Paul addresses this first letter to the church in Corinth to the “saints.” He writes for the people who have been set apart as God’s people by their baptism. But when Paul begins the letter with thanksgiving, it’s not for their holiness or their good deeds. In fact, it’s not about anything they’ve done. Paul is thankful for what God is doing in the people of Corinth, how God has made them rich in spiritual gifts and spiritual knowledge. They have everything they need to stand firm in their faith and be blameless in their testimony and conduct until “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God has called them, and God is faithful.
Have you ever seen a church like that? Where everyone is Spirit-gifted, filled with wisdom, and blameless? I’ve known some individuals who seem to meet such a description, but I know I fall short. Even among the folks in Corinth, despite all that God is doing in their lives, Paul complains a lot about divisions, lawsuits, sexual immorality, and spiritual one-upmanship. It’s almost as if God continues to pour out gifts on them, but some of them have put up umbrellas to keep dry. There are legends about mass baptisms where armies marched through a blessed river but held their swords out of the water because they still had to fight and kill.
We still try to ignore any spiritual gifts or fruits we find inconvenient. I once bought a banner headed “Ingredients for a Happy Home.” Below that title was the list of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, all except for the last one: self-control. Apparently whoever made the banner thought that one wasn’t really needed for domestic bliss.
Holy Spirit, keep on pouring your grace on us. Give us the courage to accept your gifts and to bear your fruit. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures have a common theme: The people have sinned and turned away from God, and now they cry out for God to forgive them. Even though they have created the separation from God, the authors are confident that God will restore them. These images of longing for God are appropriate as we begin the season of Advent, and the expressions of thankfulness coincide with the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States. Paul opens First Corinthians with thanksgiving for the Christians in Corinth. They have been richly blessed by God (although the rest of the letter shows that they, like us, are far from perfect). Again this week, the Gospel reading refers to the return of Christ, a day known only to God.
Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you treated God as a vending machine and held a grudge against God? What restored your faith or changed your perspective?
Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. When have you been frustrated by others’ praises of God’s blessings? When have you cried out to God, “Restore us”?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How do you ignore your spiritual gifts? What might your faith community look like if everyone employed their spiritual gifts?
Read Mark 13:24-37. What is your job in the household of God? How do you stay alert?
Respond by posting a prayer.