“My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”Luke 15:31
A while ago I was listening to a friend from a Christian community in Costa Rica playing very beautifully on the piano during a prayer meeting. And then I said to myself, “Why can’t my brothers and sisters from other communities in the Sword of the Spirit have the benefit of listening to this gifted musician and being inspired by his ability to play so well?” The Lord answered me in a loving way, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son who answered his jealous older son, “Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
I believe that what God has given to the Sword of the Spirit as a whole and to each individual community is a gift to all of us.
For me it is a great blessing to know how rich and diverse our communities are. I thank God that our communities in Ecuador and in Costa Rica have thriving youth programs and outreach to high school students all year round. The community in Monterrey, Mexico, which has a lot of youth, has several youth groups for all the different ages. Some communities have monthly prayer meetings for their youth. Some are blessed with evangelistic outreaches where students give out free coffee to other students on campus every week. It is a blessing for me to know that one community is particularly gifted in the prophetic ministry, while in another community the children regularly take the microphone at community meetings and publicly speak out words of praise to the Lord, and in another community the people give each other a blessing at the end of their gatherings. Some communities are blessed with men’s and women’s households, while others have neighborhood clusters where many families live close to each other, and other communities are so large that they have divided themselves into districts and smaller groupings as well, so that everyone can serve and care for one another in a personal way.
Paul the Apostle, in his first letter to the Corinthians, tells us that there are a variety of gifts, services, and ministries, “but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). I believe that God gives individuals and Christian communities particular gifts and ministries which correspond to the particular needs and opportunities in their local situation. That is why I think it can be a mistake if we assume that every community should be just like every other one. (I hope that no one wants their Christian community to be better than another one.)
While our goal is the same, to love God and build one another up, I know from experience in the small groups which I have participated in, that each person is very different from the other, with a unique personal story and life history. How we serve and care for one another will vary according to the gifts and abilities that God has given to each person. The same applies to our communities as well. Not all communities will have the same gifts and ministries or will have them in the same measure.
Many of us in the Sword of the Spirit have opportunity to visit and serve other Christian communities and to participate in regional events, such as regional conferences, a year of gap service in another community, or take a vacation with members from other communities. As we share in this way, we experience some of the richness of God’s blessings to them and we often wish that our community could improve, grow, and experience the same gifts and blessing as well. I think it is good to learn from others and to imitate that which is good. But we also need to avoid becoming frustrated or disappointed with our own Christian community if we don’t seem to measure up or do things the same way as other communities. We can rejoice and be thankful for how God is working in other communities, as well as our own. After all, everything which comes from God and has been given to one community belongs to each of us as well.
Tomorrow in your personal time of prayer, tell the Lord: “Thanks, Father, because everything you have is mine.”
Top image credit: Christians praying together, from Bigstock.com, © by paul shuang, stock photo ID: 388455337.
Miguel Vargas is originally from Arbol de Vida community in San Jose, Costa Rica. He studied Classical Philology at the Universidad de Costa Rica, and a completed an MA in Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michgan, USA. He is a lifelong member of the Servants of the Word, an international ecumenical brother of men living single for the Lord. He is currently training men in formation in the Servants of the Word household in Monterey, Mexico.