Following Jesus in a Jacked Up Church

 

The Body You Always Wanted

After correcting the Corinthians denial of the resurrection of the dead, Paul now anticipates their (and probably ours, too!) next question: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

By using multiple analogies, Paul shows them that we see the possibility of physical resurrection all around us- specially in how a bare seed is planted into the ground and then come up as a new, beautiful plant. So, goes the future resurrection of our own bodies.

Paul then reminds and encourages the readers how the continuity and discontinuity of their future resurrected body changes the way they view death and live now. Understanding death to be the last enemy to be destroyed, we grieve at death but as those not without hope because we know that we’re getting our bodies back. Furthermore, not only our bodies, but also our service for Jesus will even be resurrected.

This is why Paul ends this dense, abstract, but spectacular 58 verse chapter with these closing words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

YOLO?

Millions of Americans – and millions of Christians- imagine heaven to be a spiritual, non-physical realm where we sit on clouds, play a harp and sing songs forever. The Church in Corinth 2,000 years ago didn’t think much differently.

Though they believed Jesus was raised from the dead, they did not believe everyone else would be raised from the dead in the future. Along with their culture, they desired to escape from this physical world, believing it was simply bad, painful, and filled with suffering and decay.

Paul shows the Corinthians the absurdity of their denial in the resurrection. More importantly, he tells them that what they believe about the ultimate future shapes how they live now.

And the same goes for us today. Because Jesus has been raised from the dead we can trust that God will do the same for us. This provides us with the motivation to engage in physical acts of mercy as we provide a foretaste to the world of what God will eventually do in redeeming our bodies and creation. The resurrection is what allows us to live risky lives with complete freedom — and freeing us from becoming enslaved to a ‘YOLO’ culture.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Worship

Should women be silent in church? Doesn’t the Bible say that? What about speaking in tongues, healing and prophesying; are they still in effect today? If you think mentioning the word Republican or Democrat in church creates tension, sometimes that same tension happens when we mention the phrases speaking in tongues, healing and prophesying.

The early church kept bickering and complaining about their gifts but Paul says to ‘grow up’. Paul also says, “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” This is a powerful reminder that we all have a gift, not just the pastors, the staff, the board, etc. We each bring something, a gift, to encourage the church and to help it be all that God intends it to be.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

Tongues & Prophecy

The more charismatic gifts like tongues and prophecy are often controversial in the American church today. This message helps us to navigate the tricky waters of these gifts and resurrect them in the church today.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1-25

Love: It Makes All the Difference in the World

What’s probably one of the most misread passages in the New Testament? If you’ve ever been to a wedding you’ve probably heard something said about it. It’s the ‘Love Chapter’ found in 1 Corinthians 13. The writer is talking to a community of Jesus followers and they all have their ego’s tied in a knot and dissension is happening. They are thinking because they have certain skills (spiritual gifts) God loves them more or they must be closer to God than the other followers of Jesus. So Paul addresses them all with a little ‘Hey, it’s time to do a reality check and focus on the thing that makes all the difference in the world – God’s love’. God’s love is not some sentimental mushy quote or poem written on a greeting card. Instead, the love of God is completely selfless and promises to change us all in so many ways – to make all the difference in the world

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Everyone Gets To Play

The human body is made up of 11 diverse systems that are all interdependent. While they didn’t have modern science, the ancient Roman world used this very analogy to persuade its citizens to fulfill their civic duty. But really it was the upper class of Roman society who would use this “body politic” to keep those in the lower realms of society trapped there. It was a way to keep the status quo—to make sure lower class people stayed in their place. Some jobs were more important than others, while other jobs were dishonorable and even disposable.

Paul, the writer of this letter to Church of Corinth, flips this metaphor upside down and uses it to demonstrate that every part – every member – in the Corinthian church matters. There is no such thing as a more ‘spiritual’ gift. There are no greater or less important gifts in the Church. Everyone gets to play!

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has uniquely and individually given you for the common good of the body of Christ. The church is to be neither independent or dependent, but interdependent – just like our human bodies. No one gets to sit out, no one gets to say that they are unable to serve the body of Christ. There are no bench players in the kingdom of God.

As Bruce Bugbee says, all followers of Jesus are “grace receivers for the purpose of being grace givers.” Each of us has been given a gift to point to the Giver of gifts. So, what are your unique spiritual gifts? And, are you using them for the common good of others?

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The church that a guy named Paul started sure had some issues. They were fighting about each others strengths and abilities. So Paul reminds them of what they need to focus on, as well as sets them straight about their understanding on what makes someone strong in God’s eyes. Paul never condemns or denies some of the more visible gifts, yet he approaches things with kindness and sensitivity. Paul also never mentions retiring from serving when it comes to participating in the church. Maybe some folks in your church should listen to what Paul is talking about.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

When Words are Not Enough

Augustine famously defined the sacraments as, “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.”

Here in this passage Paul discusses the abuse of communion in the Corinthian Church. The wealthy Corinthians were mistreating the poor with this sacred rite. Communion is supposed to be a corporate act that brings Christians together because in it we declare that the foot of the cross is equal. We remember through this simple, tangible sign that God – in Jesus – forgives us all of what we have done and nourishes us both physically and spiritually to participate in the life that only Jesus gives. And, often, it’s the signs and pictures in life – things without words – that move us the most deeply. The same is true of communion today.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Gendered Lives Matter

Dubbed the most challenging portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is Paul’s response to a controversial practice within the worshipping body at Corinth: women and their head coverings.

Paul reminds both the Corinthian Church and us today to maintain worship practices that bring honor and order while avoiding unnecessary distraction or shame. It is within this context a healthy congregation can stay focused on the God they worship, rather than distracting issues of dress or hairstyles.

But is Paul’s point simply about how a woman should and should not cover her head? We find it is much deeper. Paul reminds the Church in Corinth of the deeply Biblical importance of retaining distinct markers of gender. Why? Because central to being made in the image of God is being made as gendered beings–male and female. While our world has blurred the lines of gender and abused submission as an intended healthy part of the creation order, Paul leaves us with challenging words for a functional equality of gender. Find out what it means to “be a man” and “be a woman” in such a way that our gendered lives can reflect the full image of God.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Ephesians 5:21-28

Eating and Drinking for the Kingdom

Paul reframes the whole popular conversation of Christian liberty – of what do we do with grey areas (the nonessentials of the Christian faith). In Paul’s situation at Corinth, it was debatable whether a Christian should eat meat that was used to make a sacrifice to a pagan god in a temple.

Earlier in this section he says one shouldn’t eat meat inside a temple because of it’s possible idolatrous connotations. But now, contrary to many, he actually does advocate eating meat outside of the temple for the sole purpose of engaging the non-Christian so that they may be saved. In short, Paul says we should use our freedom for the glory of God – for the advancement of God’s kingdom. He wants to remove every single barrier that he can so that some might be saved.

Part of the reason why some of our lives are so unfulfilling, boring and irrelevant is because we have missed out on the grand salvation that Jesus gives to us and invites us to call others into. We get caught up in debating, arguing, gossiping and criticizing over stupid grey issues like Corinth did here in this passage rather than living missionally!

Paul calls us to emulate Jesus: the greatest missionary who ever lived and entered your world – at his expense and freedom – so that he could engage and save you on your own turf.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23