For all of the drama that goes into planning and pulling off a wedding, what really lasts from that day? Really, two things: The vows and the gifts, right?
Now, think of this. In Isaiah 62, God’s prophet tells us how he feels about us: "As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." God uses the picture of a wedding to describe our relationship with him. He is that groom, staring down the aisle, looking at his bride, as beautiful as can be, coming to meet him, coming to give to him her life, her love, her all. If you haven’t been a groom and felt that, I can’t hope to describe it to you. But that’s the feeling God has for you and me. That’s amazing.
You see, you and I know that we aren’t that pretty. We know the ugliness of our sin, of our selfishness, of our slander, and how far we’ve tried to drive our loving God away. So, before any of this relationship could happen, before any of us would have been ready to make any kind of vows to God, God had to give us a gift first — a true wedding gift. Our text from I Corinthians 12 tells us what that is: "Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit." You see, God gave us the gift of faith. He put the Holy Spirit in our hearts. His Son died to pay for our sins and lived to build a righteousness he could clothe us in. And he did.
That’s why we look so beautiful to him coming down that aisle. And just like in a regular human wedding, that is why the rest of the gifts come. Because the bride and groom give each other the gifts of love and respect, submission and commitment, all their friends and family pour out all sorts of gifts on them to be used for their marriage.
God tells us that he is the one pouring out his gifts on us, for the good of this relationship with him. Paul, in Corinthians, tells us that God is giving just the right gifts — and he gives those gifts in the people of the church he joins together. Now, before my wedding, we got to take that little gift registry gun, and zap the price tags on everything we wanted to register for. We did that, first of all, because it was a lot of fun, but ultimately, so that everyone would know what we needed. God has put together in his church just the right gifts, exactly what we need.
Paul writes: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit (those are the gifts) is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."
Just like the couple registers for which gifts they think will make their home complete, God gives just the right gifts to his church. So, as he has inspired you to respond to his overwhelming love by making your commitments to him to use your gifts for the "common good," he gives you the gifts that will work for the best functioning of this church. Think of God going throughout the whole world and finding and giving the perfect gifts to make his dream bride. Now the last thing you’d want to do is waste it. You’d hate to pack it away and never use it. So be the gift that God has given you for.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.