Paul lists famous gifts: wisdom, faith, knowledge, healing, miracle-working, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Apparently some of these gifts were disruptive enough that they needed calling out.
Presumably other gifts and talents are worth honoring too. I think of patience, trustworthiness, serenity, reliability, hospitality. I also think of the quiet competence needed for musicianship, liturgy-planning, and bookkeeping. Churches couldn’t function without them. In other words, there’s room for all kinds of people, even though it can make for a swarming, combustible mix.
The world these days is obsessed with dividing people. It’s always some version of us against them. It drives an addiction to conflict, the temptation to call opponents evil. The real world, God’s world, isn’t like that.
Paul spells this out. The gifts he lists look irreconcilable. Yet this hodgepodge forces us to acknowledge a truth about the divine creation: Its prodigious diversity is to be grasped and respected, not feared.
Why is there so much diversity and pluralism? Evidently God didn’t want a monochrome world, a place of gray sameness. This is God’s work, and we’re privileged to share in it, for all our differences. I should have the humility and good humor to honor it. We still have individual identity—ultimately in God, not in race, tribe, or party. Those things are too finite—too impermanent, flaky, soon embarrassingly out of date—to bear the weight of eternity.
Paul says to focus on the gifts divinely allotted to each of us and acknowledge that others have been similarly bestowed in turn—all under God.
God of many names, you give us the gift of love and deputize us to do your will. Help us to see your presence in each person we encounter today. 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.