I can almost hear Paul sighing as he gazed upon the bickering scene at the Corinthian church and was forced to sort it out. Apparently some churchgoers were lording their gifts of the Spirit over others. In the name of God, their impressive talents were becoming divisive. So Paul took a breath, set them straight, and in doing so made one of the great contributions to Christian thought and practice.
These gifts and services and activities, he says, are to be used for the good of all, for everybody’s edification, not personal glorification. Church isn’t reality TV, a place for gratuitous drama, performance, and humiliation. Gifts at church are meant to replenish the common good, which is blessed by the one God, the same Spirit, a phrase Paul emphasizes a half-dozen times here.
Then as now, the common good is under siege by other human impulses—egotistical swagger, competitiveness, exploitation, and neglect. Church is where bewilderingly diverse human beings come together and submit to the one Lord. I can’t think of anywhere else in society where values of soul and selflessness are upheld decade after decade. In the noise of a cynical age, congregational life dares to claim itself as a zone for these things, honoring the existence of the soul, the cultivation of the needs of others, a wariness of the bottomless ego, the importance of praying together, and hope for the redemption of the whole person, the whole earth—using a dizzying variety of people to do it. This miracle happens every day.
Everybody has personal gifts to discover, celebrate, cultivate, and share. The point, though, is to seek not the limelight but the Light—together.
God in heaven, you’ve given each of us a path in the adventure of this life. I pray for attentiveness to using my time well and celebrating the gifts of others. Amen.
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 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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