Prophesy With Mindful Spiritual Gifts

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 18:1-20 (Morning)
Psalm 18:21-51 (Evening)
Jeremiah 38:1-13
1 Corinthians 14: 26-33a; 37-40
Matthew 10:34-42

Prophesy With Mindful Spiritual Gifts

In Paul’s message to the church in Corinth (1 Cor.14), the topic specifically addresses the nature of edifying Christian language. Here we gain insight into the Apostle’s strategy in addressing a congregation that may have needed instruction on the priorities of worship and of fellowship, in a church sustained by Jesus’ teachings.

It appears central to Paul’s logic here that he had assessed the characterizing ethos of the Christians at Corinth as “eager[ness] for spiritual gifts” (14:12), an eagerness largely manifested in zealous (but uninterpreted) speaking in tongues. Paul will put that exuberant, dramatic practice into context with other vital gifts of the Spirit—those gifts needed to strengthen and educate the church.

The chapter as a whole emphasizes the need for all members to “prophesy,” which I have inferred as not meaning to predict the future so much as “to utter something inspired by one’s God” {Merrium-Webster). The ability to prophesy inheres only in a mindful approach that is, nonetheless, always infused with the Spirit.

Mindless sounds are only for outward show and uplift only the individual speaker of tongues. Thus, Paul admits that he himself is more given to non-establishment-language tongues than are the Corinthians; yet, he continues in astonishing hyperbole that in church he “would rather speak five words with [his] mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (v.18-19).

In Chapter 14’s section highlighted in today’s office, we learn what a worship service in that era might have included: “each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” (v.26). Paul’s central point here is to “let all things be done for building up” (v.26). In verses 26-31, he suggests ways in which the instruction and the joyful celebration of the Lord should involve a thoughtful spiritual mix of worshipful ministries and of worshippers’ insights, “so that all may learn and all be encouraged” (v.31). Pointedly, Paul would have “those with tongues but no interpretation” simply “be silent in church” (v.28). He wants it understood that claims of prophet-status should not be evidenced by ecstasies explicable to neither church regulars nor newcomers.

Today’s worshippers are well reminded that the Church of the Body of Christ must involve members with various gifts so that everyone both speaks and listens for their consolation, encouragement, and edification.

Written by Aubrey Mitchell Pate

Aubrey was baptized, confirmed and married at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Hot Springs, AR. She and her husband have been attending St. Paul’s for 19 years. She is currently a member of the Vestry and a Sunday school teacher.

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