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The path forward is what will lead to hope and grace.

With the letter to the Corinthians, Paul thanks God for the gifts He will bestow on the Corinthians. But just after the thank you, the fireworks begin. Paul seems to have nothing good to say about them. They are disloyal to one another and they are divided. He reprimands them for taking communion unworthily. He is horrified that someone in the community is sleeping with his mother-in-law. Christians are taking Christians to court. Some are using their spiritual gifts for their own aggrandizement while at the same time putting other down as if they were less gifted. There is nothing nice to report. So why does Paul thank God before he rips them to shreds?

Paul is not grateful to God for the past, but for the future. He sees, despite all of the atrocities, that God will give them the potential for greatness. For Paul, it is okay to anticipate graces in the future. Often we look to the past to find reasons to thank God and this is a noble task. But for Paul, he does not face the past but the future.

Continually looking at the past to be grateful means you are going to face the future with your butt end. I do not recommend that. If we’re looking at the past, that inevitably means we will progress forward by walking backward. Paul faces the future when he walks forward. Things may not be great in the now, but with Christ, things will be great in the future. He faces the future with hope and gratitude.

Yes, I look to the future when I thank God. I thank God because this year I hope to graduate and never have to take classes. Considering I will fifty-seven this year, I figure it is about time I go back to work. I am grateful that in the future, God will make me pope. I better not go there. But I can be grateful knowing the Mercy of God. I am able to anticipate that God will forgive me, help me to get to heaven, and provide eternal bliss. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is okay to anticipate that God will always be there for me today and in all my tomorrows.

There are many who look to the past and have nothing to be thankful for. They are in a prison. Those on death row look to the past and they do not feel a lot of gratitude. An unsung hero in a nursing home, who has to stay in bed all day because someone decided not to come to work, does not feel a lot of gratitude. Those who lost their home, their job, their family or life-mate do not feel a lot of gratitude from the past. You, who are reading this, may not feel gratitude for what has happened in the past. Yet, Paul in this letter tells us, those who have nothing in the past to make them grateful; they are looking in the wrong direction. We all need to turn 180 degrees and look to the future. It is the path forward that will lead to hope, grace and bliss.

There is a story of a guy who was returning home from work. He saw a stranger who was looking at something in his hand. The man went over to see what he was looking at. He held an enormous diamond. The man said to the stranger “That is the biggest and most beautiful diamond I have ever seen. Where did you get it”? The stranger said, “I found it. Since you like it, why don’t you take it?” The man was overcome by the stranger’s generosity. He wrapped the diamond in his handkerchief and placed it in his backpack. When he got home he pulled down all the shades and put the diamond under his lamp. He admired the dancing light. He then took a velvet cloth and wrapped it up and put it in a safe. He could not sleep all night. The next morning he went into the safe, took out the diamond and went to search for the stranger. When he found him, he gave him the diamond and said, “Sir, here is your diamond. I would rather have what you have in your possession that made it so easy for you to give up this diamond.” The man recognized that the stranger had something in his possession that was far greater than a priceless diamond. I share that story with you because we are that stranger. We are the one who has possession of a great treasure. That is what Paul is saying in the opening of his letter to the Corinthians. We have something that is so great that it will be easy for us to give up our other treasures. Here is the faith lesson. We have something very great. We just need to recognize it.

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