Thanksgiving Day (USA)
We hear today the first verses of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Paul’s letter was written at a time when, as Professor Douglas Campbell, a Pauline scholar at Duke Divinity School, puts it, “the church at Corinth was a mess.” In fact, the situation in Corinth was similar in many ways to what we are experiencing in our own country and communities today: partisanship; leadership which encouraged factions and division in the community; a lack of concern on the part of the wealthy members of the community with the well-being of the poor and vulnerable members that had penetrated into the sacred meal of the Lord’s Supper itself—to name a few.
I wonder what it must have been like for Paul as he pondered how to respond to the community at Corinth in light of these serious issues that threatened his “beloved children.” As a parent, I know anger and frustration arise easily in the face of wayward children! Yet Paul begins his letter not with anger or frustration but with thanksgiving:
I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus.
He goes on later in the letter to gift us with some of the most beautiful reflections and imagery of Christianity, including the description of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12) and the affirmation “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). But for now, on this Thanksgiving Day 2021, I invite us all to stay with the first verses of Paul’s letter and imagine what it might be like if we entered into the conflicts of today’s world–and in our own lives–giving thanks to God for those we see as opposing us and our values. Who knows? We, like Paul in the course of his letter, may move inevitably from gratitude to the “greatest of these,” love.
Lissa Romell is the Administrator at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.