Forming Faith Blog

United in the Spirit (May 31, 2020)

Many hands united in the middle. The Spirit unites us all.

It’s Pentecost Sunday! We have finally reached the end of the year, at least the end of the Narrative Lectionary year. Pentecost, originally the Jewish festival day of Shavuot, is fifty days after Easter. For Christians, it is a day to celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. This week, our readings are again split between Acts and 1 Corinthians, both focusing on the Holy Spirit.

Divided in Corinth

You may remember from 1 Corinthians 1 that one of the problems in the church in Corinth is that there were many divisions. In three of our four readings from the letter this year, we can see Paul urging the people toward unity. In the first chapter, he chided the people for dividing into factions when they should be united under the cross. In the thirteenth chapter, Paul wrote beautifully about practicing love, the best of all possible gifts of God. This week, we skip back to chapter twelve where the problem relates to spiritual gifts.

United in the Spirit

From what Paul says in chapter twelve, we can surmise that some of the people in the Corinthian church believed that they were better than others because they got better spiritual gifts. Paul answers with a resounding “no!” Everyone’s spiritual gift comes from the same Holy Spirit, and there is only one Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4

And,

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:7

That clarifies the purpose for the spiritual gifts in the first place: for the common good. Gifts are meant to unite us, not divide us.

One Body

Paul transitions in verse 12 to what is now a famous metaphor: one body, many members. This is used in secular contexts, but here Paul is referring to the Church, the gathering of believers united in the one Spirit. This community, which spanned the known world (then and now), constituted one body, specifically the Body of Christ. This unity encompassed everyone, no matter what spiritual gifts they might have, no matter who their favorite teacher was, no matter their educational or economic status, or even their identity as Jew or Greek, slave or free. Everyone was part of one Body.

Divided Now

In our time, it seems that there is so much more division than there is unity. Even if we just look at Christianity, there are so many different denominations. We are divided over theology and politics. And right now, we are even divided simply by distance as we seek to keep each other safe in this pandemic. It is always important to remind ourselves that we are different parts of the same Body. A Body that spans the globe and stretches through history. We are one body because there is only one Spirit who knits us together and one head, Jesus Christ, to lead us. So, even as we struggle with our separation and disagree about the best way forward, we need to remind ourselves that our unity runs deeper than we can ever imagine.

Free Resource

This week you can download an activity for families at home called “Building the Body.” This free activity has been adapted from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (Narrative Lectionary) product to be used specifically in a home setting. In it, families discuss giftedness while literally building a body!

In God’s love,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)


New Blog Series

If you haven’t seen it yet, I have started another brief blog series, ending May 31, 2020, directed specifically for laypeople, The Church at Home. Through this blog series, we are providing our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home devotional bulletin inserts for free, along with a brief reflection each week. Please share the weekly link with your congregations.

New Product!

We have now launched our newest product, an intergenerational curriculum that follows the Revised Common Lectionary! You can find more information (and a sample lesson) about Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (RCL) in a blog post, in the product description, or in a more detailed description.

Don’t forget that our 2020-2021 Narrative Lectionary products are available for order. Fall resources are online for immediate download and Winter will be online within a month. We also have a free planning tool!