Excursions off The Mother Ship I Corinthians 12:1-11

A Ghanaian went into the African forest and came upon an eaglet out its nest.  He took it home and placed it among his chickens, ducks, and turkeys.  He fed the King of the Birds chicken feed.  Years later, a zoologist came upon the eagle among the barnyard birds.  He declared, “This bird is an eagle not a chicken“.  The owner said, “I raised him like a chicken, though his wings have grown to a span of 15 feet.’  “No,” said the zoologist, “It still has an eagle’s heart.  It can climb into the sky.”  “No,” said the owner, “It will never fly. it is a chicken.”  But, they agreed to try the bird.

The zoologist lifted it up the sky and with conviction, “Eagle, you are an eagle, you belong to the sky, not to the ground; stretch out your wings and fly.”  The eagle looked up and looked down and saw the chickens eating.  It jumped down and started eat with them.  “Aha!” said the man, “It is a chicken.”  The zoologist insists he was wrong and asked to try again.

The following day, the two men took the eagle up to the roof of the man’s house.  Again, the zoologist declared to the mighty bird, “Eagle you are eagle, you belong to the sky, not to the ground; stretch out your wings and fly.”  The same thing happened.  The peasant mocked the animal expert, telling him he was wasting his time, but the visitor asked to try again.

The next day, they took the eagle away from the barnyard to the mountain, where the sun was gilding the hills.  He lifted the eagle and declared, “Eagle you are eagle, you belong to the sky, not to the ground; stretch out your wings and fly.”  The bird shook as though it were being filled with new life; but did not fly.  The zoologist then made the bird look into the sun.  Suddenly, it stretched out its wings and lifted itself up into the sky and never returned.  It was an eagle, though it had been tamed as a chicken.

Passengers on the Mother Ship can forget who they are and why they are aboard.  We were ticketed as passengers by a graceful God, who invited us aboard.  We did not pay our own way; Christ the captain of the ship paid our freight and gave us passenger privileges.  We were set free from the captivity of the terra firma that keep us hemmed in and gifted to sail with Christ; sailing through this world and onto a heavenly shore one day.

The breath of God’s Spirit blows the sails of the Mother Ship.  The word pneuma, which means breath, is found repeatedly in 1 Corinthians 12.  Pneuma is what gets cut short when we have pneumonia.  We confess Jesus is Lord, because of the breath of God in us.  This is the same breath that animated humanity.  This is the same breath that blew open the Red Sea; liberating the children of Israel.  This is the same breath that filled the prophets’ lungs to speak God’s justice.  This is the same breath that seeped into the tomb; bringing Christ back to life.  Passengers on the ship are made alive and sustained by the life-giving breath of God.

Excursions are possible because we have God’s breath propelling us.  Even, when we feel de-pressed; not clinical depression that needs treatment, but our breath seems pressed out; the breath of God fills up our deflated sails.  The inexhaustible breath of God blows into our lives when we are up to good; or, to the common good, not just our own good.

It’s not enough just to ride around as passengers on the Mother Ship; we have work to do.  Passengers are the hands of the Mother Ship doing the ministry that doesn’t solely belong to professionals.  There is more to do than just pay tithes, pray in pews, and play with preschoolers.  Those are good things, but whether we are doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker; student, teacher, or student teacher; we are charged to take excursions off the Mother Ship.  We are to disembark and take a dingy into new water; touching real people’s lives.  Passengers can depend on this same breath of God to enable them to offer Christ in our homes, work, and school, everywhere.

We’ve been blessed with spiritual gifts for excursions.  I Corinthians 12 list the gifts.  There is another list in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.  The lists are suggestive, not exhaustive; named because they were the gifts needed for the circumstances at that time.  FUMC, Irving has particular gifts God provides for this moment in time.  Paul would identify some of the same gifts he speaks of in other texts if he wrote to Irving, probably mention others too.  We can insert names of people who employ those gifts, and ponder what Mother ship would be without if these gifts were not present. 

Each person called and gifted to serve somebody.  We are gifted to do our part, knowing what we can’t do; someone else is gifted to do.  We are to use our spirit heightened faculties of reason, intuition, imagination, and desire to venture out.  These normal faculties enhanced with extraordinary ability for the sake of others in God’s kingdom.  We use these gifts on these excursions, so we might feel useful in the world by helping others, while knowing the pleasure of being helpful.  We know the joy of the eagle who discovered the wings are for soaring, not nibbling in the yard.

Trying of forced to be something we are not is contrary to the Spirit, who equips us with our own gifts.  Not all are eagles.  There is nothing wrong in being a chicken, duck or even, a turkey.  For a person to think less of self because they can’t teach like someone else, while God gave them the gift of faith that more things are possible than most people can imagine is to impoverish the world.  To think less of self because we do not know what to say or do to bring healing to a hurting person, while we have the gift of discerning the will of God more keenly than most, is to miss the point of the Spirit’s work.  We are all different on the boat and the differing gifts of the Spirit are the great democratizing act of God.  Every gift is equally needed.

Passengers on the Mother Ship will find no classes of travelers or special berths of privilege.  Our spiritual gifts equally make us useful as leaders and followers at different times.  The deckhand is on par with the captain, the porter is as needed as the passenger, and the wait staff is as worthy and those waited on.  If we try to make distinctions we’ll burn out, not because lack of spiritual gifts, but because we’re not fulfilling God’s design.  Even if we’re trying to do good, if we are doing it with someone else’s gifts, we are on borrowed breath and we will run out before we sail home.

In churches, we are greeted by a person who has been faithful to the church longer than the average age of the members of the church.  They see pastors and members come and go.  This is the person who turns on the lights, puts out the bulletins, straightens the hymn books, and adjusts the thermostat.  This person was never asked by the nominations to a position.  They don’t even remember how it started.  They remember there was a job that needed doing and they knew how to do it.  For now it makes them feel good to be useful to God.  That is how spiritual gifts work when employed on excursions that serve others on and off the Mother Ship.

18th-century Rabbi Hayim said, “When I was young, I decided to improve the world. Then I discovered the world is so big, I had better begin somewhere.  I decided to improve the country and I realized the country is so huge.  I decided to improve the city and I realized the city is so large.  I decided to improve the street, but there were so many houses.  I decided to improve my house, and then I decided I had better begin with myself.”

Looking for an excursion to take so you can participate in God’s work?  Begin where you are; teach a class, read to a child, say no to the boss, say yes to your parents, give a tithe, aid the poor, or cry with a friend.  Begin by seeing what God is up to in your world and join in.  You have the Breath of God to empower you, the gifts of God to guide you, and the community of God to support you.  When you are up to what God is up to in the world, you will always be up to the common good.  “Eagle, you are an eagle, you belong to the sky, not to the ground; stretch out your wings and fly.”


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