We have it all
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 – Year B
“We have it all”
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (NIV)
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
Today is the first day of the new Church year. Our Church year is a revolving three year cycle. Today marks the first day of the new Church year and this will continue until Advent 2009. Today also is the first Sunday in Advent. That means Christmas is only four weeks away.
What is going to happen in your family to celebrate Christmas this year? Are you going to be confronted with lists of things to do over the next four weeks? Things like, Christmas cards to write (and maybe to remember those who sent you a card last year – and you had not sent them one?), decorations to purchase for the Christmas tree (let’s not forget the cost of the tree itself), a big Christmas dinner to prepare for, friends and family to invite. Of course there are still the ‘odd jobs’ to be done around your home that you have been promising yourself that you’d get done before the end of the year – and that’s getting awfully close now.
When put like this one can easily begin to feel tired – and we are not yet in December (but tomorrow we will be!).
It sort of makes one wonder whether the sermon theme – ‘We have it all’, is not either in error, or some type of wishful thinking on the part of a well intentioned, but sadly mistaken person who does not really understand what is happening in the world today. If you are thinking that, then maybe you are not in full possession of all the facts.
I truly do understand what is happening in the world today – I worked in that world prior to entering the ministry. We have raised our children who are happily married – and we’ll even be grand parents early next year. Notwithstanding the many pressures that some may be feeling at this time of the year – as we stand here at the beginning of the new Church year, I can with joy and certainty proclaim to you – ‘You have it all’, ‘We collectively have it all’ – simply because of God in Christ Jesus.
Think for a moment of what happens on Christmas day. We receive presents. These are wrapped up in pretty paper and we may be enticed to ‘feel’ the gift and endeavour to determine what it is prior to opening it (at least that’s what I do). So my family now puts ‘obvious’ gifts in boxes simply to thwart me!. But what if we received a Christmas present, all wrapped up and then we refused to open it? What would that mean to us, and what would others think of us for adopting such a perspective? I’d venture to suggest that they’d think we were pretty strange (to say the least). Here we are having been given a gift by a loved one, it’s all wrapped up and looks very attractive in its packaging and yet we refuse to open it. To make matters even worse, we may take this gift and put it away in a cupboard, drawer and then simply ignore it.
This is similar to the issue that the writer (Paul) of the letter to the Church at Corinth was facing some two thousand years ago. He was reminding them that they did not lack any spiritual gift – they had it all already. All they needed was help in ‘unwrapping’ that gift and putting it to work.
If I were to ask you what you wanted for Christmas – and you could have any gift you desired, what would it be? I’d venture to suggest that many would choose gifts that had substantial financial benefits. Interestingly choosing big and expensive gifts would decline as age increased. In other words, the younger you are the more inclined you would be to choose gifts of significant financial value. As one gets older, you begin to see ‘through’ these types of gifts. You see that they are only transitory and do not truly bring happiness. Gifts that older people would gravitate towards would tend to be the more intangible. Things like health, well-being, healing of fractured relationships with adult children, grandchildren and even their spouse would be very high on the list.
This letter of Pauls begins with a great statement of his confidence in the sufficiency of Christ. In other words, Jesus is the only gift we really need this year.
You may recall the film, Behind Enemy Lines, which was released several years ago. The film chronicles the fate of a man who is shot down behind enemy lines and his endeavours to avoid capture and the certainly of death. It clearly demonstrates the amazing array of survival equipment available within the downed pilot’s flight suit. As the main character eludes enemy forces, he continues to unzip pocket after pocket, and reveal the resources needed for his survival. Everything he needs has been anticipated and provided – insofar as it is possible within his flight suit. There is a certain all-sufficiency to that equipment included in the pilot's survival gear.
The reading from 1 Corinthians speaks of the Christ who provides the ultimate ‘all-sufficient’ means for not only our survival but also to provide joy in our life and assurance of our standing as redeemed children of God right now and right here.
The story is told about a man who survived for twenty years on a deserted island. When searchers found him they were astonished to see all that he had created. Left on his own, he had created a self-sufficient habitat with everything he needed to live comfortably.
As the rescuers toured the island with him they noticed all the impressive structures he had made. In one corner of the island was a grand building overlooking the lagoon which he called, ‘Home.’ Across the lagoon was a tall white building with a spire that reached up to the sky.
One rescuer asked, “What’s that building?”
“Oh,” the castaway said, “That’s my church.”
As they neared the other end of the island they saw another tall white building with a spire that reached up to the sky. The rescuer paused and said, “That looks familiar, what’s that building?”
The castaway responded, “Oh, that’s the church I use to belong to.”
In this Church we have everything we need to live the life that God has planned for us now and to ensure that we are prepared for the life to come. We don’t need to look to others and we certainly don’t need to wait until Christmas to ‘unwrap’ the presents that God has in store for us as we journey through this world.
A sad fact that I encounter is that people may ‘walk away from God’ if things don’t work out the way they think they should in their Church. While there may be a time and a season for moving to another congregation of fellow believers for a plethora of reasons, there is never a compelling reason to leave God behind. There is never a substantive reason to cease to grow in your God given faith. There is never an excuse for denying the rightful place that God deserves in your life and justifying it to yourself on the basis of, “It’s not my fault I don’t go to Church anymore; it’s because of their attitude.” That will never persuade God and can never justify neglecting God’s Word, His Church and His people.
In this Church, the gift, the best Christmas gift of all time is waiting for you. God knows what you need and it is not material possessions. It is not ‘new toys’ of some type or another. The gift that God has for you here is the gift of real life.
Many people go through life believing that they know what they want and they will strive and work hard to ensure that they achieve the results that they really believe are the ones they need. However, in doing that they may ultimately loose things that are of far greater value.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
We have it all – here and now. In four weeks time we will be giving one another gifts and in some cases it will be items that they could easily do without.
Because we do ‘have it all’, have you ever considered doing something different? Have you considered what a difference you could make in the life of a person in another country?
In the bulletins this week you will have found a brochure entitled “Christmas 2008: Gifts of Grace”. This is an initiative of the Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS). You can give $10 and this will purchase a chicken and training so that farmers in Cambodia can raise poultry. For just $106 you can empower women in Cambodia and Kenya to start their own sewing business to help support their families. Just $73 will ensure that a two seater desk is provided in the Sudan for children’s schooling. You can see the full range of gifts in the brochure.
We have it all. In this Church God has provided for each one of us. We do not lack any gifts that we need for each of us to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ or for this Church to continue to grow and to let our community know that God has a plan, a dream and a future for all people.
I’ve spent a lot of time telling you that ‘we have it all’. My encouragement to you is to claim this fact. Claim the fact that God has given it all to you. It began with your baptism and continues as you grow in your God given faith. Your presence in Church today is part of that growth in God. As you acknowledge that ‘you have it all’, you will want to understand more about God and His plan for your life. Part of that will include the deep desire to help others because you are aware of all that God has done for you.
X The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. X
 Matthew 16:26 NLT
 Jeremiah 29:11ff NIV