Sunday, January 13, 2019

I Corinthians 12.1-11: Cogs, Gears, and Other Moving Parts

We often focus on Paul's list of gifts in I Corinthians 12:1-11: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues and interpretation of tongues. Different gifts. Same giver. But why. Why are the gifts given? So the followers of Christ can find pleasure or fulfillment in the gifts? Not according to verse 7. According to verse 7, the gifts are given for the common good. It's a different way to think about our spiritual gifts. They aren't (just) for ourselves but should be used to benefit the whole people of God.

What we think of as just gifts might be described as gears. The job of a gear is to transfer power from one part of a machine to another. The gear, which can also be called a cogwheel, is a rotating part that has teeth, or cogs, on the edge. The cogs of one wheel mesh with the cogs on another wheel to transmit torque which is converted to power.

Power can be transmitted by gears fabricated from metal, but those same mechanical processes can be made by wooden gears. The appropriate materials are defined by each project.
Power can be transmitted by giant gears, but those same mechanical processes can also be made by tiny gears. The scale of the gears can be adapted.
Power can be transmitted by gears designed only for function, but those same mechanical processes can also be made by gears designed for visual appeal.

Metal, wood, big, small, strictly utilitarian or crafted for beauty, the important thing is that the gears are all functioning and that power is, indeed, being transferred. That's important for mechanical gears and for gifts as gears.

One person's spiritual gift meshes with another person's spiritual gifts as they move toward one another. As they move, the church is moved. For the common good. But when the gears/cogwheels are not functioning or when those gears/cogwheels are missing cogs/teeth, they themselves can't be turned and they can't turn another gear. So maybe the gear analogy isn't too farfetched (though a theology professor once warned our class to never let a metaphor take us farther than we want to go).

There must be gears. There must be cogs. There must be Spirit. All to be used for the common good. 

Top two photos: George Washington's Gristmill. Mount Vernon, VA. Website includes a video of the gears in motion. Author's photos.
Bottom two photos: Works of Jules Jurgensen Chronograph. c. 1870.

This week on Art&Faith Matters on Facebook...a children's book about sharing gifts.

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