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Message for 15 January 2017–“Encouraging Intro”

Today’s message is drawn from the lectionary reading in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. Here, Paul opens with a characteristic greeting, writing positively to get things off to a good start. Paul’s extended opening is also a way of reminding readers about how great God is. Paul creates a splendid intro by reminding readers of how deep and wide are God’s blessings, encompassing favor in speech and thought as well as in diverse spiritual gifts (which we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, can also strive for today).
It’s easy to recite beliefs, but we risk taking them for granted or not knowing why we’ve been told to embrace them. If we remain hungry for discovery then we’ll find much more than we have been told is already there. God has a way of revealing treasures to people who cultivate expectancy. A similar challenge is to try make our faith alive in our hearts as much as the recited creeds ring in our ears. The stakes are high because either we’ll continue believing something that isn’t true or we’ll fail to convince ourselves and others of the value of what we’re preaching. God wants us to own our faith in a way that demonstrates its reality and vitality.
Paul tried to convince his readers that they had received God’s grace, which can be defined as undeserved favor. So, the next issue concerns how God’s grace is evident in the lives of believers. Paul suggests that our souls have been enriched through our faith, which itself is a sign of grace. Paul highlights that God’s power means that we are not lacking any spiritual gift. An insight into spiritual gifts is that they are not only given to provide something we don’t have but they also result when we choose to think and behave in effective ways.
Controversy accompanies many spiritual gifts, including dramatic healings, speaking in tongues, and prophecy. However, we shouldn’t ignore the more subtle but equally effective spiritual gifts of helps, discernment, administration, and a host of other, less visible types. The original intent of spiritual gifts was to build the foundation of the church amid intense persecution by both Jewish authorities and their Roman overlords. However, now that the church has been around for almost two-thousand years, some question whether spiritual gifts are as necessary as they may have been in the early stages of our religion. It is likely much better to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and claim God’s promises and gifts rather than dismiss them as archaic or unattainable. First and foremost, seek from God what will help you achieve a powerfully holistic life where you can love both God and other people with your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Paul encouraged other Christians to believe that God would bless them until either the end of their lives or the return of Jesus—whichever might come first. Despite the uncertain timing of history, God’s transformative presence is a demonstration of power and promise in the here-and-now. God responds to our faithfulness with a divine presence that completes us and fulfills us. We can expect God to help us endure any trial or challenge. When we encounter suffering there’s something more helpful than addiction to the latest opioid painkiller. Learning how to accept responsibility for our attitudes and actions can reduce both physical and psycho-social pain, for which no substance can substitute.
Another gem we can mine from Paul’s opening in Corinthians is that we have spiritual potential. As God’s children, we are not hapless souls without purpose or direction. We don’t lack anything to achieve our fulfillment other than what we refuse to recognize and accept. Even the best of earthly interpersonal relationships can’t replace renewal through God’s indwelling Holy Spirit (which is love itself and God’s very essence). Joy? Peace? Satisfaction? These and much more can remain elusive if we fail to awaken ourselves to what God offers us and can reveal within us. Do you thirst for a better life? If so, then make sure you’re open and looking in the right place.
As people of faith, we have limitless possibilities. Equipped with spiritual gifts and bolstered by God’s blessings, we can face the future and not be destroyed by fear, ignorance and anger (the unholy trinity which plagues humanity). We can be confident that God will help us realize the love and truth activating our faith. Following the goodwill of Paul’s opening, introduce yourself to transformation and restoration. Renew yourself as God empowers every facet of your life, from the inside out. –Reverend Larry Hoxey