"The Coming of Advent"       1 Corinthians 1-9                  Nov. 30, 2008

In today's lesson, Paul refuses to get caught up describing minute details in order to reveal the presence of grace gifts within the Corinthian community. As he gives thanks for spiritual giftedness, Paul only mentions two by name: "speech and knowledge." (v. 5).
 
Later, in this epistle, Paul does develop his instructions regarding specific gifts. Here he offers a sweeping negative as proof of God's unbounded grace. You are, Paul asserts, "not lacking in any spiritual gift ..." (v. 7).

Our need for details and particulars makes us always demand more information yet leaves us always feeling like we are still lacking something.
Paul insists this morning that as confessed believers gathered together "in Christ" we are already "lacking in nothing." Paul promises that we have at our disposal all that we could ever possibly need to live a life filled with hope and strength and grace.

If we really lack nothing, sisters and brothers, then why don't we live and think that way? Why do we feel so acutely that something is missing from our life, our family, our career, our community, our church?

If we really are "lacking in nothing," why do we often exclaim . . .
            If I just had more time ...
            If I just had more money ...
            If I just had more power ...
            If I just had more confidence ...
            If I just had more influence ...
Then I could really be something for God, or, then I will have arrived!

Our problem is not that we are lacking. Our problem is not that we need certain things that we just don't have. Our problem is that we have things that we don't know we have.

The grace of God, the gift of salvation, has been handed to us on a silver platter called the cross. The problem is clearly not in God's giving. The problem is that we are no good at receiving and this problem ends up being perceived as a void, a lack, in our lives. We are too busy checking an itemized list of social and material details to see what we havethat we are incapable of comprehending that God intends for us to lack nothing.

Eternal life, grace and peace, the transforming, saving love of
Christ — life's ultimate riches are all ours for the taking. "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," Luke12:32 reads. Our problem is a receiving problem: We have not learned how to receive the immeasurable riches of God's grace. We have not learned how to consciously be mindful of God's activity in our lives and in our surroundings.
 
At some time every child that's gone shopping with Mom has heard the same mantra: "Keep your hands to yourself; don't touch anything." Some parents teach their children to put their hands in their pockets or clasp them behind their backs when they enter a store with expensive and breakable items.
 
As people of faith we have to unlearn this hands-off, don't-touch attitude. God has graced us with a superabundance of gifts. But we must be open to receiving them. We must be able to reach out our hands and accept what God would deposit in them, what God puts at our disposal.

Too often we have a cramp in our grasp that keeps us from opening our hands to receive what is already there, what is already ours. Here are some suggestions to help us receive what God offers so that we "lack in nothing."

Let go of what your hands are squeezing. When God offers you gold, you have to let go of the brass baubles you may have already managed to scrape together. Letting go of something inferior to claim a gift of superior quality doesn't sound like it should be difficult. But for most of us, emptying our hands of our petty prizes, emptying our pockets of tawdry treasures is a tough exercise.

If we are holding tightly to a way of life just because it is familiar; if we are clutching a conviction that money is the ultimate safety net; if our hands are filled with lists of things "to do" so that we don't have time to think about what we have become: Let us open our hands and let all these things drift through our fingers.
 
Sometimes we desperately feel a lack, a void, even though our hands are already  tightly held. We cannot receive what God offers us until we can let go of relationships, attitudes, dependencies, that are destructive, that drain our strength and our love without ever helping rebuild our reserves.

Open your fist clenched from fear. When
Paul asserts to the Corinthians that they are "lacking in nothing," the lack of detail in that statement is enough to make many of us clam up with fear. As long as our hands are clenched together, we believe we are safe from any unknown surprises dropping into them.

In his inaugural address,
NelsonMandela spoke about how fearful we are about living a life that is "lacking in nothing." Mandela asserted that:


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
 
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone, and, as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."


Isn't true spirituality the ability to live a "lack-nothing" life?
Brother DavidSteindl-Rast suggests what this means: "Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of our existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being. Someone will say, 'I come alive when I listen to music,' or 'I come to life when I garden' or 'I come alive when I play golf.'
 
Wherever we come alive, that is the area in which we are spiritual. And then we can say, 'I know at least how one is spiritual in that area.' To be vital, awake, aware, in all areas of our lives, is the task that is never accomplished, but it remains the goal." (In The Music of Silence, cited in Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 29.)
 
Get your hands out of your pockets. This is the familiar posture of those who would keep the world away by keeping away from the world. If God would have us "lacking in nothing," we must be open to the risks entailed by becoming part of a community and caring for others. If we are to "lack nothing," we must interact with our world.

Take your hands from behind your back. This is the "Oh no, it's not for me" stance as we, in the words of recovery-speak, climb back on our "pity pots," retreat to "stinking thinking," and forget "the attitude of gratitude."

"Lacking in nothing" means God intends our lives to be full, not flat; fluid, not stagnant; surprising, not staid. The promise that we will be "lacking in nothing" does not mean that we will be in total control at all times. Our first identity is as one who is "in
Christ." Thus it is Christ to whom we give ultimate control over our lives. If you hold out your hands to Christ, God will fill them with good things from above.
           
In the Old Testament, God promises, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
 
In the New Testament, Jesus promises, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."{ John10:10 (NIV)
 
Let the Apostle Paul's prayer for the Ephesian Christians be our prayer as well:        
           
 14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 
 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 14-21 NIV) 
 
Rev. RosemaryStelz
 
 
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