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.
Pentecost. Birthday of the church. Festival of the Holy Spirit. A high and holy day in the Church year. These verses from 1 Corinthians were written to remind a tense and divided company of Christians about the life they shared, in Christ and with one another. The key themes are parity and variety: we are equal yet different; one body in Christ and richly diverse as members of it.
The Spirit gives parity. Christians are in this together. None of us could believe in the risen Jesus, unless the Spirit had kindled that faith within us (v3). Each of us can contribute to the life of the fellowship, in ways that make the Spirit known (v7). All of us have received a touch of the Spirit through the poured water of baptism (v13). We are one. None is greater or better than the rest. All stand on one level – the Spirit level. That is an essential part of being Christian.
The Spirit also gives variety. Because we worship and work together, we cannot afford to be clones and copies of one another. How boring, monochrome and ineffective the church would be if we were. Thank God, the Spirit gives different gifts, varied patterns of service, distinct streams of grace and goodness that flow through and from the lives of Christ’s people. The blessing of the Spirit is, in that sense, a mixed blessing, a sweet and wholesome blend, as each of us shares with others what God has shared with us.
So how does Christ’s presence in your life enrich the lives of other people? What have you gained from your faith, and how do others gain from that? And how does Christ’s presence in other people enrich you? Even – especially – people who are unlike you may have much to contribute to your Christian experience, to show you and share with you of the life of Christ. Pentecost is a day to celebrate all of this.
Pentecost God, of breath and flame, coming to the one and the many, showing Jesus among us and within us, sharing grace and spreading gifts, teach us to give and receive in Christian fellowship, to delight and depend on Jesus, and to nurture the life of his body, the church. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor is a URC member in Cambridge, and General Secretary of the URC