The language of “common good” seems missing these days. Public servants, servant leaders, and persons working for the good of the whole seem to be in short supply. Paul uses an interesting Greek word with two parts to describe this concept of common good—sum + gifts. The summation of all gifts—the common good—comes when we all bring our individual gifts to create the whole.
I like to think of this in terms of a potluck: Susie bakes wonderful coconut cakes, so she should not bring macaroni—just her grand cake. John grills out-of-this-world ribs, so he should not bring a cake—just his ribs. Jane does not cook at all, but she sets a beautiful table. Because they all bring to the table their best gifts, the sum of those gifts becomes a lovely lunch all can enjoy.
We are members of something much larger than ourselves. Poet John Donne said it this way, “No [person] is an island.” The feeling that we can do everything on our own leads to failure. The early church, in their early hours, quickly determined that if the gospel were to be preached from Judea to Jerusalem, the work would take a lot of people. Oh yes, there would be squabbles with one group wanting the credit and one seeking to triumph over another. (See 1 Corinthians 1.) Paul’s teachings in today’s reading help reestablish such independent ventures. In other words, my special coconut cake is good, but when it is paired with your ribs and Jane’s corn casserole, the meal is out-of-this-world good. So it can be in the church and in the world when our God-given gifts are brought, used, and shared to bring unity among all God’s people.
On this day may you recognize your gifts and then match them up with another and enjoy watching God’s world grow.
Popular conceptions of God sometimes mislead us. Messages coming even from within Christianity sometimes make us think that God is constantly angry, just waiting for us to slip up. This week’s readings remind us of the truth. Isaiah teaches us that God delights in God’s people just as a groom delights in his bride. This love, the psalmist proclaims, is steadfast and never-ending. The life of Jesus shows us that God even wants us to have a good time in this life. Jesus chooses a wedding as the place to perform his first sign. He multiplies the wine in order to multiply the enjoyment of the guests. Paul in First Corinthians speaks of spiritual gifts. These gifts are all given by God for the good of the entire community.
Read Isaiah 62:1-5. Recall a time when you have flourished and a time when your life was far from peace and order. How did you feel God’s delight in each situation?
Read Psalm 36:5-10. When have you felt God’s light, been quenched by the fountain of life, or taken refuge in the shadow of God’s wings?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. How can you use your God-given gifts to complement others’ and to support the common good?
Read John 2:1-11. How do Jesus’ miracles help you to understand his identity as the Son of God?
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