ABOUT FAITH:

The Girls Come to Town

The Covington News - - Religion - Brian Dale Colum­nist Brian Dale is the pas­tor of Allen Me­mo­rial Methodist Church in Ox­ford.

I have two grand­daugh­ters, Maia and Au­drey, who light up my life. I trea­sure their sweet smiles and big hugs.

The prob­lem is, they live in Ne­vada, 2,000 miles away. Work sched­ules do not per­mit us to see each other as of­ten as we want. While the mir­a­cle of Skype al­lows me to see those beau­ti­ful smiles be­tween vis­its, it does not bring me the warmth of their hugs. So when the girls come to town, it is in­deed a great gift. As I write this, I am hop­ing their plane is not de­layed by our re­cent win­ter storm.

We have just fin­ished the sea­son of gift giv­ing, and are now into the sea­son of gift ex­change. The line at the re­turns desk can some­times be longer than the line at the cashier. But we all know that the great­est gifts are the ones that need no ex­chang­ing, ex­cept to re­turn to the sender in kind: good cheer, a gen­er­ous spirit, a lis­ten­ing ear, a car­ing touch.

When the girls come to town, I am show­ered with gifts such as these. In ad­di­tion to the joy of the moment, I have the added gifts of ex­cited an­tic­i­pa­tion be­fore­hand, and pre­cious mem­o­ries after­ward.

The apos­tle Paul shared with his Corinthian friends some time­less wis­dom about gift giv­ing. It be­gins with God as the orig­i­nal bearer of gifts. There is noth­ing tan­gi­ble or in­tan­gi­ble we have that was not first given to us by God. Chief among them are “spir­i­tual gifts” like faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13). We Chris­tians are of­ten re­minded that we have all been en­dowed with cer­tain gifts, as the Spirit chooses, and we should claim them. I of­ten meet peo­ple who are ob­vi­ously very gifted, but their mod­esty pre­vents them from mak­ing use of these gifts. Per­haps they are un­com­fort­able with the re­al­ity that such gifts carry with them the obli­ga­tion to use them for the ben­e­fit of oth­ers.

This is why Paul in­sisted that the great­est spir­i­tual gift is love. Love is the yeast that brings all other gifts to ris­ing. Love keeps us from ar­ro­gantly flaunt­ing our gift­ed­ness over oth­ers. Love does not per­mit us to withhold our gifts, but ac­ti­vates us to en­gage them in ser­vice to oth­ers. Love makes any other gift use­less as a weapon of power or co­er­cion.

In my par­tic­u­lar faith tra­di­tion, when some­one joins the church, they pledge to sup­port the church “with their prayers, their pres­ence, their gifts, their ser­vice, and their wit­ness.”

We be­gin each year by re­new­ing this vow. But this pre­sumes we are gifted with some mea­sure of love which com­pels us to share our gifts with oth­ers. Fail­ing this, we be­come just an­other noisy gong in a dys­func­tional or­ches­tra. Please, Lord, give us a dou­ble por­tion of love!

I will rel­ish the time I spend with my son and his wife and daugh­ters. But as I pon­der this gift, I am mind­ful that I have gifts of my own to give. As God lights up my life, whose life will I light in re­turn? This is the ques­tion we all should ask our­selves as we em­bark upon a new year of dis­ci­ple­ship. It is the ques­tion which de­fines the com­mu­nity of faith and brands us as Chris­tians rec­og­niz­able by oth­ers. They will know we are Chris­tians by our love.

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