Monday, January 20, 2020

Epiphany 2A

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2To 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:

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today's second reading is the salutation to the apostle Paul's first letter to the Church at Corinth. Just as someone might begin an email or letter sent via USPS (especially to someone you don't contact often), he begins with memories and gratitude, although later on in the epistle we hear about sin and dysfunction within the Corinthian assembly. Corinth was a trading crossroads, with two seaports, north and south. Like the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach?

We're still in the season of Epiphany (revealing, uncovering, revelation, enlightening) when we emphasize the gospel for all creation and here scripture readings especially about the light of Christ shining everywhere. As he continues this epistle or letter beyond the introduction, Paul makes clear he wants people to use their gifts to illuminate God's presence wherever they go, so it contains the epiphany theme.

Throughout his epistles, Saul/Paul talks about function, roles, and behaviors of members of the body of Christ, of those baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection. Paul expects a solitary, isolated, individual will become part of the gathered body of Christ and assume one of many differentiated roles and positions appropriate to their gifts and experience; it never was about a solitary, isolated, individual becoming part of an undifferentiated blob. He wants each person to contribute to church and nearby community in ways related to their abilities and sense of call. God calls us out of the world, calls us into the body of Christ out of which God in the HS creates the church; then God continues our call by sending us out to bless and enlighten the surrounding world.

1 Corinthians 1:7 "So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift..."

Although the New Revised Standard Version/NRSV we generally read from translates charisma as "spiritual gift," neither the word for spiritual nor the word for gift is in the original Greek. A charism or charisma is a "grace-thing."

In the church we often desire and want more "spiritual" attributes. In Galatians 5 lists some gifts from the Holy Spirit:

22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

We sometimes separate less tangible gifts and functions and say things like, "Church Lady A has such a gift for prayer, Church Guy B has so much mercy and compassion" from what appear to be more material ones like "Church Lady C has such a gift for baking, Church Guy D is the best carpenter," but every contribution, every gift, each action well-used has a spiritual component or it doesn't fly very far. The team that prepares and serves our Sunday brunch has the hospitable attitude we recognize as godly or spiritual, and the actual food and nicely arranged dining room table are spiritual gifts, as well.

Evidence of God's life-bestowing Holy Spirit weaves throughout scripture, but for now, a pair of proof-texts:

Adam, the first human, is basically an inert lump of dirt until God breathes life into him:

Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

In Ezekiel God breathes life into the dry dead bones:

Ezekiel 37:5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

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