Lectionary reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
In this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, he reminds them that not only is he designated by the will of God, but rather that all of them are also called.
Leaving aside my personal bones to pick with Paul, I cannot ignore the deep learnings that are available to us from reading this passage. Each of us, even today, has a calling. These verses remind us that we are up to this task – the task of fulfilling our purpose – because the Divine enriches every aspect of our lives.
I want to explore:
- What we are invited into?
- Consider the tools and gifts we are each given to fulfil our life mission.
Your Divine purpose
Every tree, every blade of grass, each bird fulfils a purpose on this planet. When we take the time to simply sit and notice, we see how each living being on earth, whether plant, animal or human, fits into the bigger scheme of life.
Nonetheless, we also see a lot of confusion – internally and in society – about our purpose and callings. Many of us are merely “staying alive” and struggling to survive.
Growing up in a very evangelical church, I was brought up to believe that my purpose would be “a cross to carry”. I was terrified of discovering my purpose, hoping it would not be a calling to go to Africa as a missionary. In churches, we talk about “knowing the will of God in your life”, but most of the time it’s put on us as “you’re called into missions” or “you’re called to preach the word of God”.
But if we take a look at most of the “heroes” of the Bible, we find that they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. And when they were asked to step into doing something “big”, their lives had already prepared them for this.
Consider Deborah, for example. While she was considered a prophet, she was busy doing her day-to-day responsibilities of being the local “judge”. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t see her job, most days, as anything out of the ordinary. Especially if you watch any episodes of traffic courts or have ever spent a couple of hours in your local magistrate’s court, you will see the everyday complaints that people bring. There was nothing remarkable about her calling — until there was.
Knowing your Divine purpose starts with recognising that we were already given the necessary gifts to fulfil our mission. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this:
“you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts”.
If you are unsure what your purpose and mission are, a great place to start is looking at your talents and natural gifts and abilities. You have everything you need to fulfil your purpose in life. Because a bird has wings, it flies (or if it’s a chicken, it tries to).
I doubt cherry trees complain to each other that they wish they were able to produce oranges, and yet we waste so much of our time lamenting the gifts and talents that we don’t have.
Today I want to invite you to do an inventory of your natural gifts and talents, and consider your calling and purpose in this light.
Set apart for service
Think for a moment of when you are arranging a table for dinner: you go to the cupboard, and you pick up the plates. If there are four of you for dinner, you don’t choose six plates, but only four. You set them aside for service: the ones that you need when you need them. The rest of the dishes sit in the cupboard, waiting to be shown when they will be required.
Know this: you have been set aside for service. Perhaps you feel like you are sitting in the cupboard – always on the shelf rather than in the game. I wonder if Deborah thought that she was on the shelf as she worked through listening to all the petty complaints that were brought before her.
But Paul reminds us that our purpose will be revealed.
There are two other callings, apart from our life purpose. We are called to be saints, and we are called into community.
Called to be saints
While Deborah might have been “a saint”, the first description of Deborah was that she was the wife of Lapidoth. I wonder if Lapidoth considered her to be “a saint”; probably not in the way that you and I imagine the word to mean.
So, today I invite you to rewrite your definition of what it means to be a saint!
The calling to be saints is about how we live our day-to-day lives. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s compassion:
- Love for the Divine, with a constant connection that we are overflowing with love and compassion
- Love for our neighbour as ourself
Compassion allows us to be kind and patient. It will enable us to live with love in our lives, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:
- not envious, proud or boastful
- not self-seeking or dishonouring others
- it keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered
We are all called to live in this place of being fulling aligned with Divine Love. What is your personal definition of what it means to live as a saint? Make it realistic for you, rather than something so out of reach that you could not aspire to live each day in sainthood!
Called into community
You are also called into community: that we cannot live in isolation. Take a moment and consider what your community looks like:
- work colleagues
- hobbies and activities that you participate in
- volunteering & community activities
- your neighbourhood where you live
- your spiritual community
What does your community look like?
God is enriching every aspect of your life
You are promised that nothing is lacking because you have all the gifts that you need. Paul describes this as
God is enriching every aspect of your lives.
He then goes on to explain what he means by this.
You are enriched in speech
This means, when you are in touch with the Divine and that deep inner knowing, you will have the right words to say. Enriched in speech is knowing what to say and when to say nothing.
Most of us want to think about what to say. We make up scenarios and speeches in our head, failing to listen to the still small voice of Spirit.
Consider silence and just going within to listen, confident that you are enriched in speech.
You are enriched in knowledge
Everything you need to know, you will know. Can you trust this?
My first “real job” at sixteen was working as a cashier at McDonald’s: “Would you like fries with that?”. Later in life, I have come to cherish what I learned from “would you like fries with that?” – because it is a lesson in upselling. McDonald’s sells millions of fries every year because of this simple phrase. The client is already there, and they have their wallet in their hand, ready to buy something. The cashier doesn’t know what the client wants, and often the result of the question is “no, but I will have…”. While they didn’t sell the fries, they got an additional sale from the client.
This mundane, everyday job taught me a skill that has served me well over the past thirty years. Am I always open to adding more value to someone else’s life?
You, too, are enriched with knowledge. You have life experiences, abilities and life lessons that you possibly haven’t tapped into. You might not be aware of everything you know.
But trust that you know everything that you need to know when you need it. You are enriched with knowledge.
Enriched with God’s grace, peace & faithfulness
Today I want to remind you that you are enriched with grace, peace and faithfulness. I don’t mean that you show others mercy, but instead that you accept grace, be open to a peace that transcends your understanding, and that you experience Divine faithfulness towards you.
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)
It is said that the grace of God is the opposite of karma – it’s receiving the good that you do not deserve because you are a child of God. You are loved and cherished. In my life, I can see where I have blocked grace, continuing to believe that I deserve punishment and the consequences of my decisions and actions. Nonetheless, we are enriched with grace. Are you willing to accept more grace?
We are also enriched with peace: that peace that while we are waiting, we will be sustained emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s the peace that we hold within us, even in the middle of the storm. This inner peace does not depend on what is happening in our environment. While we are aware of the situation and in touch with it – we are present – but we also connect with the Divine. It is that Divine that allows us to say
I am not overcome by the storm, because I am one with the storm.
Sometimes storms clear our path. Can you recognise this inner peace which sustains you while you wait?
Finally, the Divine is faithful, constant and true. When I say we are enriched with faithfulness, I am not referring to your faith in God, but rather how the Divine relates to you! It doesn’t matter how small your faith is, but rather that we know that Divine Love is faithful. We can trust that all things are working for our good and that we are enriched with all good things.
Our response to this is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.
If you are struggling to discover your purpose, consider a daily practice of gratitude, where you each day you focus your attention and thanksgiving on your talents, gifts, strengths and abilities. Start to notice the patterns and what you genuinely enjoy. Be grateful for the desires of your heart and the wisdom and insight that you gain from being present.
Take note of the times when you receive grace: when in spite of the natural consequences of your choices and decisions, you get a second chance! Practice thanksgiving for all those opportunities.
Start to notice when you are filled with peace, in spite of the situations and challenges you are facing. Be grateful for those moments.
Notice the presence of the Divine in your life in each moment of the day. Sit in silence and be thankful.