Ubuntu—“I am because we are”—is a South African philosophy that speaks to our interconnectedness, interdependence, and interrelatedness as humans. Our humanity is only fully actualized in relationship with others.
In a letter to the church in Corinth, Paul teaches this concept to a people accustomed to hierarchy, a caste system, exclusion, and separatism. This makes Paul’s work twice as challenging. Not only is Paul planting a new church with all the work that entails, but he is also guiding the people to a new way of being in community and leading a more excellent way of life.
It’s sad to say, but the church today is still working to figure this out. Oh, sure, most traditions are a lot further along than the early Corinthians were. However, far too many still find ways to exclude people who don’t look like them, don’t pray like them, worship differently, don’t fit the “norm,” are too “worldly,” too gay, too poor, too Black, not progressive enough, don’t have the right accent, live on the wrong side of town, sing too loud . . . are the “other” and don’t belong.
The church is to embody God’s love in the world. This starts by opening our hearts to build inclusive communities that honor all gifts, welcome all gifts, acknowledge all gifts, and affirm all gifts. This starts by honoring all people, welcoming all people, acknowledging and affirming the humanity of all people.
The world today still needs a church that is ready to show up united and in solidarity for collective liberation. Here I am God; use me. Amen.
How do we feel when we read the word of God? The Israelites rejoice in God’s law. At the time of the restoration of Jerusalem after the return from exile, Ezra reads from the Law and explains its meaning to the people. They respond by holding a feast because understanding God’s teachings is a source of joy. The psalmist says that God’s law revives the soul, causes the heart to rejoice, and helps us to see clearly. Paul continues with his teaching on spiritual gifts, emphasizing that all members of the body of Christ have an important role. No one can claim to be any more important than anyone else. In Luke, Jesus reads from Isaiah and declares that his messianic ministry will focus on justice, mercy, and healing.
Read Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10. When has God’s word overwhelmed you? How did you react?
Read Psalm 19. How do you seek to speak or sing words acceptable to God? How does this shape your life?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. Within the body of Christ, as within our human bodies, parts compensate for one another. How do you take on more to support the body of Christ when others struggle? How do you allow others to take on your roles when you struggle?
Read Luke 4:14-21. In what ways have you rejected Jesus?
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