It’s absolutely uncanny how many times I’ve discovered the beauty and benefits of complimentary talents in couples. While it is true that the long a couple is together, the more “alike” they may become, the strongest relationships I’ve seen in my life are the couples that discover the treasure of the different talents, and complimentary talents, of each other.
This ability to discover and cherish the differences, in each other and also know yourself well enough to see just how helpful those differences, those talents, are in your own life is absolutely essential to escape the temptation of shortsighted choices and devastating mistakes in your relationships.
In my own life I have seen my wife and I give strength to each other. When I’m struggling with the blues, she’s strong and encourages me. When she’s overwhelmed with the cares of life, I try to sweep in and be strong for her. By the way, the guy (it had to be a guy) who said “marriage is 50/50” was completely wrong. If marriage is ever going to be real, and authentically Christian, and actually sustainable marriage it has to be 100/100. The truth is in any relationship there are times when one is giving 10% and the other is giving 80%, and times when all that varies and changes! but just as God is strong when I’m weak, He teaches me to be strong when others are weak around me. My biggest challenge is letting others be strong and help me when I’m struggling!
In today’s Epistle Lesson St. Paul tells the Corinthian Church ( a group of people, not a building. We never “go to church.” We go to a building to BE The Church): “Brethren, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; 13:1-8
Notice three lessons for us today that will always help us maintain an open heart to receive strength and give strength to and from others.
First, we belong to each other and to Christ. You are the Body of Christ. Christ did not leave His world after His Resurrection and Ascension. He left His Body, the Church, to continue doing the same work He did while He ministered here. But there is more! You also don’t simply disappear into a given group. You don’t stop being uniquely you. In fact, you have to be who you really are in the community so the community receives the gifts and talents you uniquely possess.
Second, God has, in every age and in every place, provided all the gifts and talents each Church needs to be fully the Body of Christ and accomplish all the work He has called that Church to accomplish in every age and place. So, if your parish isn’t accomplishing the ministry of Christ in your community then it’s time to honestly evaluate the gifts present and ask God to empower you to fulfill your God-given place and ministry within that community.
Finally, the only way I will ever understand that I am a part of the Body of Christ, the only way I will ever know myself and the gifts and talents the Holy Spirit has given me for the benefit of the Body of Christ, the only way I will ever be able to share those gifts and receive the ministry gifts of others within the community, is by the empowering reality of Love. This love begins for God and then extends to every person in my community. But this isn’t some syrupy nostalgic or empty platitude about love, but the robust “agape” love of Christ when He gives His very life for His Church. Authentic and serious love is the only trait strong enough to overcome the self-centered attitude and tendency we each struggle against to strengthen us and empower us to endure when if would be so easy to quit.
So, today, hear the words of Blessed Augustine when he declared “Love God, then do what you want.” It is the love for God and for others that liberates me to discover and offer the gifts given me AND receive and cherish the gifts in others that make up the areas where I am weak. Today, stop and take inventory of your talents and gifts. Learn to be grateful for the gifts of others around you, especially your spouse, and thank God that everything you will ever need in this life to accomplish everything you are meant to accomplish is right here, right now, in the Body of Christ.
Today, thank God for His Church and for His loving care to provide you with everything you will ever need.