Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Common Good

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!" - Isaiah 6:8

To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. - 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV)

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 120; 1 Kings 4:1-28; John 12:37-50

If you live here, God loves you.
Today is the big day, Election Day in the USA. May we vote, and live actively together in the results of the vote, with an eye toward "the common good." Scripture tells us that this is God's vision for the world. National borders, "red" vs. "blue" states, party lines, the concept of "race" (a human invention, not based in biology), and all other walls and barriers are temporary signs of our human urge to divide ourselves around any difference and huddle in fear. There is a better way. God's Holy Spirit is given to each person - made clear and explicit in the church about which Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, but also for lighting the way for all people, as in Romans 1 and today's John 12 passage - so that everyone has something to offer for the common good.

I was surprised, in digging into the 1 Corinthians 12:7 text today, to discover that in the original Greek, "the common good" is not a noun at all. It's not a thing to which we contribute. It's a verb, in a form that says there's something actively going on right now. The verb, sumphero, can mean "to gather, collect, bring together," which reflects how God works through all of us to lead to something bigger and better than the sum of the parts. In the form in which it's used in this verse, it means "to be of use, profitable, advantageous, better, helpful, useful." We all have something to offer to this collective action of contributing and coming together.

Each year, especially in presidential cycles, by the time Election Day comes around, I'm so tired of the partisan attacks and bickering that I get a lot of comfort out of looking at a real photo of the Earth, like the NASA photo above. It shows our country without the human divisions overlaid on it, and without the artificial separation of our borders with Canada and Mexico. It shows some of the rest of the world, and hints at the fact that there's another entire half of the globe, with more than half of the world's population, that our eyes just aren't capable of seeing all at once. Our whole country is just one contributor to the "common good," or lack of it, across the whole world. And each of us is just one piece of this country. And yet the whole collection is gathered together in God's hands. And every person around the world is a child of God, made in God's image, with something useful to offer for the good of us all.

May God bless you, and each one of us, with the perspective of knowing that we're small but valuable parts of what God has made here. May you vote, and live actively together with others in the result of the vote, according to the gifts God has given you and the place God has for you. May we see past our divisions, and come together for the blessing and benefit of all.

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