St. Timothy friends – we’ve cancelled the service tonight for the safety of those who would travel, but I’d like to share with you a few of the moments that would have been part of the service. It is a wonderful things to gather in the presence of the Lord, but He can meet us in our own devotion and worship. I encourage you to take a few minutes tonight, to worship, pray, and read, either as a personal devotional time or as family worship. As always, ask the Lord, “What are you teaching me about You?”
The songs are some of the ones that Amanda chose for tonight (I’m sorry that there are ads on the YouTube Videos.) I will provide links to readings where I can and provide an opportunity for discussion in the Comments Section.
God Bless you tonight,
Opening Song of Praise: O Worship the King
Prayer for Purity
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Song of Worship: Good Good Father
Prayer of the Day – 6th Sunday after Epiphany
Almighty God, we ask you mercifully to look upon your people; that by your great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional Thoughts – God Gives the Growth
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each. ~ 1 Cor. 3:5
On paper, the Church at Corinth should have had everything together. God was moving in power among them, they saw signs and wonders, had great access to philosophers and teachers, and even had the great apostle Paul spend years in their city doing evangelism and discipleship.
Yet, by the time that Paul writes this letter, the church was sick. They had lost focus on the mission, had become enamored with philosophers who taught deeper “wisdom”, position, and experience. They had embraced sinful behaviors as a demonstration of their freedom, and were known for their divisions, rather than their love and power.
I’d like to make a couple of observations about the verse above, that The Lord has used to encourage me as I’ve prayed through this week’s scriptures. I trust He will encourage you as well.
First, our allegiance must always be to Jesus and his Church (big C), above our allegiance to any of His followers.
On it’s face, this is obvious. For the Corinthian Church to spend their time advocating for Paul or Apollos or Peter (or even Christ over-against the others) is to deny what these bright lights of the gospel proclaimed. Paul writes to tell them that he has no interest in gaining a following for himself. Rather, he is constantly pressing his churches to follow and know Jesus. Following a fellow disciple amounts to idolatry, in that it takes the worship and trust that is due to our savior and gives it to another.
Yet we still see these divisions wreaking havoc with our allegiances in the Church. We find preachers, pastors, and denominations that seem to have a special anointing, and we devote ourselves to their cause. We pit them against one another, and endlessly debate who has more credentials or anointing. We promote the advancement of our denomination above others, rather than working together for the sake of the gospel.
Of course there are valid reasons for people who claim the Christian name to part ways, and I am not suggesting that we must all come under one organizational roof. I am lamenting the loss of our time, energy, and focus. We are given only so much in this life, and we shouldn’t spend it arguing about whose saints were more saintly. As Paul writes, each of our saints – be they Tyndale, Luther, Hus, Gregory, Leo, Cranmer, Wesley, Graham, or the host of other preachers, teachers, Sunday School leaders, evangelists, mentors, parents, and friends – were appointed by God for their moment. “as the Lord has assigned to each.“
They are all servants who point us to the King.
For me – this truth means that although I am proudly a minister in the Anglican Church, you will find me working alongside Christians of many flavors, and rarely speaking about why being an Anglican is better than being anything else. Our closest relationships for the gospel in Burlington are non-denoms, presbyterians, Catholics, and campus ministries. God has appointed work to each of us, and we all serve in the ways He appoints.
Second, You don’t need huge gifting to be used by God
The Corinthian church seems to have this in common with the American Church. They loved their celebrities. Being “in the camp” of one of these great Apostles gave them an identity and a sense of superiority. (They even had “super-apostles” – 2 Cor. 12:11).
The trouble with a celebrity culture is that it tells us we aren’t good for much if we aren’t one of the special few. We can sit back and relax because the important and powerful people will take care of it In fact, isn’t that why they are important and powerful to begin with?
But here it is – the servants are appointed to the task. The jobs are often non-transferable. And the one who appoints the tasks empowers us to do what He calls.
I heard a few years ago that the average person who comes to faith in Jesus will hear the gospel seven times before making a decision to follow Jesus. Seven!
I worked for a few summers in a bicycle shop. For a while, I worked on commission. Many of us know the sales mantra – “Always Be Closing”. If you don’t ring up the sale, you don’t get paid. So there’s pressure to seal the deal – and this attitude has crept into our gospel evangelism. It makes a lot of us not want to do gospel evangelism. We feel the need to pray the prayer, and close the deal – or else we like a failure.
But here’s thing thing. If that statistic is correct – 6 out of 7 times we tell people that God loves them, that we’ve all alienated Him from our lives by disobeying Him, and that by believing and following Jesus, God has made a way for us to know Him and have the life we were made for, they won’t respond with faith.
But it’s not failure, it’s planting seeds, or watering. That’s what Paul means when he talks about farming in this passage. Often, the job God appoints to us is to share God’s love with someone and build up in them the possibility of the idea that there is something to this faith. 1 out 7 times, we have the privilege of seeing how God has made that grow. If we obediently do our appointed task, it’s a success, even if we never see it.
When I think about my own life of faith – I have been in the presence and heard the preaching of many important people – many gifted people – many anointed people. But the people that have made an enormous impact on me are those that volunteered in my Sunday School when I was a kid, and those that were friends when I needed a friend. I wholeheartedly thank God for the ones that were appointed into my life to serve and had nothing to gain. I hate to think what would have been the case if these many had not played their role at their time, just because they didn’t believe that they were special enough.
There is nothing more special than God appointing us for a task. Let’s never be ashamed to do it because it doesn’t feel glamorous enough.
At the end of the day, what I have always found challenging about the Corinthian church is that they seem to have missed the diagnosis. Their community was ill. Centered in the multi-cultural and multi-religious city of Corinth, they found it hard to be Christians. They were subject to persecutions and shunning by family members and the society at large because of their faith in Jesus. Ongoing conversions would have been a challenge, and they were looked down upon as foolish and ignorant by many.
Rather than relying on the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives, they figured that their experiences were lacking, that their worship was lacking, or that their wisdom was lacking. So we find Paul correcting them throughout the book. It’s not that you don’t have wisdom. Stop endlessly debating wisdom. It’s not that you don’t have the right supernatural experiences. Stop endlessly pursuing them. Rather, what brings health to the Church and growth to the church is the power of God through the cross of Jesus, changing lives in ways that defy conventional wisdom. When we know Him, the experience and the wisdom come along with it.
I’ve met too many people that spend their time getting the worship (whether liturgical, evangelical, charismatic, or whatever else) just right – apparently believing that when we get the worship just right, the sinners will flood through the doors and be saved. They won’t, and we’ll never get the worship just right, despite out efforts to do it well. The power of God for a healthy church lies in the power of the cross for salvation and growth – and in the sharing of this gospel.
This is why Paul wrote to the sick church in Corinth:
“my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor. 2:4-5
Rather than getting it all just right, or promoting our camp, let us seek the power of God to change the lives of our neighbors – never afraid to share the gospel. He has appointed us to this place in this time to do His work. Thanks be to God!
Spend a few minutes in prayer for the things on your mind. The categories we use on Sundays are Prayers for The Church, Our Partners in Ministry, The World, The Nation, The Local Community, Those Who Suffer, and Thanksgiving for the Faithful Departed. Today, we are praying for the retired clergy connected to our diocese:
Gail Paige-Bowman – Priest
Gabrielle Beam – Priest
Jack Potter – Priest
Pat Smith – Priest
Don Wilson – Priest
Andrew Fairfield – Bishop
Barbara Lachance – Priest
Christopher Leighton – Priest
Roberta Schneider – Deacon
Sam Schutz – Priest
Lance Giufridda – Priest
Arnold Klukas – Priest
Les Fairfield – Priest
Closing Song: O Church Arise
Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord!
In the Comments
I’d love to hear if you found this helpful today, and if God spoke to you about Himself!