Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

A Motley Crew

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If you look up the definition of this phrase, you’ll find that it refers to a loosely organized assembly of people who vary in appearance, background, and character but have a common goal.  Examples might be a band of pirates, or a western posse.   Historically, “motley” was the varicolored fabric worn by jesters — you remind what that looks like, right?  Kind of crazy and mismatched?

Well, you might say the disciples Jesus chose were a motley crew.  There was a zealot, a tax collector and some fishermen.  One of them denied Him, one betrayed Him, a couple asked for preferential treatment. They didn’t always get along.  They all seemed pretty clueless and dense about where Jesus was headed, even after He came right out and told them that He was going to Jerusalem to be killed.(Matthew 16:21)  Somehow, in the end, it all comes together in a way that is nothing short of miraculous.  This disparate group of men becomes a force that “turns the world upside down.”(Acts 17:6) How?  The answer is simple:  they received the Holy Spirit.

The same is true of any Christian congregation today.  We’re doctors and lawyers, janitors and cooks.  We’re black and white, Korean and Indian.  We don’t look like a , family, but we are. We get sidetracked, we quarrel, we mess up and we get frustrated with one another.  Somehow, though, with the help of the Spirit, and lots of prayer, we persevere and we accomplish things. We feed the hungry and clothe the naked;  we visit prisoners;  we teach and evangelize;  we maintain church buildings and support missionaries. We couldn’t do any of this on our own.  I think God planned to do great things through motley crews like us, just so we’d know we had to rely on Him and give Him all the glory.

“For consider your calling, brothers;   not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;  God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”  1 Corinthians 1:26-30

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The Motive is Love

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“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without love for God and for others there is no true piety.  All our pious actions are worthless if they are not motivated by love — love for God and love for others.  This is what Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisees and what Paul is teaching us here.

God is love.  If we, as followers, are to reflect His nature to the world, we, too must be loving. Not just to our family and friends, but to everyone we meet, and yes, even to those who seem completely unlovable.  Not to earn God’s approval, not because He needs our love, simply out of gratitude for the grace and mercy He extends to each of us.

This goes back to Beth Ann’s post about personal piety.  Truly pious people are not looking for a reward.  They don’t need to attract attention or be held up as shining examples of sainthood. Pious people have internalized Christ’s character.  They are humble and unassuming. They are focused. The engine that drives them is simply love. Guess what?  If you think you’re pious, you’re not there yet!

Will we ever become truly and 100% pious? Not in this life.  That’s why Lutherans think of piety as an ideal, and sanctification as a process.  The more we study, pray and worship, the more we walk and talk with Christ, the more like Him we’ll become.  Love will be our motive.

 

Godly Relationships

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“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone;  I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Genesis 2:18

From the beginning, God intended us to be in relationship with others.  He said it wasn’t “good” to be alone.  He also made man “in the image of God”( Genesis 1:27) and God Himself is a relationship — Father, Son and Spirit.  It’s a relationship founded on love according the apostle, John:

“…the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”  John 3:35

and producing love, according to Paul:

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love….’ Galatians 5:22

In fact, Scripture tells us that God is not only loving, He is love.

It seems to me that if God is love, and He made us to mirror His image, and He created us to be in relationship with one another — then His desire is that all our relationships be loving!  I’m not always a logical thinker, but this is where logic leads me.  I guess that means acting in love, even when we don’t feel love.  How do we do that?  Well…..

“Love is patient and kind;  love is not jealous or boastful;  it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. ”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

It’s not easy, but I think if we pay attention and keep these verses from Corinthians in mind, we can become more patient, kind, courteous and humble;  and those few changes in our behavior will allow God’s love to shine into all our relationships.

 

 

Be A Love Letter

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I’ve heard people call the Bible God’s love letter to us, and it is.  However, did you realize that each one of us is a love letter to the world from God?  Listen to what Paul tells the church in Corinth:

“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show you are a letter from Christ delivered by us written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

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If you haven’t noticed, all the Greek words for love that we’ve been pondering this month deal with relationships with people.  When we love our families, our neighbors, our friends, our fellow church members, or complete strangers we are simply instruments, used by God, to deliver His love to the world.  That’s quite a responsibility.  God’s love may be perceived and experienced through us.  Everyone you meet won’t read the Bible, but they will read about God through your life.

What kind of letter will you be?

 

Examine Yourself

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“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”  1 Corinthians 11: 27-29

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Lutherans take the sacrament of Holy Communion seriously.  We believe that the bread and wine remains physically bread and wine, however, Jesus is present “in, with and under” the physical elements. Participants should examine themselves to be sure they rightly understand and appreciate the great gift being received.  Of course, many might say, “what does it mean to examine oneself?  How do I do that?”  In our congregation,  the Pastor reads what is called an “Exhortation” before we commune which explains this.  I thought it might be helpful to non-Lutherans and Lutherans alike to print it here.

EXHORTATION

Dear friends in Christ!  In order that you may receive this holy Sacrament in a worthy manner, it is necessary that you carefully consider what you must now believe and do.  From the words of Christ,

“This is My body, which is given for you;”  “This is My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

You should believe that Jesus Christ is Himself present with His Body and Blood, as the words declare.  From Christ’s words, “For the forgiveness of sins,” you should in the next place, believe that Jesus Christ bestows upon you His Body and Blood to confirm to you the forgiveness of all your sins.  And finally, you should do as Christ commands you when He says,

“Take, eat;”  “Drink of it all of you;” and “This do in remembrance of me.”

If you believe these words of Christ, and do as He has commanded, then you have properly examined yourselves and may rightly eat Christ’s Body and drink His Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

You should, also, unite in giving thanks to Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for so great a gift, and should love one another with a pure heart, and thus, with the whole Christian Church, have comfort and joy in Christ our Lord.  To this end, may God the Father grant you His grace;  through the same, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

Note:  The Exhortation Before Communion is taken from The Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship

Graceful Relationships

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Sarah’s post on symbiosis told us that relationships are a two way street.  If we want our relationships to survive and thrive, we have to extend a little grace — that’s a word we Lutherans like to use, which basically means getting something you didn’t earn and don’t deserve.  There are times in every relationship when we have to be willing to put aside our own needs and sacrifice for the other.  There’s a great “how to” section in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  You’ve probably heard this many times, but have you really thought about it?

“Love is patient and kind”

Am I patient with my friend, even when she forgets my birthday?  Or goes on and on about her favorite topic (which doesn’t interest me)? Am I kind and willing to listen to her problems, even on the days I’m tired and really don’t want to talk at all?

“love is not jealous or boastful.”

Am I sincerely happy for my brother when he gets a promotion while I am struggling financially?  Can I congratulate him without bringing up my latest success?

“it (love) is not arrogant or rude”

Am I respectful and courteous to the people who serve me at the restaurant, the bank, the grocery store?  Do I ask how their day is going?  Or do I ignore them in my rush to get on with my other errands?

“Love does not insist on its own way”

Do I give my husband and children a say in our family life and daily routines?  Or do I expect them to go along with my preferences?

“it (love) is not irritable or resentful”

Am I understanding when my co-worker needs extra time off?  Or do I feel put upon and angry?

“it (love) does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Do I try to put the best interpretation on the behavior of others?  Am I will to forgive them when they’re wrong and keep encouraging and believing in them?  Or do I give up and walk away?

In all our relationships, the greatest asset is love.  Use it daily.

 

Agree In the Lord, Example #1

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Years ago, before my husband was a Pastor, I was elected to the Church Council as recording secretary.  After I read my first meeting minutes, our Pastor started to make a comment ….then he chuckled and said, “never mind, Joan, I’ll talk to you about the minutes later.”

I was embarrassed and upset.  Something was obviously wrong with the way I recorded the meeting, and he had let everyone else know it.  I went to him later and said, “You might as well have just gone ahead and criticized me there.  Why didn’t you just finish telling me what I did wrong?”

His answer?  “I started to say your minutes were the best we had ever had, but I caught myself, realizing how rude and ungrateful that would sound to the members who had done it before.”  As you can imagine, that deflated my anger in a second.  Now I was embarrassed to realize how quickly I had jumped to the wrong conclusion.

My point?  We can’t assume we know what someone else is thinking, or what their actions really mean.  If you’re in doubt, do as the Bible says, go to that person and ask.  You may find out you misjudged them, or you may be giving them an opportunity to apologize.  Either way, you’ve saved your relationship and you can continue to “agree in the Lord.”

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In the Perfect Place

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“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  Romans 12: 4-5

I think that the analogy of the body is the best way to describe our oneness with Christ and each other.  I have to admit it’s a difficult concept to explain, and the writers of the New Testament were certainly inspired by God to present it in a way that we can understand and appreciate.

The parts of our body, each with a unique purpose, work together to comprise one living organism.  When one part of the body stops working, or is injured, the whole body suffers.  Some parts are less visible, some are not so pretty ( to illustrate this, my husband would cite the quote “God takes no delight in the legs of a man”) but all are needed.  In the same way, the body of Christ needs all of us.  We need preachers and teachers, cooks and cleaners, carpenters and prayer warriors.  Not only that, but God has placed each of us in the perfect position to use our abilities:

“But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.”  1 Corinthians 3:18

Isn’t it amazing?  God chose you and me for a particular purpose, in the time and place where we are needed most.  You and I are called to our congregation, just as much as the Pastor!

Of course, the body will not work if each part goes its’ own way.  Every body needs a way to be organized and perform well.  In our physical body, if our brain is damaged all kinds of systems break down.  The same is true of our spiritual body.  Christ is the head, and must direct our actions and our goal.

“…and in him (Christ) all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church.”  Colossians 1:17-18

You are called, gifted and positioned perfectly for peak performance.  God and His people need you just where you are.  Are you doing your part as a member of the body?

 

A Big Responsibility

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Before I retired, I worked for a hospital.  I remember at one of our training meetings, our employer stressed that we, every one of us was the face of Frederick Memorial Hospital to the community.  If we were kind, caring, and helpful, that was how others would see the hospital.  On the other hand if we were rude, careless or disinterested, our workplace would be perceived in a very different way.  Once a person develops a negative opinion about you, it’s very hard to win back their approval.

Reading Leslie’s post yesterday, I realized that being one with Christ carries a big responsibility.  We, the church, the body of Christ, represent Him to the world.  That means, as my husband (a Pastor) keeps telling us, there must be something different about us.  Our actions and attitude must mirror the One we follow.  Otherwise, many will think … what’s the big deal?  Why should I give up my time and money to be part of the church?  Those people are just the same as everyone else.

In the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians we learn something about how we are supposed to convey the presence of Christ to the world:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  …For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men as sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”  2 Corinthians: 2:14, 17

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual”  1 Corinthians 2:12-13

If we are one with Christ, our words and actions will become more and more like His.  We will be noticeably different because we have His mind and His Spirit within us.  We are His ambassadors, entrusted with sharing His good news with the world.  Are you up for this responsibility?

 

The Gift of ????

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I had to chuckle when I read Leslie’s post about the gift of gab ….that is so not my gift, although it’s one I admire and sometimes wish I had.  I’m a quiet introvert, so I guess my gift is …. holding my tongue?  …..listening? ….silence?  What would be the opposite of gab?

My gift can get me in trouble, too.  Sometimes I don’t speak up when I should.  Sometimes people misperceive me as snobby or aloof or unfriendly.   Sometimes I think of just the right words of sympathy or encouragement …just a little too late.

It’s easy to envy somebody else’s gift, but it’s a bad way to spend my time.  Isn’t it better to give thanks for the wide variety of talents and personalities God has created?  When we get together with someone who has different abilities than we do, great things happen.  We complement each other.  We balance things out.  We can accomplish things together that we couldn’t do alone.  God planned it that way.

“But, as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were one member, where would be body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”  1 Corinthians 12: 18-20