Jon Carlson is Pastor at Forest Hills Mennonite Church, Leola, Pennsylvania.
“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 was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
“Dad, how many toys do we get for Christmas?”
Hearing their little voices call from the dining room into the kitchen, I could tell without even looking that our kids must have pulled one of the big Christmas toy catalogs out of the mailbox (Thanks, Target).
Late October seemed awfully early, even by the garish standards of American late capitalism, yet there we were, watching helplessly as shimmering photo spreads of drones and dollhouses and Doc McStuffins engineered a sudden sense of lack in our kids.
Our culture is diligently catechizing them into materialism, discipling them into conspicuous consumers, teaching them that there’s no such thing as enough.
How might Christmas be different, I wondered, if we believed we already had every gift we need?
That’s how the Apostle Paul begins his correspondence with the church in Corinth. He affirms their abundance, writing, “You are not lacking in any gift.”
I tried that one on the kids. They weren’t buying it.
Maybe the Corinthian church wasn’t buying it, either.
Admittedly, it’s an odd turn of phrase, given that Paul will spend the better part of his letter excoriating them for their various shortcomings. The church in Corinth is petty, jealous and fractured (Chapters 2 – 4). They celebrate blatant sexual immorality (Chapters 5 and 6). They disagree about marriage, singleness and the role of women in the church (Chapters 7 and 11). The freedom of some becomes a stumbling block for others (Chapter 8). Even their celebration of communion is a mess (Chapter 11).
Yet even in the midst of such obvious lack, Paul emphasizes their abundance.
“You are not lacking in any gift.”
How could that be true?
Maybe when Paul looked at the Corinthian church, he didn’t just see their dysfunction, inability and lack; he saw God’s goodness, faithfulness and abundant generosity.
Even though the church in Corinth seemed to lack unity, self-control and even faithfulness, they had Christ. Or, more accurately, Christ had them. Because Christ had laid hold of them, Paul could trust that they would be sustained to the end by God’s ultimate gift.
We could all list things we lack—in our families, in our careers, in our beloved Mennonite church. We probably have more in common with the Corinthians than we’d like to admit. We lament our lack of unity. Our self-control isn’t what it should be. We worry about our faithfulness.
Yet even in the midst of our perceived lack, we’re invited to affirm the generous abundance of God through Christ. We are not lacking in any gift, because we have Christ—and Christ has us.
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