Year A – Epiphany 4 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18–31 – For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 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; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Summary – This passage falls as a “parenthesis,” or a “side-note” in the midst of Paul dealing with a particular problem in the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle they followed, in other words parading their “wisdom” around, showing off to other Christians how much they thought they knew.  Paul chastises them, reminding them that they’re all “on the same team.”  Then in this passage he uses his own preaching as an example to show them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Paul’s gospel proclaims the crucified Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.  He goes on to show that God uses the weak things to shame the wise, so don’t boast in yourself: Christ is your life and your wisdom.

Insight –  Things can be upside-down in the kingdom of God sometimes.  Imagine if an extremely TALL person as well as a very, very SHORT person were standing beside each other, looking at a table, and I told them, “There is a $100 bill in front of you.”  Now imagine if the money was taped to the bottom of the table: the short person would say, “I see it!” while the tall person would say, “Where is it?”  Normally, people who are tall and strong are considered to be more powerful people, but in this situation, for all his strength, the tall person couldn’t see the money while the short person, looking up at the bottom of the table, could!  This is how the kingdom of God is.  Jesus told stories called “parables” so that the Pharisees whom everyone thought were really smart couldn’t understand, while simple fishermen could.  Paul teaches us the same thing in this passage of 1 Corinthians.  The people who we often think are the most smart, intelligent people think that the truth of God is false.  Just like the tall man who couldn’t see the money because he wasn’t looking in the right way, the people who say they will believe God if they can make the gospel “make sense” will miss it.  God calls people to himself by the preaching of Christ crucified so that we won’t think our own “smart-ness” is why we believe.  Jesus “became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” Thank God today that He has revealed His truth to you: because it is a gift!

Child Catechism – What is the Good News you believe?  That Christ was crucified for me.

Discussion – Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  Does this mean we shouldn’t try to gain wisdom?  Why/why not?  Paul says, “the world did not know God through wisdom.”  What do we know Him through?

Prayer – Dear God, you tell us that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Since in your great wisdom you have saved us through our crucified Christ to show us that we are not saved by our wisdom, we thank you for calling us to your truth.  We acknowledge our helplessness to find the truth without your grace and we pray that you give us the strength to cling to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.

Contributed by Jon Herr

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Year A – Epiphany 2 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1 Corinthians 1:1–9 – Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Summary – The first letter of Paul to the Corinthian church includes a remarkable greeting. Paul with Sosthenes writes this book. Sosthenes was the Jewish leader who apparently sought to persecute Paul, but it seems Sosthenes had been won to Christ after that (see Acts 18:12-17). Now Sosthenes writes with Paul to convey instruction to the Corinthians. Despite many problems in the Corinthian church, Paul calls them saints in Christ Jesus. He confers grace and peace to them from God the Father and the Lord Jesus. He gives thanks for the Corinthian believers and indicates by way of foreshadowing a major theme in the book, that they will not lack any needed spiritual gift. Paul encourages them to persevere because the God who called you is faithful. He has called the Corinthians into fellowship with Jesus.

Insight – Through the apostle, God speaks to His people a word of kindness to confirm their identity as saints, despite their sins: “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” This is true of all Christians, despite our level of maturity or our problems. We are sanctified in Christ Jesus, that is set apart in union with Him. We are called saints, that is sanctified ones or holy ones. We are also part of the people of God in every place that call on the name of Jesus. This is who we are and this is how we are to see our own identity. God has called us as His people and we are His not because we have it all together. Rather, it is “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1:31).

Child’s Catechism – What are believers in Jesus called? Saints.

Discussion – What are some of the problems that existed in the Corinthian church and how are they like problems in our lives today?

Prayer – Almighty God You have give to us the Son of Your love in order that through Him who is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, we may be called saints in Him. Grant that as we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may grow ever more into His likeness in our sanctification. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Year C – Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Summary – Following on the heels of chapter 12’s final verse, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way,” chapter 13 unpacks the more excellent way.  Commonly called the “Love Chapter,” the translation above uses the word “love” 9 times in only 13 verses!  Three major sections of the chapter break up into (1) Action Without Love = Nothing, vss 1-3, (2) What Love Is, vss 4-7, and (3) Maturity in the Faith will be Accompanied by Greater Love, vss 8-13.  Of note, section (2) is often read at weddings.  Certainly, these characteristics apply to marital/spousal love; however Paul is really getting at love among Christians!  That really changes the perspective.  Finally, verse 8 comes with a classic debate: when do tongues cease (or do they at all, as Pentecostals would ask)?  Some say the “perfect” that comes is the Bible, meaning the gift of tongues has been silent for nearly millennia.  Others say, more rightly, that the “perfect” is the advent of Christ, or our going to Him.  When in the presence of the Savior, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge which all deal with the knowledge of God, will be swept away for our knowledge of God will be complete and full in the consummation of our salvation.  Nevertheless, as a Christian grows closer to Christ in maturity, the importance of the “revelatory” or “higher gifts” (12:31) shrinks to almost nothing.  Beyond a ministry of spectacular ministry of tongues, healing, and prophecy, a life of consistent and self-sacrificial and patient love is the “greatest” and “more excellent” way.

Insight – Jesus tells the story of two sons, perhaps named Yolev and Elias.  Their father, Abinadab, tells Yolev something like, “Go plow the field today, please.”  Yolev says to his dad, “Ah sorry, I’m going fishing in the creek with Shemuel later.  Not going to be able to plow.”  So their father goes to Elias and asks him the same thing.  “Sure Dad, I’ll do it this afternoon after I finish cleaning the horse barn.”  A couple hours go by and their father sees Elias sleeping on the couch with a copy of ESPN the magazine on his chest!  Abinadab goes out to the field to see what’s going on and finds Yolev, who was supposed to be fishing, happily plowing the field.  “What happened to fishing?” Abinadab asked.  “Well Dad, I decided that fishing could wait: helping you out was more important,” Yolev said.  So which son actually pleased his father?  Yolev did, even though he originally said he couldn’t do the work.  You see, saying “I’m sorry” if you don’t mean it is like going fishing without tying a hook on your string.  St. Paul tells us that we can do the greatest things, the nicest things, or believe things strongly, but if we don’t love those around us, those things are pointless!  God calls us to be people who really love one another, rather than just pretending to.

Child Catechism – What is patient and kind?  Love.

Discussion – What is the relationship between Paul’s analogy of the “child” and the role of prophecies, tongues, and knowledge in verses 8-13?  Discuss the difference between looking at someone in a mirror versus seeing them face to face.

Prayer – Our Loving God, we know what love is because your Son laid down His life for us.  We desire your love to be spread throughout the world through our service to those around us.  Destroy in us, we beseech you, the pride which causes us to do good things for our own glory, and replace it with a spirit of rejoicing in the Truth, so that great things would be done for your glory.  And prepare us for that moment when our dim knowledge of you is stripped away and we will be like you for we will see you as you are.  Through your Grace, Amen.

Year B – Epiphany 3 – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Summary – In this passage, Paul is offering the Corinthian church some advice based on their current situation, as well as reminding them of their ultimate destination. To understand this passage correctly, we should understand that Paul is referring to a troubling situation that was happening to the Corinthian church at that time. Most likely it was a famine that was happening in Greek world the time Paul wrote this letter. Because of the present struggle the church was facing, Paul  urges caution in making drastic changes in their lives.  If someone is having a hard time providing for themselves, it might be wise to postpone getting married. But Paul reminds the church that even though things may look bad, our ultimate destination is with God. In the new creation things that trouble us in this world will no longer matter.

Insight – Imagine living in the Great Depression.  You were not sure when your next meal would come; you or your parents would find work.  How would you feel? How would you and your family react? Imagine if you wanted to get married but weren’t sure if you could afford it. But if something like this were to happen, we as Christians should not be troubled. We know that life in this world is not the end. In Christ we will receive new lives, new bodies, a new world. Ultimately it does not matter if you were able to marry, or live lives according to how people think that you should.  No matter what hardships or trials you may face in this life, what will ultimately matte is that you remain faithful to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Catechism – What is the one thing in this world we can always count on?  The Love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Discussion – If you were in a situation like the Corinthians, or the Great Depression, would you be able to keep looking to Christ?

Prayer –  Merciful Father, We thank you for all the good gifts that you give to us, and we are most grateful for the gift of your Son.  We ask that you would keep us, and that we would remain faithful to you, through whatever trials or hardships this world may give to us. Amen

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year C – Easter – 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

1 Cor 5:6–8 NRSV – “Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Summary – This passage exhorts the Corinthian community using a Passover concept. In the context, a Corinthian man was guilty of immorality and thus enslaved (5:1). Cleaning out the leaven of sin includes the practice of church discipline, even excommunication if there is no repentance (Mt. 18:15-20). Just as leaven spreads to affect dough, so sin spreads to affect the community.  Tolerating sinful behavior and not calling those guilty to account causes the yeast of wickedness to spread. We must “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.” Our inborn “malice and wickedness,” must be cleaned out so that we may start again with “sincerity and truth.”

Insight – What do you like better, a pastry, like a chocolate croissant? Or a piece flat bread, like a pita? Pastries are risen bread with leaven which makes them light a fluffy. So why does Paul say clean out the leaven if leaven makes good pastries?  He is making the comparison of leaven and sin within the church. Sin can spread and affect the community like leaven. But he also alludes to something good to come. Sin can spread, but also the kingdom can spread like leaven, too (Mt. 13:33). In the original celebration of “Unleavened Bread” at Passover, the call to clear out the leaven was really to reset the culture of their yeast. Israelites ceremonially commemorated affliction and deliverance for Seven Days. Israelites were to abstain from risen bread for seven days but then on the Eighth Day they would eat risen, leavened bread. Paul teaches that since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, we have to get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. Now we celebrate the feast of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic feast. And when do we celebrate this? On the first day or the “Eighth Day” of the week. The Lord’s Day is the first day of the week, the numerical “eighth day” when one counts from the first creation day. At the Lord’s Table we eat risen, leavened bread which represents the new culture of the kingdom of Jesus. So pastries really are better than pitas.

Catechism – What is the old leaven? The old leaven is sin.

Discussion – What are some ways you can show you are a “new batch”?

Prayer – Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.

GS

 

Year C – 3rd Sunday of Lent – 1 Cor 10:1-13

Text–1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Summary:  In this section of the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul shows us how he uses the Old Testament to explain the meaning of the New Testament.  This text is a foundational decoder ring which lets us see how interconnected the the two halves of our Bible really are.  The issue at hand for Paul was answering the question if it was ok for Christians in the Corinthian church to eat food offered to idols.  The more general issue was to find out just how free the Christian is in choosing his own path.  Paul answers this by linking Old Testament Israel with their own particular circumstances.  Jews had baptism and Feasts, but that didn’t keep them from falling under judgment by God.  Paul shows how today’s Christian cannot rely on their own baptism or the spiritual feast of the Lord’s Supper to guarantee their salvation.  He ends with encouragement that God is faithful and will not tempt us in ways that we cannot escape from.  We do not have to end up like the Jews did.  There is an escape for those who keep their eyes on Christ.

Insight:  Have you ever seen someone act as though they could never get punished for how they behave?  Maybe it was the son of the school principal who never saw fault in his son.  Maybe it was a favored sister in the family that could do no wrong.  Whatever the circumstance, we all know people like that, who believe that they can always get away with it because of who they are.  There were some Christians in the Corinthian church who acted like this.  They believed that they held the strong position and could do no wrong in God’s eyes.  Were they ever wrong!  They had their sacraments, the baptism of the Red Sea and their national feasts, which correspond to our sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  These sacraments did not provide insurance against God’s retribution.  Just as most Israelites were rejected by God because of their disobedience (idolatry, immorality, testing the Lord, and murmuring), Paul warns that this will also happen to all Christians who persist in sin.  Do you see your baptism as fire insurance from the judgment to come?  The Jews who were baptized into Moses could not look to that baptism for salvation.  Moses was their representative, they put their trust in him and identified with him.  This is what Paul means by saying they were baptized into Moses.  But water, bread and wine are not magical elements that repel God’s wrath, no matter their sin.  Pay attention to Paul’s warning in vv1-12.  But through all the warnings comes this blessed truth, God is faithful.  He is faithful in sending His son to die for us.  We put our trust in Christ, not in the elements.  Baptism on its own doesn’t save anyone.  But faithful baptism does unite us to Christ and as we abide in Him we live and move and have our being.  We are free in Christ, not to sin as we please because we are baptized.  Heaven forbid.  We are free in Christ as we identify ourselves with Him and follow his ways for our good and His glory.

Discussion Questions–Besides baptism and the Lord’s Supper, what are some other patterns, events or people that find their fulfillment and reality in Jesus Christ?

Catechism–(Q) Why will we not be tempted beyond our ability? (A) Because God is faithful.

Prayer–Heavenly Father, ruler of all creation, we praise you for how you reveal your truth in your perfect timing.  We are amazed at how you show us your truth through time, through patterns, through your Son.  Help us to understand how you have woven the Old and New Testaments into a single glorious tapestry whereby we can more clearly understand your plan for us in this world and the next.  We ask this in your Son’s mighty name through the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[Contributed by Michael Fenimore]

Year B – Lent – 3 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”  Where is the one who is wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Summary – This passage falls as a “parenthesis,” or a “side-note” in the midst of Paul dealing with a particular problem in the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle they followed, in other words parading their “wisdom” around, showing off to other Christians how much they thought they knew.  Paul chastises them, reminding them that they’re all “on the same team.”  Then in this passage he uses his own preaching as an example to show them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Paul’s gospel proclaims the crucified Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.  He goes on to show that God uses the weak things to shame the wise, so don’t boast in yourself: Christ is your life and your wisdom.

Insight –  Things can be upside-down in the kingdom of God sometimes.  Imagine if an extremely TALL person as well as a very, very SHORT person were standing beside each other, looking at a table, and I told them, “There is a $100 bill in front of you.”  Now imagine if the money was taped to the bottom of the table: the short person would say, “I see it!” while the tall person would say, “Where is it?”  Normally, people who are tall and strong are considered to be more powerful people, but in this situation, for all his strength, the tall person couldn’t see the money while the short person, looking up at the bottom of the table, could!  This is how the kingdom of God is.  Jesus told stories called “parables” so that the Pharisees whom everyone thought were really smart couldn’t understand, while simple fishermen could.  Paul teaches us the same thing in this passage of 1 Corinthians.  The people who we often think are the most smart, intelligent people think that the truth of God is false.  Just like the tall man who couldn’t see the money because he wasn’t looking in the right way, the people who say they will believe God if they can make the gospel “make sense” will miss it.  God calls people to himself by the preaching of Christ crucified so that we won’t think our own “smart-ness” is why we believe.  Thank God today that He has revealed His truth to you: because it is a gift!

Child Catechism – What is the Good News you believe?  That Christ was crucified for me.

Discussion – Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  Does this mean we shouldn’t try to gain wisdom?  Why/why not?  Paul says, “the world did not know God through wisdom.”  What do we know Him through?

Prayer – Dear God, you tell us that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Since in your great wisdom you have saved us through our crucified Christ to show us that we are not saved by our wisdom, we thank you for calling us to your truth.  We acknowledge our helplessness to find the truth without your grace and we pray that you give us the strength to cling to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.

–JHerr

Year B – Epiphany – 6 – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Text – Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Summary – Building on the previous passage, Paul continues to point out his self-sacrifice as an example for his congregants.  Drawing on the example of the Isthmian games which were held every three years near Corinth, Paul explains how he–like the athletes involved–exercises great self control in an effort to “receive the prize.”  But though he has his example mainly in view, he is building his case that the Christian life is more than doing “just what you are supposed to.”  Indeed, the mortification of sin is essential in the life of a Christian.  Thus, the Corinthians are exhorted to follow his lead.

“What an argument and what a reproof is this!  The reckless and listless Corinthians thought they could safely indulge themselves to the very verge of sin, while this devoted apostle considered himself as engaged in a life-struggle for his salvation.”  -Charles Hodge

Insight – The London Summer Olympic games are coming up this summer.  Even now, athletes are putting themselves through strict regimens in hope that they will stand atop the podium listening to their national anthem with a bit of bullion strapped around their neck.  Gymnasts are drinking their protein shakes, swimmers practicing their strokes, volleyball players practicing their spikes.  But for what?  They all hope to win the top prize.  But remember what St Paul wrote in the previous passage about not doing just enough to get by?  It is not enough for an Olympic sprinter to just line up on the starting block but never start running.  It is not enough for a gymnast to walk once across the balance beam and hop off.  And imagine what would happen if a swimmer decided mid-race to dive for the penny he saw glittering at the bottom of the pool!  No, these athletes are in it to win it.  It would seem silly if it were otherwise wouldn’t it?  But so often, that is our attitude.  Though it seems completely normal for an athlete to give up Big Macs for the “eternal glory” a gold medal would bring, we are hesitant to give up the things in our lives that keep us from a deep relationship with Jesus and eternal life in Him.  Our goal is perseverance in faith our whole lives and not enslavement to the distractions we come upon so often.  In an Olympic event, there is one winner.  But as Christians, our “one winner” is Jesus Christ who sacrificed His heavenly home, His comfort, and emptied Himself, becoming obedient to death.  He won the race already.  Now through persevering faith in Him, we become more than conquerors.  With our eyes on His example as well as that of St Paul, we can confidently devote all of our lives to our Emperor, knowing that our crown is everlasting, not a wreath of laurel that will wilt in a few days.

 Child Catechism – What kind of reward do faithful Christians receive?  An eternal reward.

 Discussion – What sorts of things distract you from focusing on Christ?  Since completing the “race”–that is, living lives of faith–seems like such a difficult task, how can you be confident that it is possible? (Philippians 1:6)

Prayer – Dear Lord, your eternal reward is what we desire, yet we acknowledge how often we are distracted from the self-control and perseverance you call us to.  Forgive our selfishness and turn us to your glory.  Thank you for your promise to draw near to those who draw near to you and please give us the strength to do so.  Amen.

(Contributed by Jon Herr)

Year B – Epiphany 5 – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

“If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  What then is my reward?  Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.  For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”

Summary – This passage acts as part of Paul’s apostolic “testimony.”  He explains his ministerial strategies in ways that exemplify his self-sacrifice and dedication to the Gospel.  Following the theme of 1 Corinthians as a whole, Paul explains that he can’t brag just because he preaches the Gospel:  he is called to do so.  His reward is that he yielded his rights to make the Gospel easier for people to accept.  We learn that he enslaved himself to the societal statuses of all sorts of people to bring the Gospel into their context.  This strategy was not to give Paul a reason to brag, but for the sake of the gospel, so that he could share in its blessings.:

“This then was his recompense for labour, and this his ground of glorying–that he did with readiness of mind forgo his right in respect of applying himself to the discharge of his office willingly and with fervent zeal.” –John Calvin

Insight – What would happen if an airline pilot asked the control tower, “Hey, what is the highest amount of injuries I am allowed to have during this flight?”  Or if your dad hands you the keys to the car after you get your drivers’ license and you ask him, “How many of the wheels do I need to bring back?”  The pilot would be grounded, and you wouldn’t be driving to the movie theater!  In other words, there is a certain level of responsibility the pilot and the new driver have which they must meet: the pilot is expected to get all his passengers to their destination safely and the driver is expected to return his father’s car unblemished.  These two people had an attitude which wanted to know how much they had to do just to get by.  But that is not an attitude that tends to get rewarded too often!  In this passage of 1 Corinthians, Paul explains how if he only preached the Gospel, there is no extra reward there because that is what he is supposed to do.  But if he forgets his own selfish desires and preaches the Gospel with all his heart and soul, there is a reward in store.  Now, there is nothing wrong with doing “what you are supposed to:” that is what you are supposed to do!  But if our attitude in that is to “just get by” so we can spend more time doing something we want to do, we miss the point.  On the other hand, if our attitude is one of humility and love for others, we’ve got it.  If the pilot happily does his job to the fullest, smiling and thanking each passenger as they leave, or if the young driver takes good care of the car and gives it an extra wash on the way home, that gets noticed!

Child Catechism – What kind of obedience pleases God?  When I obey Him willingly because I love Him.

Discussion – Is doing only what you are supposed to do pleasing to God?  How so or how not?  What would make a mom more appreciative:  1) A child who does the dishes when she told him to, grumbling all the way, or, 2) a child who cheerfully does the dishes without being asked?  Why?

Prayer – Dear Lord, we desire to serve you to the best of our abilities.  We want your name to be praised through us.  Please help us to obey you willingly and joyfully.  Please help us, by your Holy Spirit, to put away our own selfish desire for personal glory and look only to yours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Contributed by Jon Herr)

Year B – Epiphany 3 – 1 Corinthians 7:28-31

29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Summary – In this passage, Paul is offering the Corinthian church some advice based on their current situation, as well as reminding them of their ultimate destination. To understand this passage correctly, we should understand that Paul is referring to a troubling situation that was happening to the Corinthian church at that time. Most likely it was a famine that was happening in Greek world the time Paul wrote this letter. Because of the present struggle the church was facing, Paul here urges caution in making drastic changes in their lives.  If someone is having a hard time providing for themselves, it might be wise to postpone getting married. Maybe they shouldn’t spend their much needed resources with parties or buying things. But Paul reminds the church that even though things may look bad, our ultimate destination is with God, in the new creation were things that trouble us in this world will no longer matter.

Insight – Imagine living in a situation like the Great Depression.  You were not sure where your next meal would come, when you or your parents would find work.  How would you feel? How would you and your family react? Imagine if you wanted to get married but weren’t sure if you could afford it. But if something like this were to happen, we as Christians should not be troubled.  We know that this life, this world is not the end. In Christ we will receive new lives, new bodies, a new world. Ultimately it does not matter if you were able to marry, or live lives according to how people think that you should.  What will ultimately matter is no matter what hardships, or trials you may face in this life, that you remain faithful to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Catechism – What is the one thing in this world we can always count on?  The Love of Jesus Christ, my Savior.

Discussion – If you were in a situation like the Corinthians, or the Great Depression, would you be able to keep looking to Christ?

Prayer –  Merciful Father, We thank you for all the good gifts that you give to us, and we are most grateful for the gift of your Son.  We ask that you would keep us, and that we would remain faithful to you, through whatever trials or hardships this world may give to us. Amen

Contributed by Jared McNabb