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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, January 21, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 1:1–9

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (NRSV)

Reflection
When communicating across cultures, first impressions are crucial. And it often begins with something as simple as a greeting. When I was living in West Africa among Hausa-speaking peoples, I was often struck by the ornate and complex ways in which the Hausa welcomed one another. Each person would regale the other by asking a long series of questions including, How are you? How is your family? How is your work? How is your tiredness? As these questions are posed and answered, each person present is reminded of what is most vital in their lives as well as their common humanity.

Paul used greetings in a similarly instructive way. In this classic “grace and peace” opening to his letter, Paul reminds the Corinthian community of some essential truths of their spiritual connections. He addresses them in communal words like “church of God” and “saints,” when today we might desire to be addressed as “congregations” or “individuals.” But Paul chooses these words carefully to rekindle our memories of that broader community of those following God among whom we sit. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. might put it, there is a single garment of destiny that blankets the people of God. It is this communal heritage, destiny, and grace that supersedes any other allegiance and is the foundation for every other spiritual gift. The speech and knowledge for which the Corinthian Christians are known does not set them apart from this broader body of Christ. Rather, such gifts enjoin them to the body as Corinthians become instruments that illumine the grace of God for all.

Often in our society we are asked to appraise our gifts. We have inventories and assessments that help us give an account of the skills, personality, and talents that make us unique. Paul’s words turn those appraisals toward our common identity. What truly makes us special is our unique ability to contribute, by God’s grace, to the health and well-being of the whole.

Prayer
Holy God, Source of all good, we give thanks for the grace of being in community. Help us share every gift we have toward its flourishing. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism


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