Sermon by The Rev. Christopher W. Hogin, January 20, 2019
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Scripture for the Sermon: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
The Reverend Christopher Hogin
Finding Our Joy
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The Episcopal Church of the Ascension
January 20, 2019
What was your favorite television show as a child? Or, if the case may be, your favorite radio show? Mine was The Dukes of Hazzard. The Dukes of Hazzard was a show that ran from 1979-1985. It was about two cousins living in a small Georgia town with their elderly Uncle Jesse and other cousin, Daisy. (The first love of my life.) The town was run by a corrupt businessman named Boss Hogg. A man of “generous proportions,” he wore a white suit and Stetson cowboy hat. The bumbling sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane assisted Boss Hogg.
My friends and I were obsessed with the show. Every Monday at school we’d gather and recap the Friday episode. It never occurred to us that the same thing happened every week: Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe hatched a corrupt money making scheme later foiled by The Duke boys. The highlight was a grand car chase: with Duke boys outrunning Sheriff Coltrane car in their bright orange Dodge charger, jumping a bridge, and yelling Yeeeehaawwww!!!!!
We loved it! America loved! America still loves the Dukes. If you go to Gatlinburg, you can visit Cooter’s Place, named after the character, Cooter, the mechanic. It’s a Dukes of Hazzard museum, go-kart track, and mini-golf course. Ben Jones played Cooter, also a former Congressman from Georgia who was defeated by a political upstart named Newt Gingrich.
I met Ben Jones, (Cooter), eighteen years ago. He owned a barbecue restaurant in Virginia. We talked while sitting on a picnic table. I asked him, “Mr. Jones, The Dukes of Hazzard was not a masterpieces. Why was it successful?” He thought for a moment, and then said, “It was successful because the cast loved one another. We had fun. We trusted one another, and didn’t care if the show succeeded. We enjoyed what we were doing! That was the secret to the show’s success.”
I learned that Boss Hogg, the bumbling corrupt cartoonish character, was played by an actor named Sorrell Booke. Sorrell Booke was an accomplished Shakespearian actor from Buffalo, New York with degrees from Columbia and Yale University, mastering five languages. Fluent in Korean and Japanese, he was an intelligence officer during the Korean war. Despite these accolades, playing the part of Boss Hogg was supposedly one of his favorite roles ever.
Why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because having fun is important. Finding joy in work is important. When there is joy in work, it overflows to others. Joy is infectious, often times, if you are having a good time, or if you are happy, it impacts others. The energy we give off can literally change the landscape. Often that happens when we find something we love to do, and we share it with people who also have fun, and are enjoying what they are doing. When this happens, the community can be upheld and built up for a greater purpose.
Paul gives an impassioned plea in his letter to the First Corinthians. There are a variety of gifts each of us possess. All of these gifts are given to us by the Spirt for the common good. When we tap in to those gifts, those abilities we innately possess, that gives us joy, is infectious, and overflow to others. Mozart said it best, “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
But we don’t have to be a genius to create something powerful Do you know what amateur means? It comes from Latin, which means a love of learning. The Dukes of Hazzard teaches us that: a show that was amateur at best, but it was fun, and there was joy, and the audience responded.
We have many tasks here on earth: We must we love one another, but we must also find work that we love. That work may not be what we get paid for, but it can be the kind of work that stirs the soul, and gives others joy. Every person here has a share of the Spirit, a gift that can build and the community. What’s wonderful about a church is that here you can try out your spiritual gifts. Here this can be a playground to explore where you find joy in any particular ministry.
So our job is to find what we love, and follow it with joy. But there’s another piece as well. Our job is to also make sure we do not hinder others from finding their joy in their Spirit that builds and upholds the community. One of the sins we fall into is when we create barriers and systems that prevent others from heeding God’s call, barriers that prevents other from tapping in to that Spirt of joy that can upholds the community.
While writing this sermon, I recognized a great irony. The irony is that the care in The Dukes of Hazzard, is named The General Lee, after a Confederate general, and it had a confederate flag painted on its hood. Boss Hogg’s full name was Jefferson Davis Boss Hogg—named after the former president of the confederacy. Interesting isn’t it? All of those names and symbols came from a time where a system was in place that held others back from tapping in to their God-given potential.
Racism is a tragic part of our history: in the church, in our country, and in the wider world. All of us are guilty of it. All of us. For humans it’s tragic on many levels. Not only is it immoral, and against God, it hurts all of us as well. For when we engage in actions, or create systems that prevents others, no matter who they are, from tapping in to God given abilities— we all lose. We all suffer. We lose when we don’t have those gifts available to help build up the community. Think of how many brilliant minds we lost, the brilliant artists, during bleak period of legal and institutional racism. Just as joy overflows to others, I think the suffering of others also overflows.
I’m grateful that we have a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But it’s a holiday that hopefully goes beyond the man himself. Hopefully it can be a time where we look back at the tragedy of our past, and sit with it for a while. Hopefully it can also be a time where we move forward and envision a world of possibilities, a world where we as humans learn can recognize and then dismantle barriers that inhibit the Spirit working in the lives of all people. When the Spirit has free reign to work in someone’s life, unencumbered, amazing things can happen: new scientific discoveries, works of art, or simply people who enjoy making the lives of others in simple ways by following their passion, whatever that may be.
I still think of Ben Jones’ AKA “Cooter’s” words when he reflected on why The Dukes of Hazzard was successful. He said it was successful because, “We loved one another. We had fun with one another, and we trusted one another. We just enjoyed what we were doing. That was the secret to our success.”
I think Dr. Martin Luther King would agree with those sentiments. May we also learn to love one another, trust one another, and uphold one another finding where our spiritual gifts that we all possess. Gifts that can bring greater joy in the world for all of us. And when that happens, we move ever closer to God, by manifesting God’s call of thy Kingdom Come Thy Will be done, on heaven as on earth .