It was December of 1988, Christmas break. I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore at the time. For those of you who do not know Greek, sophomore is a fun word. It literally means ‘wise moron,’ a term applied to students in their second year of high school or college because they have learned enough to think they know everything. I had left school on the last day after making a rather sophomoric boast: I’ll would be driving to school after the break.
Now, at this point, I had not gotten my driver’s license or found a car. For that matter, I had only been working for a grand total of about five weeks and was doing good to make enough money for a small, rather modest down payment. I had decided that what I needed was a small used pickup, something like a Ranger or an S-10. Maybe a crew cab so there could be a little bit room inside for keeping stuff dry or letting people ride in the little jump seats. But was intent on getting a truck.
We test drove a lot of cars; econo-boxes, sedans, new, used, you name it, we gave it a spin. I as very partial to the S-10 extended cab with the 4×4 package at the time, but I was willing to be reasonable. In the end, certain considerations factored into my choice of vehicle. First, we were having a small vehicle crisis in the family, i.e. none of our cars were running well. Whatever car I ended up with would not only be my car but a car that would double as a family vehicle if needs be. I could have a say in the matter, but the vehicle had to have room for four. Which meant my designs on having a pickup truck were beginning to go away. Second, I had to be able to afford the payment (new or used) and the insurance. My father was willing to help with the down payment, but I wasn’t exactly making big money on the grocery bagging / car collecting circuit so, it kind of limited my choices. We couldn’t find a used truck in a reasonable price range and my parents weren’t keen on riding in tiny fold down seats in the cab anyway. Third, I wanted to get it over the holiday. I was determined to drive back to school rather than to keep asking my friend Sam for a ride.
Then, we finally found the right car.
My first car was a 1989 Camaro Rally Sport with an aftermarket turbo charged V-6 engine. It fit all the parameters. Four people could ride in it (five if you found someone willing to sit on the hump between the seats in back). With the down payment help from my dad, I could afford it – barely – but I could afford it. And, it was part of an end of the year sale going on at John Thornton Chevrolet, so the dealership was eager to get it off the lot. To this day, I am amazed that I lived long enough to eventually trade that car in for a pickup truck five years later, but God is merciful and benevolent and apparently guardian angels get overtime pay. Whether or not it was the best car for a sixteen-year-old boy with a lead foot remains to be seen but for us at the time, this was the best decision.
The right way to get going
When we are talking about a vehicle, we are talking about the thing that gets you from one place to another. The truth is, I would have been happy with most anything that had four wheels and a reliable engine (within reason) if I drove it back to school after the break that year. I just wanted to be able to move from home to school or work or wherever on my own terms, in my own time, with my own music. When it comes to our spiritual life, we need vehicles to help us move along on our journey. Some of these things that move us on our journey are things we are born with, natural or creation gifts that are simply a part of us. Others are things we are gifted with along the way as we need them. Today, we are going to talk about our creation gifts, those things that are simply gifts of God given to us as part of who we are.
Each of us is on a unique spiritual journey, but this journey is not an isolated one. We travel with others who are also on a journey, a sort of caravan on a pilgrimage toward maturity in Jesus. Each of us traveling has a unique vehicle in that caravan, one that allows us to grow in our faith and help other members of our caravan grow in their faith. Paul talks about this in the passage we read this morning when he says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Paul identifies these as things like wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, and discernment. These gifts are things that God has made a part of us to be unlocked and used by the Spirit as we grow in our faith and learn to be open to these gifts being used in us.
And not only does God give us these individual gifts, they come with a unique type of vehicle, our personality. We all have unique gifts to offer to the others who travel with us, but each of us is born with a distinctive personality with which to relate that gift to the body. Some psychologist who study this sort of thing have determined there are sixteen different personality version that exist. Some of you who saw the Facebook post this week may have taken the test online and you can tell me that four letter code that designates the kind of personality type you have (https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test). These personalities, things like INFJ or ESTP, are the way we house and nurture the gift while preparing to share it and use it for the sake of others. It gives each of us a certain way of communicating our gift and because of that a certain group of people that we are good at communicating with.
For example, if you had someone who was a wise person but not an outgoing person. They might on the surface seem like the kind of person who would not talk much, about their faith or anything else. Let’s say that this person worked as a mechanic. They might seem the kind of person who would rather be alone in a garage taking apart an engine or putting one back together. But suppose the mechanic ran into someone else who was mechanically inclined and shared their passion for tinkering. The mechanic might open up to them as someone who is a kindred spirit and talk about the thing they are gifted at and from there about the things in their life that are more meaningful. Perhaps from there the opportunity to talk about faith comes up and the mechanic gets to share their story a little more and hear the story of the other person. From there, the wisdom of God can be used as it is shared through the personality and abilities of the person both (a) willing to be open to the Spirit and (b) willing to allow the Spirit to use the personality and ability they have to reach others. Notice both in this story and in the passage that the Spirit of God is doing the work. Many of us are afraid of what we have to do in order to reach out to others. Yet Paul says, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”
The point is this, we all have gifts given to us from God and we have a means of sharing those gifts (our personality) with others. But this goes back to what I said a moment ago. The gifts that God has can be used as it is shared through the personality and abilities of the person but only if we are (a) willing to be open to the Spirit and (b) willing to allow the Spirit to use the personality and ability they have to reach others.
Are you willing?
 (Mullholland, 2016, p. 60)
 1 Corinthians 12:7
 1 Corinthians 12:6