Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:1-13

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

(1 Cor.)

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a teacher who was receiving gifts from her students at the end of the school year. The florist’s son handed her a wrapped gift. She gently shook it, held it overhead and said, “I bet I know what it is…flowers!” “That’s right,” the boy said. “But, how did you know?” “Oh, just a wild guess,” she replied. The daughter of a baker presented her with a gift next. Lifting it a few times, she said, “I think it’s a box of cake.” “That’s right, but how did you know?” asked the girl. “Oh, just a wild guess,” said the teacher. The next gift was from the son of the owner of the local liquor store. The teacher held the package overhead but noticed it was leaking a clear liquid. She touched a drop of the liquid with her finger and put it to her tongue. “Is it wine?” she asked. “No,” the boy replied, with some excitement. The teacher repeated the process, tasting a larger drop of the liquid. “Is it champagne?” she asked. “Noooo,” the boy replied again, with even more excitement. The teacher took one more big taste before declaring, “I give up, what is it?” With great glee, the boy replied, “Surprise! It’s a puppy!”

Poor teacher thought she was sooo clever in deducing her gifts! It goes to show that one can seldom out clever a kid. She must have been new to teaching altogether. Any adult who’s ever interacted with a kid can tell you that kids are renowned for clever ways of thinking. Just read the latest comic strip of Dennis the Menace! Poor, poor teacher, guess she had to learn the hard way…

Of course, no one is more clever than God in doling out gifts. I often wonder what his thought process is in giving out certain gifts to certain people. Why do some people get certain gifts while others go without? Why didn’t God give me the natural ability to play the piano? No, I have to plod through years of lessons at various times in my life and yet I’d still define my skill as “advanced beginner.” It’s just not fair! God knows how much I love listening to piano music of all genres, you’d think He’d gift me with a little more ability to actually play the piano. Ugh…so frustrating!

But no one is more clever than God in doling out gifts. Why? Because He has an endless supply of resources, not to mention a profoundly deep imagination and unlimited generosity. God wants to gift us, God enjoys gifting us! I think his glory is revealed to us through his gifts, just as it is revealed through his infinitely complex creation. Our God is a good and gracious God, eager to bestow gifts upon us. Only when we fail to consider all his various gifts do we believe otherwise. Only a fool would disregard God’s generosity! God loves us and God wants us to thrive in this world! God wants us to love him and to love each other. His gifts are meant to encourage our love for him and each other.

Today we celebrate one of his greatest gifts to us, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yes, Jesus was a pretty amazing gift, but it is the Spirit that comes to us bearing gifts. It is the Spirit that bestows the gifts upon us and activates them within us. The Father creates the gifts, the Son is a gift, and the Spirit bestows and activates the gifts. It’s no wonder we celebrate Trinity Sunday the week after Pentecost Sunday…it’s hard not to divert the discussion from the work of the Spirit to the work of the three entities of the Trinity! But alas, this week we must stay focused on the work of the Spirit. Late in Jesus’ ministry, when he knew his ministry was coming to an end, he also had a sense of the disorientation his absence would have on his disciples and the overall world. So he assured his disciples, and us, of the coming of the Spirit who would lead us from where Jesus left us. And sure enough, 50 days after the Passover when the faithful Jews again gathered to celebrate a harvest feast, the Spirit came to the disciples in a truly disruptive fashion as we heard in the Acts 2. The Spirit came upon the disciples and the crowd that was gathered and bestowed gifts upon them, namely the ability to speak in tongues and the ability to interpret such tongues. Again, it is the Spirit who bears gifts and activates them, much the same way a gift card bears a monetary gift and is activated by the teller. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul flushes out the variety of gifts that the Spirit bears: the gift of healing, the gift of working miracles, the gift of prophecy, and the gift of discerning spirits, to name but a few.

It is important to note that the gifts of the Spirit are more than developed skills or talents. No one develops the ability to speak in tongues or heal or give prophecies or work miracles. These are simply gifts! The Spirit doesn’t gift me with the ability to play the piano, it’s a skill that I have to develop through regular practice. God’s gifts are simply gifts. As James tells us, “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (1:17) And as every faithful Lutheran will tell you, God’s gift of salvation is nothing more than a gift. Recall the words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (2:8)

The Spirit comes to us bearing gifts and for this we celebrate. The gifts bring us together and ensure a common good. Let us rejoice and give thanks for all the varied gifts of the Spirit. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.