“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.” (1 Corinthians 12:6-7)
The first disciples were a pretty ordinary bunch of people. They were mostly working class guys who fished, built homes with wood and stone, and had jobs helping in the family business. When bad things happened to Jesus, they basically succumbed to fear and fled.
But these same people, when they became apostles (a word that means “witnesses to the resurrection”) were somehow up to the task of starting the church and carrying on the work of Jesus. The work they did and the impact that it had was amazing.
What was the difference?
The book of Acts tells us that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. That meant that these same people who were so fragile on their own were now working as extensions of God’s presence at work in the world. Everything was now different!
By the time Paul is writing the letter from which the verse above is taken, there was a whole community of people who had been gifted with the Spirit and who were to continue to do God’s work in the world and in their community of faith. It was the Spirit’s work to call them, gather them, inspire them, and to use their gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. Because of tensions in the Corinthian church, the people there had forgotten the source for their gifts and talents and also the purpose for having them in the first place.
Pentecost is usually viewed first as the birth of the church. But it is also the base from which the church continues to do its ongoing work. Each of us is gifted and then called to use our gifts for the common good. As much as Pentecost sounds like a day to remember past events, Pentecost is even more an ongoing celebration that in Christ we live an ongoing life in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
The reality is, in a world where we all want to take credit for our own stuff and are taught to be self-reliant and independent, it is still a temptation to think of our abilities as “ours” and our work as simply a matter of “personal choice.” But the gospel reminds us that we belong to Christ. We are not our own any longer. Christ has sent the Spirit to empower us to do the work of God. Our work is not just a matter of personal choice – it is an extension of the will and the work of God.