be a very rich experience. So don’t be caught off guard—respond with the love of Christ.
Be well, Friends. I hope that this coming week will be a good week of spiritual discernment for you, and that you might continue to figure out which spiritual gifts you have.
Hymn- Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving every day. Amen