I would like to think that I’m a “glass is half full” kind of guy…someone who is consistently able to see and celebrate the gifts and resources that we already have at our disposal for whatever task is in front of us. But…truth be told…I’m just as likely to perceive the glass as half empty. Way more often than I care to admit, I find myself agonizing over how little we seem to have or how underequipped we are. I don’t think this is always a bad thing; it’s a good idea to be realistic about what you possess. But the problem: it can be a pretty short leap from there to a kind of paralysis that stifles both creativity and courage.
When I’m feeling especially pessimistic, however, I think back on two things I’ve learned/experienced over the years that challenge me on this. The first was a wonderful presentation we hosted here at Holy Trinity back in November 2018. Perhaps you were there. Katelin Hansen, on behalf of the Rev. John Edgar and the team from Church for All People in Columbus, Ohio, delivered a powerful testimony to what can be achieved by simply starting with the gifts God has already given. I like to think that our own emerging engagement with the Akron community follows on their fine example…not because we always have everything precisely the way we want it, but because God has given us the challenge and the opportunity to come alongside our neighbors with the Good News that makes us all sisters and brothers in Christ. And that we have found joy and purpose in doing what we can to meet that challenge.
Secondly, I am always encouraged by the opening verses of First Corinthians. It’s not just Paul’s ability to set up his argument with the rascally congregation in Corinth, but his theology of abundance that is so clear. He gives thanks for God’s grace that has enriched the Corinthians so that they are “not lacking in any spiritual gift.” How interesting. Paul doesn’t start by enumerating Corinth’s deficiencies (and there are many). He begins, instead, by praising God for all that the Corinthians already possess by the fact of their establishment in Christ Jesus. “God is faithful” he reminds them. By our membership in the body of Christ, we have everything we need. And, indeed, all that we do possess is a gift from God to be used for God’s own righteous purpose.
It may seem like a little thing…or that we are only arguing semantics. But I’m beginning to understand that the distinction between “half full” and “half empty” is not little at all. The unquenchable yearning for what we don’t already have is, in fact, a huge problem in our culture as well as in the church, if for no other reason than that it sets us up for the easy psychological move to victimhood…lamenting our unfulfilled desires, denied rights and burgeoning entitlements. Recognizing and giving thanks for what we already have, however, opens our eyes to opportunities, and empowers us to work with those gifts for the betterment of the world around us in whatever way we can.
Like most every mainline Christian congregation, Holy Trinity has faced some pretty difficult obstacles over the past twenty years…declining membership and participation, decreased relevance in this culture, and most recently the special challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic. But never along this hard road have we been abandoned by God. The truth is we have been blessed almost beyond measure. Never are we without the resources we need to make a difference for the sake of Christ in our community. In every way, we have been enriched in Christ Jesus (to paraphrase Paul). The challenge is simply to recognize and then employ with gratitude and joy what we have, because what we have is enough, indeed more than enough, already. †