THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (NRSV)
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.
FINDING HOPE IN OUR CORRECTION
When I first read these flowery words of praise, I absorbed them as a beautiful blessing, a good word for all of us who are “in Christ Jesus.” Paul thanks God for the ways in which the Corinthians were enriched in speech and knowledge, not lacking in any spiritual gift, and being strengthened and perfected until the end. Yes, thank you, God, that we too, have been given all these gifts from you!
Then I read some background information and learned that Paul was readying the church of Corinth for further words of rebuke and correction. The Corinthians were growing increasingly arrogant, divided, and conflicted. Paul was writing to point out their sinful ways; they were falling short of who they were to be and how they were to act as followers of Christ. But first, he assures them of their God-given goodness.
I’m reminded of a recent episode of the series, “This is Us.” A father (Randall) looks tenderly upon his daughter with love, smiles with pride, and then tells her she is grounded for six weeks. He loves her completely, he is proud to see her learning and maturing, but he also knows she needs correction. Like Paul, he begins with the assurance that she is beloved, just as she is, before moving on to the corrective action.
2020 will be remembered for many reasons, but perhaps we can especially remember this year as a learning experience. This pandemic has been a first-time crisis for all of us. We have had much to learn about ourselves and one another. We have had much to forgive in ourselves and one another. Maybe we have had much to be corrected in ourselves and one another, too.
I don’t consider this pandemic as punishment sent from our loving God, but I do find that our trials offer us opportunities to invite God to lovingly teach and correct us. What might we learn from this time? What is being brought to our attention? What in our lives needs to change? How do our trials reveal our imperfections, or deepen our faith? How are we being made aware of our desperate need for the love of God? How might we help God make good come from this time?
Today we can find our Advent hope in Paul’s initial words of assurance to the Corinthians. What a gift we have in knowing that God has loved us from the beginning, God still loves us completely, and God continues to look on us with pride and joy. God even sends us Jesus, to show us how much we are loved – as is.
Our Advent hope is also found in God’s perfecting work in us. “God is faithful…” God never gives up on us. These are growing pains, but we find our hope in the One who loves us first, who sends us Jesus, who teaches and strengthens us, and who remains with us and perfects us, always.
This Sunday we will begin Peace in the Pandemic. Our reading will be Mark 1:1-8.
Bible verses taken from https://classic.biblegateway.com/