Grace and Peace and Thanksgiving

Scripture Readings:

  • Isaiah 49:1-7
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Isaiah 49:1–7 shares a vision for the people of God after a time of uncertainty. God calls us to listen to Him and pay attention. God is calling our names, helping us to become a part of the body of Christ, strengthening us in this dark world, and providing the gifts to do His work.

As God promises redemption in prophets and communities, we hear God calling to us as individuals and as communities. God calls the prophet to proclaim to a people in exile in Babylon that God is faithful and will restore them. There might be a point when the prophet feels also vulnerable. Brene Brown explains “how vulnerability is at the core of emotions such as fear, self-doubt, comparison, anxiety, uncertainty, grief, disappointment. Still, vulnerability is also the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, trust, empathy, creativity, innovation.” 

God’s call is repeated or continued for His greater works. We are being called and known, experiencing failure to the call, and being called with a greater purpose. God commissions his people as his royal representatives to share the light of his good news with the nations and with the faithless people. God’s light is to shine on all. In this Epiphany season, may we be a light to the world in Christ. 

Regardless of the people’s status or situation, God is faithful, and the servant maintains hope in God. God’s redemptive act for his people will reveal to the nations that he is Saviour, Redeemer, Holy One, and God. May we share God’s love and light in His compassionate care of the world.

In today’s text, Paul speaks of his call and reminds the Corinthian church that God has called them to be holy in community with Christ. He was called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. He, commissioned and sent by Christ, wrote with authority of the apostle and called them the church of God. The recipients were not just individuals. They constituted a church community that belonged to God. 

The church consists of all those who have been sanctified in Jesus Christ. It is important for us to remember that people come to Christ through us, not by us. In the church, God’s words took influence over life, and the Corinthian believers were called to live out holy lives. They were called to holiness together with all believers everywhere. Holiness was not to be pursued simply by individuals, but by the entire church. God’s gift of salvation led the Corinthians into a relationship with other believers; they were members of one body. Today’s text invites us to holiness, setting apart from the world, and being in Christ. 

The apostle Paul gave sincere greetings to the believers in Corinth whom he loved. He expressed his hope that God would continue to bless his readers through Christ with his enabling grace and the experience of peace. However, his heart was so burdened by reports of troubles in the church that he appealed to them to change their ways. Before wrestling with problems in the Corinthian church, Paul mentioned several positive feelings and hopes. For his readers, he expressed that he was always thankful to God and explained that the cause of his gratitude was the grace that the Corinthians had received in Christ Jesus.

The phrase “in Christ” appears often in Paul’s writings. It refers to his teaching that all who trust in Christ have been joined to him, participating in his death and resurrection. The reason for his gratitude was the grace in Christ. Paul conveyed his greetings to readers, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Although Paul warned against the abuses of spiritual gifts, he was also pleased that God had granted them these blessings.

Paul’s preaching of the gospel had been the channel of their gifts of revelation and knowledge. The presence of spiritual gifts in the church confirmed the truth of Paul’s gospel message. The Corinthians took great pride in human wisdom, but the gospel that had enriched their lives was based on spiritual wisdom and humility rather than human wisdom and pride. 

Their spiritual gifts equipped them to live lives of faith in Christ. As in Ephesians 1:14, the Holy Spirit “is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” The Holy Spirit provides believers with blessings as they long for Christ’s return in glory. The gifts of the Spirit displayed in the church gave Paul great confidence that God would keep them safe until the very end. Paul’s confidence rested not on people, but on God’s faithfulness. Because God is faithful, true believers can persevere in the promise of salvation.

However, the promise of salvation which is God’s precious gift is not the final destination on earth. God had called people into fellowship with his Son and to be saints in community with Christ. Paul fully expected them to be blameless. It is time for us to grow and change in Christ as individuals and communities. 

Instead of serving one another in harmony, the believers had divided into factions, each part thought itself superior in wisdom to the other segments of the church. It had brought division problems in the church. Divisions in the church are contrary to the gospel. Christians cannot be divided over trivial matters because they have been greatly blessed by God. The church has been called to unity in Christ, and the blessings of God help us establish unity in the church. 

Paul did not place his confidence in the church itself, but in the church’s God. God will keep all who believe in Jesus safe until the end in God’s way. He is faithful and will continue to strengthen, empowering people to live in service to God’s call. May we be strengthened and stand firm in Christ. God gives strength and spiritual gifts to be used by each one of us. What habits, words, and actions would help us to be most connected to our call? May we respond to God together as a beautiful faith community through sharing grace and peace and thanksgiving.      

When we put our total dependence on God, I believe that we can stand for the truth of the gospel in Jesus’ grace and peace and make harmony and unity in Christ. May we all depend completely on God for our life now and our eternal life to come and glorify God by our faith and life. Especially, in 2023, may we express love and loyalty to Jesus Christ in our words and deeds and hold fast to the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Paul used the concept of being “in Christ” seventy-three times and frequently emphasised. (v. 2 and 4) Christians are accounted righteous because they are covered by Jesus’ righteousness through his death and resurrection. “In Christ” is much like “abide”, meaning that Christ lives within believers, and they live in him. May we experience an intimate union with Christ that affects our lives and faith communities.

We are bonded together by the blessings we have received in Christ. May we value brothers and sisters more in our Precious Leighmoor family and remember that we all need Christ and the power of his death and resurrection. It is time to remember that God has given us blessings, to express our appreciation to God, and serve one another in harmony. During this week, may we give thanks for something that surprised us in our lives thinking of God’s grace and peace and blessings.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)