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“The Spirit Working in YOU”
1 Corinthians 12:4-6


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Third Sunday after the Epiphany—January 27, 2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our message is based on today’s epistle reading in the twelfth chapter of 1st Corinthians:  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

What is the most frustrating thing that can happen when you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle?  You know what I mean; you get down to the very end and then discover that one little piece is missing.  You have on the table before you a perfect picture except for that one missing piece, and that one missing piece makes all the difference.

God’s Church is like a jigsaw puzzle.  Just as the hundreds of pieces in a jigsaw puzzle each has a different shape and a special place in the puzzle’s picture, in the same way each member of God’s Church is a unique piece of God’s puzzle.  By his Holy Spirit, God grants each of us individual talents and gifts and abilities to contribute our part to God’s picture, as St. Paul is says in our text:  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”  It takes all the pieces to make the puzzle whole, and one missing piece makes all the difference.  The question is, are you the missing piece in God’s puzzle?  As St. Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you.”  Are you neglecting your gifts of the Spirit?  Are you the missing piece in God’s puzzle?

The Spirit working in you grants you first of all the gift of faith, to trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.  As St. Paul says in that familiar verse from Ephesians, “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  The gift of faith will show itself in your whole life, but especially in regular worship at God’s house, in private prayer and devotion, in reading and studying the Scriptures, and in partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  When you neglect your gift of faith, there is a empty place in the pews, a leftover Portals of Prayer, a vacant seat in bible class, and an open spot at the communion rail.  When you neglect your gift of faith, you are the missing piece in God’s puzzle.  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

The Spirit working in you grants you also the gift of sanctification, living a holy life worthy of the Lord, conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  As St. Paul says 1 Corinthians and Galatians, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? . . . So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control.”  The gift of sanctification is like a large, brightly colored piece right in the middle of the puzzle, for the world takes special notice when one who claims to be a Christian neglects the gift of sanctification.  When you neglect your gift of sanctification, you are the missing piece in God’s puzzle.  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”

The Spirit working in you grants you also the gift of service.  As St. Peter says in his First Epistle, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.”  Your individual talents and gifts and abilities are like the unique jags and juts and curves on a jigsaw puzzle piece.  When you neglect your gift of service, there is a hole left—in your church, your family, your community—a hole that no one else can quite fit into.  When you neglect your gift of service, you are the missing piece in God’s puzzle.  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. . .  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

It’s sort of a tradition in my family that every year at Christmas everyone puts together a new jigsaw puzzle with a Christmas picture or a winter snow scene.  I remember one time when we had an especially large puzzle with a very pretty picture.  But, when we came to the end, we were frustrated to discover that one piece was missing.  So, we all got down on the dining room floor and searched.  We were just about to give up when finally the missing piece was found, and we were overjoyed.  In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus tells us that is how God feels when he gets back a missing piece to his puzzle: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”

Don’t be the lost sheep of God’s flock or the missing piece in God’s puzzle.  “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you.”  Do not neglect your gift of faith, do not neglect your gift of sanctification, do not neglect your gift of service.  By the power of the Spirit working in you, use your individual talents and gifts and abilities to contribute your part to God’s picture.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”  That’s “The Spirit Working in YOU.”

Amen.

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