A New Normal | Gifted
I want to begin today’s sermon by asking you a question. And this a question that has been debated across America for decades. This is a question that pops up on every elementary school playground, in every high school cafeteria, and it even gets asked in the hallowed halls of academia as college students spend hours in conversation trying to come up with the best possible answer.
But, let me be upfront with you, since this question continues to baffle some of the brightest minds on the planet, I’m not sure there’s much hope we’ll come up with a definitive answer during this sermon. But I still have to ask the question. Are you ready for it?
Well, here it is: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
So based on the soft chuckles and hushed laughter that I’m hearing, I’m guessing that you were expecting me to ask a more important question, right? I mean we are in church after all, and this is supposed to be a place where we wrestle with some of life’s biggest questions. But I just asked you about superpowers. But just humor me for a few minutes, okay? So let me ask you again: if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Now, if you’re joining us on Facebook right now, why don’t you go ahead and answer that question in our comments thread. And I’ll try to highlight anything that really jumps out at me. But, since we can’t go around the room and ask everyone that’s joining us in person to answer this question, let me throw out a few possibilities.
So how many of you wish you could fly like Superman? Let’s face it, human beings have been enthralled with the idea of flight for centuries, and although we have mastered the art of commercial flight over the last hundred years…we still aren’t quite soaring like the birds. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if you could step out of your front door tomorrow morning and just fly to work? You wouldn’t have to worry about any drivers trying to cut you off. And you wouldn’t have to deal with the headache of getting struggling through construction. If you could fly, you wouldn’t have to worry about traffic at all. It would just be you and the clouds...but you might want to remember to wear a sweater because when you get about 35,000 feet in the air (which is the average height of a commercial flight) it’s -70 degrees outside.
But maybe the ability to fly isn’t your thing. So how many of you wish you had the superhuman strength of someone like the Incredible Hulk. Now, I have to admit that since I first saw the Incredible Hulk TV show that aired in the ’80s, I’ve been a pretty big fan of the green guy. And there are a million ways to use superhuman strength that would come in handy every single day. If someone parked too close to your car at Kroger you could just move their car out of the way. Or you could make a small fortune by opening up your own furniture moving company. Or, at the very least, you’d never have to struggle to open a jar of pickles again.
But maybe super strength isn’t your thing either. So how many of you wish you had super speed, like the Flash? Now, the comic books tell us that the Flash can travel at the speed of light, so if you had superhuman speed you could quite literally turn out the lights and be in bed before it gets dark…so no more stubbing your toes in a dark bedroom. But the best part of having superspeed in my book, and the reason why I’d pick this particular superpower if I could is that if you were able to run as fast as the Flash for just five minutes, you would burn something like 8 billion calories - and that’s not an exaggeration, a sports physician named Scott Weiss actually did the math. So you could eat all the doughnuts and ice cream you want and never have to worry about putting on a pound.
Or how many of you have always wanted the power to become invisible, like the appropriately named Invisible Woman. Now just take a second and think of all of the amazing things you could do if you were invisible. If you invisible and you inadvertently opened your front door right when a salesman is walking up…you could just disappear. Or if you were invisible and you missed the chance to buy tickets to a sold-out concert, you could just sneak in. If you didn’t want to stand in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World, you could just magically appear at the front of the line.
But anyone who reads comic books knows that for every cool superpower we wish we could have in real life, there are other superhuman abilities that no one would ever want.
Like the superpower the writers at Marvel comics gave to Doreen Green. Doreen was born with the abilities of a squirrel - including the fluffy tale. So, needless to say, when Doreen made it to high school she was teased mercilessly. So the aspiring hero fled to the woods where she discovered her greatest power: the ability to command a legion of squirrels - which is great if you’re out collecting acorns, or if you want to drive your neighbor's dog nuts (no pun intended)…but not for a whole lot more.
But Squirrel Girl is just the beginning of bad superpowers. In the DC comic book universe, there is actually a group called the Legion of Substitute Heroes, who banded together because the real superheroes thought their powers were so awful. And the worst in the bunch was known as Color Kid. So what’s Color Kid’s power? Color Kid has the ability to change the color of any object. And that kind of superpower might come in handy if you’re an interior decorator, or if you were tired of waiting at a red light…but it’s nowhere near as useful as super strength or speed.
And then there’s Zan. Zan is one part of the wonder twins, and when he and his sister, Jayna, activate their powers they can both change forms. Now, Jayna is able to transform into any animal - real or mythical - but Zan can only transform into a state of water. That’s right, Jayna can become a stampeding elephant, a ferocious tiger, or even a fire-breathing dragon…while Zan can become a snow cone.
But the worst superpower of all probably belongs to a guy named DeMarr Davis, who is also known as Doorman. And his superhero name pretty well tells you all you need to know about him. Doorman transforms into a door to let other superheroes pass from one adjoining room to another. And you know you came up short in the superpower lottery when you can easily be replaced by a $20 sledgehammer from Home Depot.
But what does all of this talk about superpowers have to do with us? I mean, unless I’m mistaken, no one in this room can fly or command a legion of squirrels - but if you can, I want to apologize for cracking jokes about your superpower and I’d really like to see it. So spending the first few minutes of a sermon talking about superpowers seems like a waste of time.
But what if I told you that everyone sitting in this room or watching this service online actually has a superpower? Would you believe me? Probably not. Because nobody worshiping with us right now has been bitten by a radioactive spider, or been exposed to gamma rays, or game to earth in a spaceship from the planet Krypton. But, believe it or not, you do have a superpower. And your superpowers come from something greater than anything you find in a comic book…your superpowers come from God.
And this is actually something that the apostle Paul, who is the foremost missionary and theologian of the first century writes about in a letter that he sends to followers of Jesus in Rome. Now, Paul writes this letter because he is trying to bring the church in Rome together so that the church there can help him spread the good news of Jesus throughout the world. And Paul wants them to know that this is something that he cannot do on his own. Paul can’t share the good news of Jesus without the help of the church in Rome.
So here’s what Paul tells them in Romans 12:6. He says:
12:6 We all have different gifts. Each gift came because of the grace God gave us.
Romans 12:6 (Easy-to-Read Version)
That’s right, you…you…you…all of you have a God-given gift - an ability that no one else has. And Paul goes on to elaborate on what these gifts are. He writes:
12:6b Whoever has the gift of prophecy should use that gift in a way that fits the kind of faith they have. 7 Whoever has the gift of serving should serve. Whoever has the gift of teaching should teach. 8 Whoever has the gift of comforting others should do that. Whoever has the gift of giving to help others should give generously. Whoever has the gift of leading should work hard at it. Whoever has the gift of showing kindness to others should do it gladly.
Romans 12:6b-8 (Easy-to-Read Version)
So right here today, there are people who have been gifted by God to be prophets - people that can help bring the voice of God to others. And there are people who have been gifted with service - people who see a need and respond. There are people who are teachers, comforters, givers, and leaders. And there are people who have been given the gift of mercy - and show the love of God to people who are hurting.
And you are one of those people - you have been gifted by God.
You have been gifted by God.
And you have been gifted in a way that no one else has been gifted. You are able to do something for the kingdom of God that no one else can.
But the question is: Do you believe that? And that’s not a rhetorical question, I actually want you to answer the question. Do you believe that you have been gifted by God?
If you do then I want you to say it. I want you to say, “I have been gifted by God.” But I don’t want you saying it with your chin buried in your chest so that no one can hear you. I want you to say it like you’re Tony Stark announcing that you’re Iron Man for all the world to hear.
So if you believe that you have been gifted by God, say, “I have been gifted by God.” Say it again, “I have been gifted by God.” Say it again, “I have been gifted by God.” One more time, “I have been gifted by God.”
Wow! You said that like you meant it. But here’s the problem, deep down inside, somewhere in the pit of your stomach, you might still doubt it. And you might doubt it because, when you look at everyone else’s gifts, they seem amazing…but when you look at your God-given gift, it doesn’t feel that great.
You see other people out there flying for the kingdom of God, and all you can do is command spiritual squirrels. You see other people flexing their spiritual muscles, while all you can do is turn into a spiritual snow cone. You see other people who look like Superman, while you feel like you have more in common with Doorman.
But here’s the thing, there is no such thing as a superior superpower. Squirrel Girl was able to command a legion of squirrels to free Iron Man - the same Iron Man that launched Marvel used to launch their billion-dollar Cinematic Universe - when he had been captured. Color Kid helped the Justice League - including Superman and the Flash - defeat an invading alien army by reversing the colors of the sky and grass. And even Doorman helped his fellow Avengers defeat a supervillain.
And there’s no such thing as a superior spiritual gift either. So even if you can’t stand up on a stage and prophecy or teach, it doesn’t mean you’re not gifted. Even if you can’t physically volunteer at a food pantry or a homeless shelter, it doesn’t mean you’re not gifted. Even if you can’t visit someone in a hospital or sponsor a starving child, it doesn’t mean that you’re not gifted.
You have been gifted by God. And you know what? God doesn’t make mistakes. So God has given you the exact gift that God wants and needs you to have. And why does God need you to have this gift? Well, once again, the apostle Paul answers that question for us. We find this answer in 1 Corinthians 12.
But before we get to the answer let me tell you a little more about the people that Paul was writing this letter to. Corinth was a wealthy and cosmopolitan center in the ancient world. And Paul was able to lead a lot of people there to Jesus and to start the church there about twenty years after Jesus’ resurrection.
But Paul knew that he wasn’t meant to settle in one place. So Paul left Corinth to keep sharing the good news of Jesus in other places. But that doesn’t mean that Paul left the Corinthian church - or any other church he started, for that matter - high and dry. Paul did his best to stay in touch with these churches and help them with any problems they might face.
And one of the problems that the Corinthian church faced was that some folks there thought that their spiritual gifts were superior to everyone else’s. So in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is going to s. So let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 12, and see exactly what Paul tells them. We’ll start reading in verse 12. Paul writes:
12:4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. 5 There are different ways to serve, but we serve the same Lord. 6 And there are different ways that God works in people, but it is the same God who works in all of us to do everything.
7 Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person. The Spirit gives this to each one to help others.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (Easy-to Read Version)
No matter what your spiritual gift is, God gave it to you for a reason: to help others.
And, as we continue to think about what Melbourne Heights is going to be like as we enter into our new normal, we need to remember that this is fundamental to who we are and what we do as a church. So, in a way, our church is kind of like the Justice League or like the Avengers. Our church is supposed to be a place where real-life superheroes come together to help other people.
But we need you to know that we cannot do it without you. We cannot help our community, our country, or our world the way that God wants us to without you. So you are every bit as important to the work of our church as Superman is to the Justice League or Iron Man is to the Avengers.
So I want you to know that God has given you a gift, and the church needs your presence.
God has given you a gift, and the church needs your presence.
Because without you, we cannot be who God wants us to be. Without you, we cannot help others like God wants us to. You have a special role in the work that God is doing in our church and in our world…but it’s up to you to do it.
So here’s what I’m going to ask you to do this week, I’m going to ask you to spend some time in prayer this week. And as you’re praying, I want you to ask God to show you what your spiritual gift is. Ask God, “What have you gifted me to do?” And then ask, “How do you want me to use this gift in our church?”
Because you have been gifted by God, and God's church needs you. We need you to preach, and teach, and be the voice of God. We need you to serve as ushers and greeters, and be the smiling face of God to everyone who comes through our doors. We need you to give of your time, and talents, and financial resources; and encourage others to do the same. We need you to make phone calls and send text messages and emails, and drop cards in the mail to help people make it through difficult times. We need you to volunteer at food pantries and homeless shelters, to make donations to local schools and non-profit organizations. We need you to help put our banners out on Sunday morning and to take them down on Sunday afternoon. We need you to check people in when they arrive for our services and help us pack up when services finish. To put it as simply as I can, we need you to be you. We need you to do what God has gifted you to do.
We need you, because God has given you a gift...a gift that makes this world and our church a better place. So use the gift God has given you, and bless us all with your presence.