I continue to be constantly amazed at how the lectionary reaches deep into our lives and teaches us lessons that are timely, accurate, and humbling. I have said before that I went years without giving the lectionary much attention because I was serving in churches that chose not to follow it. (The lectionary is a three-year program of assigned scriptures for every week to be used in preaching and Christian education.) I once worked with a senior pastor who liked to preach either in a series, or as “the spirit led.” He was a wonderful preacher and his methodology certainly blessed the congregation.
But today’s lectionary speaks so closely to my heart and my current situation, I could have penned it myself, though clearly not with such eloquence. But every word in this passage resonates with me about why I get up early every day and slog through writing At Water’s Edge. I have been criticized, praised, supported, and dismissed. None of that matters. When Paul says, “I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t!” I rise up in my chair, raise my coffee cup and yell, “PREACH IT BROTHER!”
I apologize if this is somewhat self-absorbed, but I bet there is something in here for you, too.
Are you in a family situation where your beliefs have separated you from your loved ones? Do you struggle with those who discredit you for your faith? Are you surrounded by meticulous moralists? Paul GETS YOU.
1 Corinthians 9 (The Message)
15-18 Still, I want it made clear that I’ve never gotten anything out of this for myself, and that I’m not writing now to get something. I’d rather die than give anyone ammunition to discredit me or question my motives. If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself. I’m compelled to do it, and doomed if I don’t! If this was my own idea of just another way to make a living, I’d expect some pay. But since it’s not my idea but something solemnly entrusted to me, why would I expect to get paid? So am I getting anything out of it? Yes, as a matter of fact: the pleasure of proclaiming the Message at no cost to you. You don’t even have to pay my expenses!
When we accept the call to be witnesses for Christ in our lives, it is necessary to do exactly what Paul describes: to enter the world of those who haven’t encountered Christ yet, but to not take on their way of life. To keep your bearings IN Christ while trying to experience things from other people’s point of view. To become whatever sort of servant God can use to lead others to him.
19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
The lesson today is to be like Paul. Don’t just talk about it…get in on it! You too will be criticized, supported, praised, or dismissed. So be it. If God is for us, nothing can harm us. NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus.
Don’t just read the message…be the message.