August 06, 2012
Written by Daniel Hazard

1 Corinthians 12:29

"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gift…"

Reflection by Donna Schaper

I play tennis with a guy who always wins.  He has a serve I can barely hit.  Every now and then I either win a game or he gives one away.  I think he plays for the talk and I play to learn his serve.  Clearly we have an agreement—we have a contract, which is not a covenant.  In a covenant something would so transcend both our interests that we would forget that I give good talk and he gives good serves.  Let me assure you that I do not diminish our contract!  It's just that it is just a contract, and just tennis, and just a game, one of those with winners and losers.

In the greater gift, we get over competing.  Really, what does it matter who has the best gift, or the most useful gift, or the smartest gift, or the most unusual gift, or the most expensive gift?  Or the better serve?  These questions are suitably known in Yiddish as meshuggeneh, meaning crazy and inconsequentially so.

Martin Buber said it well: "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."  When we give our gifts or play our game, we often don't know where we are going.  We go and then we find our way beyond the contracts into the covenants.

Ernest Campbell, in his small and meaningful book on baptism, said that we'd do well to "energize the usual rather than scheduling the unusual."  I schedule my games hoping that the usual will be energized and deepened into a place beyond competition, where many gifts are given and received. 


O God, when we feel that the game of life is often 40 – love, let us learn how not to care about the numbers so much and about the love more.  Amen.

About the Author
Donna Schaper is the Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest work is 20 Ways to Keep Sabbath, from The Pilgrim Press. Check out her work at

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