I am a recovering alcoholic. My recovery has been a decade-long awakening. After sharing my story with my senior pastor, he declared to me, “We are all in recovery.” Isolation is a symptomatic behavior of my alcoholism that can telegraph for me a potential relapse. Turning off the phone, closing the blinds, and pulling the covers over my head can be cozy. In my inactivity I experience the illusion of being comfortably in control. But our Creator did not make us to go it alone. I cannot sustain my recovery on my own.
Paul’s message today addresses this truth: We need each other, and the church needs us to be the body of Christ. We are meant to be in fellowship. The healing redemptive love of Jesus is present where two or more gather. (See Matthew 18:20.) In God’s economy, if one of us suffers we all ache. If one of us succeeds, we all celebrate. We drink from one and the same water fountain—the fount of the Holy Spirit that baptizes us into the body of Christ. The word one appears a dozen times in the New International Version (NIV) translation of this scripture, six times in the first three verses. It exemplifies God’s economy’s divine paradoxical nature: one is many, last is first, we receive by giving.
I lament the dawning of the digital age. Digital publications of God’s word conveniently viewed on phones can thwart fortuitous learning experiences. On many occasions I have opened a Bible to search for specific scripture and, while thumbing through the pages, have stumbled on other verses pertinent to the moment. First Corinthians 12 gives little context to the last verse of today’s reading. But reading forward, I notice Paul’s amazing treatise on love. In chapter 13, it all makes sense. Love ties it all—ties us all—together. Love completes us as one.
Savior, may we, as one, always desire the greater gifts of your love. 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.