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On the seventh day of Christmas...

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." Romans 12. 6-8

Interpreting the meaning of 7 swans a-swimming depends on whom you ask. A Roman Catholic will point to the 7 sacraments of their church: Baptism, Communion, Confession, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders. Sacraments are defined as outward and visible symbols of God's invisible grace and so for example Baptism celebrates our being filled with the Holy (spiritual baptism) through the ceremony of sprinkling or dousing in water. Protestants recognise this process as occurring in Baptism and Communion but not in the others.

So a more universal interpretation of those swimming swans might be the list which Paul enumerates in his letter to the Romans, quoted above: Prophecy, Practical Service, Teaching, Encouragement, Financial Support, Leadership, Pastoral Care. The suggestion is that, incorporating these into our lives, will enable us to progress as effortlessly as a swan through water. But that is a tad naive, considering our experience of life and the frequent warnings Scripture raises about the difficulties facing believers. It is also the case that Paul's vision is focussed on building up the church, rather than equipping lone operators.

So this is a gift list for the church - to equip us together for the challenges and opportunities ahead, as we grow in grace and witness to our communities. We are not to expect to possess all of them ourselves but we should all have something to contribute, without which our church would not be complete nor so effective...

Time to get wet!



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