The believers at Corinth have every gift they need to be a community of life and light. They turn their gifts inward and use them to claim status instead of turning them outward to be a beacon, a witness to the work of the Spirit among them. Paul seems to question why they would boast about something that was a gift. Do they not know that their knowledge and wisdom, their spiritual gifts, are from God? They are given by grace to manifest Christ.
When I was a new campus chaplain, a student came to talk with me about a big problem. She obviously was upset. I asked her about the problem. “I have failed at prayer,” she replied. (I was not sure how one could fail at prayer.) “I do not have the ‘gift.’ I have not experienced speaking in tongues, so I have failed. Everybody else has received that gift. I cannot go back to that group again.” I reminded her that the Spirit gives many gifts and named some that I saw in her. I do not know the end of her story, but I believe what I told her that day.
Paul writes to a community that may have made the same judgment, that some were blessed more than others and that some spiritual gifts were more important than others. Paul cautions them and us not to be too self-impressed. When we read a little forward in the text we find Paul’s “bottom line”: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:2).
Paul’s words bring us back to where we began this week’s reflections: We are called to be people of gratitude for the work of the Spirit of God among us.
What gifts has God given you and others in your church to bless your community? What gifts among your members might be overlooked?
These readings contain the common theme of the power of spoken testimony. Isaiah begins by telling his audience, “Listen to me!” He then recounts not only his own story but also the promises of restoration given to him by God. The psalmist gives testimony of his experience. Although he has been in a difficult place, God has called him out and has given him a new song of praise to proclaim. Paul and Sosthenes write to the Corinthians to remind them of the powerful testimony that they had given them in person, which was confirmed by God. John the Baptist cries out that Jesus is the Lamb of God and bears testimony to the miraculous signs at the baptism. Our testimony as believers today can be just as powerful.
Read Isaiah 49:1-7. What does it mean to be God’s servant? How does this Servant Song speak of your experiences of serving God?
Read Psalm 40:1-11. When has scripture sustained you? What words have become a real presence to you?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. When have you turned your gifts inward as a sign of spiritual or social status? How can gratitude help you use your gifts in service to God and others?
Read John 1:29-42. How have you experienced Jesus saying to you, “Come and see”?
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