Our wealth, our value, and the things which we believe define us do not originate from within our own efforts; they come from God. What we have and who we are begin and end with God. Paul wanted to remind the Corinthian church how well off they were. Paul tells them from the beginning, you’ve got God’s blessings in spades. You’ve got so much going for you it’s coming out your ears.
Paul puts everything in terms of gratitude and thankfulness. When we talk about the things we are thankful for we talk about them in ways that indicate we are ultimately not responsible for their presence in our lives. Because we were born in this country, to our families, married to our spouses, and met certain people; these things happened not because we planned any certain course of action. They are the result of God’s presence and action in our lives. This is what Paul is trying to say. What we can give to others and what we have received (whether materially or immaterially) has nothing to do with who we think we are, the address on our driver’s license, or the diplomas on our wall. All of those things come from God’s presence in our lives and our presence in this time and place.
Paul is saying to the Corinthians: You are blessed. You may not realize it and you may not want to admit it but you occupy a special place in time and are called to do special things. All you have is from God. All you are is from God. We are as privileged and as blessed as the Corinthians. We need to remember this. Remembering is key. An act of memory is the central feature of Christian worship. When we come to the communion table and gather around the altar we are remembering the words and action of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Through our memories, we make his sacrifice go from two dimensional words on a page to a three dimensional lived reality. The action of remembering God’s giftedness toward us is part and parcel of the same action. Jesus is the gift. We are the recipients. In our lives, that gift manifests itself in innumerable ways. Just as Jesus is a gift we receive and share; our lives are marked by the same kind of blessings and gifts.
That’s really the second thing Paul is trying to say. Our blessings are sometime too many to count and too innumerable to identify. How many of us thank God each day for the gift of clean water? That’s one that usually slips under the radar. We like to think “big picture” blessings, especially this time of year; family, friends, and food. The blessings which stalk our days and guard our dreams are the ones that we usually take for granted and easily forget. Look around. What has God done that we may be easily missing?
Paul says that while we wait we are fully equipped to be the disciples we are called to be. We have all we need. That may be hard for some of us to hear, we don’t feel “full”. If that’s the case, Paul is urging the Corinthians and us to change our perspective. He says we aren’t lacking any spiritual gifts. Gifts like love, teaching, preaching, and prophecy; the full spectrum of everything the Holy Spirit has made a living and breathing reality to the church. This is not a selective sprinkling of gifts, skills, and abilities. Paul says the whole package is right here in Corinth and in Ocracoke. Nothing has been held back. And while we wait, in this season of waiting and preparation, we use these gifts in an active partnership with God. It’s not as if we’re sitting back and doing nothing. Advent is not a time of waiting and watching; as if we’re participating in some four week long Christmas pageant. Advent is about doing. Paul says, “God is faithful, and you were called by him in partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” God is faithful. Will we show a little faith during Advent by realizing how gifted and blessed we really are, to do more for Christ and our community than we ever thought possible? Will we use a gift we’ve been keeping under wraps or been unwilling to acknowledge?