Imagine this scene. A mom is in the kitchen one morning with her three year old. The kid is standing up on a stool next to his mom, who is getting to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever. She puts out the ingredients in advance, because she knows that when a recipe says “room temperature butter” it actually matters. In addition to that, she lays out a few ingredients in front of her child. As she is putting the ingredients together and mixing up the cookie dough, the kid smashes a few eggs on the counter and makes a grand ol’ mess with the flour in front of him. When it comes time to add eggs to the dough, the mom retrieves the ones that she stored safely away from the kid’s reach. She takes each one of his little hands in hers and helps him crack the egg into the batter - picking out the shells that inevitably fall into the dough. His mom finishes up with the cookies, puts them in the oven, and then cleans up the kid and his ‘baking’ experiment. A little later that day, the dad comes in the front door, home from work. The kid runs over excitedly and proudly proclaims that he helped to make cookies!
It’s a cute image, heartwarming even. But the brutal, harsh reality is simple. That kid did not help make the cookies, at all. He was there, but his mom did all the work. Even the egg cracking that he did, it was really his mom using his hands and then correcting for the broken shells from doing so. Like I said, it’s cute and there’s no harm in letting him believe that he helped - it certainly wouldn’t be a good thing for the mom to barge in and say “you didn’t do anything!” But what about if the same thing happened at a job? What if you did all of the work for a presentation or a project and your coworker ran up to your boss and proclaimed “look at what I did!” A little less cute and heartwarming, isn’t it?
But don’t we do the same thing with God, specifically with the Holy Spirit? Just like the kid, we’re there, but the Holy Spirit is doing all the work for our faith. And even when we do act out our faith, we’re just like the kid whose mom is holding his hands to crack the egg, we’re not really able to do it on our own, and even when we do it with the Spirit in control - inevitably we get broken egg shells in the dough. And then we have the audacity to proclaim “I believe, I decided to follow Christ, I accepted Him into my life, I am being a disciple, I am obeying Him” as if we did it all on our own.
The Power of the Spirit
Our text this morning tell us the brutal, simple reality. 1 Corinthians 12:3 lets us know “that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” It goes on to say that all of these different gifts that God gives His people come from the same Holy Spirit.
It speaks to this tendency humanity has to try and take credit for the things that God does. Even take baptism for example, sometimes there’s a tendency to say that someone has to understand the faith before they commit to being baptized or that they have to be able to make some sort of statement of faith - as if our understanding or knowledge has anything to do with it. If it were up to us, that would just be water. Baptism does something because the Holy Spirit is at work there. That’s why Ezekiel was baptized last week and Ethan was baptized earlier this morning - even though neither of them understand what’s going on. Because the Holy Spirit is the only one doing work in baptism, and He doesn’t need our help.
One Spirit, Many Gifts
But just like the mother in the story earlier doesn’t jump in to tell the dad “he didn’t do anything, it was all me,” the Holy Spirit deals with us kindly and graciously. All of the gifts that are listed here in 1 Corinthians 12 are given - whether we give credit or not.
But what is incredible about giving the Spirit credit is that we get the chance to recognize the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and in the lives of the people around us. We know that everyone who says “Jesus is Lord” does so because of the power of the Holy Spirit, when we see people who are gifted as teachers, as disciples, as preachers, as communicators, as comforters and counselors - we get to see an example of the Spirit’s work.
Stick with me on this one, but it’s almost like watching someone’s game play for a video game. You don’t see them doing what they’re doing, but you see what they’re making their character do in the game and you can marvel at how good (or how bad) they are at that game. We might not directly see the Holy Spirit, but we can see Him in the faith and the gifts of the people around us and appreciate how great our God is.
Witnesses of the Spirit’s Work
And we get to see those gifts today and in our everyday lives. We got to see it this morning when Ethan was baptized - the Spirit blessed him without his doing anything. We’ll see it in a few minutes when we share in Holy Communion - the Spirit giving us the gift of Jesus’ body and blood without any requirement from us. We see it when we get to see someone learn more about the faith or when we get to see someone come to faith. We see it when we see someone show kindness to the grumpy family member or when we see someone sacrifice their time to help someone else out. In these instances and so many others, we get to see the Holy Spirit work and get reminded that we are promised that same Spirit in our lives.
Where He May Be Found
The problem too often is that we look in the wrong places to try and find God. We try and find experiences that make us “feel” like God is nearby, and sometimes that’s not a problem, but sometimes it can lead us into situations where we’re grasping at straws.
The Bible promises that we can find the Spirit in several places. He promises to be there in baptism, He promises to be there in Holy Communion, He promises to be there when we’re reading and talking about God’s Word, and He promises to be there when we’re gathered in Christian community. And sometimes that doesn’t feel exciting, we might not ‘feel the spirit moving,’ but He is there nonetheless, always pointing to Jesus, who died on the cross for our salvation. So we seek the Spirit where He promises to be found, in His Word, in Christian community, and in the gifts of baptism and Holy Communion. Amen.