Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians’

Advent 1: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

A few comments on the Epistle reading from November 27, 2011 …

One phrase jumps out at me from this passage:  you are not lacking in any spiritual gift. (v. 7)

I wish I could  paste this verse onto the college students and young adults I meet!  Yes, it would look ridiculous to have people walking around with words that I glued to their shirts.  Still, I wish I could help more followers of Christ understand that they are enriched, strengthened, and and called by him.

We preach so much nonsense about self-esteem in our culture, to the point that it backfires and folks are left even more doubtful and afraid.  “Believing in ourselves” becomes a dry well, and no matter how furiously we dig, water won’t emerge.  Allowing Jesus’ living water to flow over us, however, is a different matter.

I enjoy reading daily devotionals and blogs on The High Calling, a site for Christians who want to think about spirituality and daily life.  One recent post highlighted the fears we all face and the change of heart that comes from drawing strength from God to face fear.

God has given us what we need:  how many times will we need to hear it before we believe it?  We may not receive God’s gifts in the exact form we had imagined (a certain job, a certain date.)  We may not receive God’s gifts in the form that others wanted for us.  (Every academic year produces scores of disappointed parents, despondent because their child chose a major different than the ones the parents wanted.)

Yet we already have immeasurable spiritual gifts, like patience, faith, and mercy.  Christ has given us the power and the freedom to use those gifts in everything that we do.  The Savior f0r whom we hope will not leave us wanting.

not in vain

Tomorrow I’m preaching before our presbytery, which is more than a little intimidating.  But I’m encouraged, knowing a former presbytery colleague who has moved will be preaching before his presbytery on the same day!

Here are some sketches from my sermon, based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.  Even after the sermon is over, I believe I will still be thinking about these issues.

Mostly, I’m thinking about the mainline church.  I have the privilege of working with people (i.e., young adults) that are much coveted by mainline congregations, who have seen their numbers declining over the past few decades.  Many folks in the mainline church just come across as  sad … but it doesn’t have to be that way.

a child in Guatemala checking out our 2008 college group

Some key words from Paul really strike me as I get ready to deliver this sermon.  Here, Paul is writing about the basic Christian message, which is something that gives him great joy.  But, if you read carefully, a lot of pain seeps through the page.  He keeps emphasizing how he was “the least of the apostles,” and he uses the phrase “in vain” twice.  Somehow that strikes an off note here.  Why write about all the great things God has done and then muse about God’s work being in vain?

I wonder if Paul was at the edge of what he could take from various people:  people who insisted on everything looking good, people who said that anyone who was less than perfect was not of God.

I wonder if that’s why we mainline American Christians are in so much of a mental and spiritual tangle:  for a long time, we looked darn good, and it got the best of us.

As a campus minister, I go on a fair amount of mission trips, and every time the participants get upset at how things look wherever we go.  Why aren’t there more social services in Country X, so that the streets wouldn’t be full of beggars?  Why aren’t the buildings better constructed?  Why is there a dirt floor here–there are babies crawling on it!  No one actually says it, but the truth is, we have a lot of trouble seeing the work of God unless everything is new and shiny.

Thankfully, by the end of the mission trips, most people learn to see things differently.  They learn to see that God’s grace is not in vain.  They learn to see the hard work God does in the most strenuous of circumstances.  (Sort of like the hard work Jesus had to do with Paul!)

Anywhere we might go, whether far away or next door, someone is yearning for a word from the Lord.  Someone is feeling like (to borrow from Paul and Matthew) “the least of these,” “untimely born”, or that everything has been in vain.

Can we still be used for God’s purposes?  Isn’t there still work for us to do?  Can we, the people who used to look great, allow grace to shine through our tarnished shell?

Advent Day 23: Hope

Advent Day 23

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

The timing on this post couldn’t be better.  Yesterday Bill (senior pastor at the church where I serve) gave some examples of people who had hope despite terrible odds.  I had already planned this post:  so for today, think and pray about hope.  What keeps you going?  What are your deepest longings, as opposed to temporary wishes?  Where do you notice examples of hope, or things that make you hopeful?

I love this verse from 1 Corinthians, not only because it sounds good, but because it presents a particular challenge to me as a Christian and a pastor in America in 2010.  You see, the frightening situations Americans have experienced in the past 10 years or so have pushed many people against an emotional and spiritual wall.  When we get pushed like that, our deeply held fears and beliefs have nowhere to hide.  I’ve heard people in the last ten years call for more “love” (in the form of tolerance, reaching out to those in need, etc.) and for more “faith” (or truth, or righteousness, or right and wrong.)  Sometimes the “love” people and the “faith” people find themselves at odds with one another.

But who’s talking about hope?  I’d like to hear more about that.  I want to preach more about it.  (If you’re reading this, I’d love to hear a story of hope from you!)  Even though Paul writes that love is the greatest, here at the end of 2010 I think we need a little more hope to bind us together.  Considering hope is not an “official” spiritual practice, like many of the others I’ve described in this blog, but I consider it a very worthy subject for our prayers. 

What can you say about hope?

Today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):