Year 2001 Contributions:
Date: 17 Jan 2001
I was recently reading a publication of the Arabian Horse Registry of America. In their history, they state their purpose: "to ensure the purity of the blood of purebed Arabian horses..." How effective have they been? "Through wars, depressions, social unrest, and economic turmoil, the integrity of the breed has not been compromised." Beginning in 2001, they will begin screening Arabians using DNA testing to ensure their lineage and purity of breeding.
Paul's testimony strikes me in a similar way. He reminds us of the story that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared..." (vv. 3-5). That story remains because it was first witnessed by Cephas, the twelve, the 500, and so on.
In a similar way, the "early Bedouin [nomadic Arabian] horsemen kept track of their horses' pedigrees by word of mouth, tracing them back to at least 2500 BC. Owners who could write noted a mare's ancestry on a small piece of parchment and placed it together with small blue beads in a bag, which then was placed around the mare's neck to ward off evil spirits." ("Arabian," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)
Today, The Story of Christ is available in books, on computer, CD-ROM, just like The Registry keeps it's records on Arabians. The story that Paul tells has survived "wars, depressions, social unrest, and economic turmoil," and held its integrity, just like The Registry's story.
But while The Registry doesn't allow any horses in that cannot be blood or DNA tested as purebred, The Story of Christ even let Paul in, and today it invites you and me to believe and be counted!
Mark in Ark
Date: 29 Jan 2001
Mark in Ark,
Great insight but strteching in another direction, we are also tracked by the DNA of the blood of Christ. There is no other name under heaven by which we might be saved.
Date: 29 Jan 2001
Yes, Mark in Ark... excellent insight. And Pastor Binny's comment is also pertinant. As Mark points out, we are all welcome, but this gospel is the only means. There is a purity in the gospel. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. It is unchanged and must remain so. This gospel is not a matter of theological opinion. It is fact or it is nothing.
JG in WI
Date: 29 Jan 2001
I don't think that God is as interested in purity of line and he is in purity of faith. I believer that the scriptures are truth or they are nothing, fact is certainly questionable since even the gospels do not agree on the order and factuality of their accounts, but truth is a very different matter. The truth of our faith comes from the heart, the spirit, not from provable fact or geneology. Martie in Rose
Date: 30 Jan 2001
Each of the readings for this Sunday speak of an epiphany. God appears to Isaiah, to Paul, and to Peter. Paul's epiphany is from the risen Christ and the epiphany is a life-changing event for him as it was for Isaiah and Peter. Paul confesses with deep urgency that the grace of God in Jesus Christ is everything to him and he wants that to be the case for the Corinthian church as well. They have been a broken and divided church, but what can hold them together is the message that was proclaimed to Paul and the message he hands off or passes along to them; the life-changing proclamation of the Good News that Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again. What epiphanies have we had with the resurrected Christ? How did he first appear to us, or how does he come to us now? Baptism? Lord's Supper? Worship? Birth of a child? death of a loved one? Person with sbstance abuse who goes for treatment? Person who is unemployed and suddenly has an offer for employment? When have we been in the presence of the Divine, leaving a sense of our own unworthiness and the awesome power of God's grace? TS from Missouri
Date: 31 Jan 2001
I'm playing with the image of "Paying It Forward," which was a movie out this past year and is also a book. In a nutshell, it's the story of a little boy whose Social Studies teacher gives them an extra credit assignment of doing something that could change the world-- a pretty general assignment. This little boy comes up with the idea of paying forward. He decides to do something good to three people--not just minor things-- and tells the recipients that not only do they not have to pay him back, they need to pay forward. Do something significant and kind to three people and tell them to do the same for three people, so it keeps multiplying by threes until the numbers are and possibilities are impressive. He uses his paper route money to give to a homeless man, and tells him to use the money to buy some clothes that would help him look for work. He brings him home (much to his mother's horror) to let him take a shower, and get something to eat. He lets him sleep in the garage. The man does get a job, though he does "fall" and get caught back in the drug cycle again, yet even in the midst of messing up himself, he passes it on. The boy also tends the garden and the lawn of an elderly woman whose house he delivers to. She loves her garden, and advises him on what to do. He works for hours in her yard. But she dies. However, before she dies, unbeknownst to the child, she decides to rewrite her will and divide it up among three people. The two grocery baggers at the store who always look her in the eye, ask her how she's doing, and listened to her arthritic complaints. Two young people working toward college. She helps them get started with the money she leaves them. She gives the other third to the vet's assistant, who was always so kind to her when she brought in one of her strays. Meanwhile, the boy continues to care for her garden and lawn diligently, after she's gone, though he's discouraged, because he figures the project is failing, since the homeless man ended up in jail and the elderly woman died-- not knowing that they both paid it forward.... in the end, it becomes a Movement and crime goes down significantly, and with the help of the media, the message is spread. It's more than random acts of kindness, because its' not random. It's very intentional and deliberate. And the price to be paid for the kindness shown was to pay it forward three times. My point is, the Gospel has survived and thrived all these years because people paid it forward. They received it and passed in on, in any number of ways. We can't all pass it on the same way. There's no one way... we tend to think "witnessing" is intimidating and could be offensive. But it can be done in many ways. We do good things for people, go out of our way to do it, put forth some effort, sacrifice our time and energy and convenience, etc., and do it in the name and Spirit of Christ. Then ask only that it be paid forward. A woman in my study this week talked about a recent basketball game. The referee came out on the court, got people's attention and said that he wanted an honest game where no one gets hurt. He's a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, and all he asked was that they play honestly. IF a ball goes out on them, and he missed seeing it, he wanted them to tell him (they were short one other referee that night). The woman said he was applauded, and the game went differently. There was less dirty play, less pushing and shoving, etc. with the JVs (she said the freshmen were a different story, but still...) No one knew who he was, never saw him before, didn't know where he was from. And obviously, he could get some flack for what he did. But he did it. Honestly, forthrightly, and with heart. The Gospel has thrived and will thrive if we are committed to not only receiving it, but passing it on, paying it forward. We can't pay it back! We'd never be able to, so let's pay it forward. Just my thoughts at this point... PM in PA
Date: 31 Jan 2001
I think that the purity is important in the sense that we need to realize and convey to others that when one finds Christ and touches the blood, or if you will hears and accepts the gospel message, His blood becomes ours and our DNA is changed. Spiritually speaking we become the children of Abba and are no longer the children of Adam. Spiritually speaking we are purebred. M&M
Date: 31 Jan 2001
Some early thoughts on the passage:
In this chapter, Paul is addressing the Gospel message gone wrong. There are various possibilities about the Corinthian thinking on the resurrection. It must be said that they were not denying the after life but rather the nature of it. Perhaps they were denying the bodily dimension of our future existence. Or perhaps, they felt the resurrection had already taken place (an over-realised eschatology - this idea is supported by ealier discussions - especially on the gifts of the Spirit). Another suggestion is that they felt the resurrection was only for those who were alive at the time of the parousia. Whatever the background, Paul is determined to take the Corinthians back to the heart of the Gospel: The Risen Christ. He reviews the content of the Gospel (the kerygma - Christ died, was buried, was raised, and appeared). This Gospel is rooted in the 'scripture'. The effect of the Gospel is that even the least worthy (ie - Paul the persecutor) can be transformed by grace and pass on the message to others. Then Paul shows the futility of the Gospel message emasculated of the reality of Christ's resurrection. Then in verse 20, he asserts the hope of the Good News message is rooted in the fact that because Christ is risen, we too, will be resurrected (bodily).
This passage has forceful relevance amongst Christian who eulogise death and coddle non-bibilical concepts of the life to come. I recall my own horror when a minister confessed to me that he hated Easter because they did not believe in the resurrection. Early in my own ministry, I realised how misinformed even the most devout can be. A dedicated Christian woman of many years spoke with credal certainty of how she believed she would become an angel when she died. This passage is an opportunity to 'remind' our congregations of the content of the 'Good News' message. It is not helpful to right wrong-headed ideas at the time of bereavement: people are too confused and befuddled to take the death on board, more or less to reconsider their understanding of resurrection. So on a Sunday when the lectionary offers such and opportunity, we can approach the subject with people who are not in the heat and turmoil of grief.
By the way, because of the program at the church, I have altered the lectionary reading and will be speaking on verses 1-20.
From a Canadian in Scotland.
Date: 03 Feb 2001
JG in WI again
Does anyone find it interesting that Paul lays out a "three point gospel" (i.e. Christ died, was buried, rose again) and then spends an amazing amount of time defending the third point. Of course, this is the lynchpin of his argument for the resurrection of all, but this much is interesting.
In our modern world, we find much debate on the resurrection. Did it really happen? But notice that the resurrection of Jesus was not a debated issue. It was, in fact, the foundation of Paul's argument - an agreed-upon given among the Corinthians. As "off base" as the Corinthian church was, they had this one thing down... Jesus rose from the dead. And the concept of a "spiritual" resurrection, rather than a "bodily" resurrection was unheard of among these people. Jesus said, "destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19) and He was speaking, of course, of His body (John 2:21). As I see it, this is a no-brainer for the Christian. Jesus rose from the dead, or we have no message.
Year 1998 Contributions:
Okay, I'll start something if anyone is reading. Is our existence like v. 15:8? Are we untimely born, and are we unable to see Christ even in the way that Paul saw him on the Damascus Road? In a world that has managed to quantify, measure, and manipulate almost everything - how do we relate the importance of Christ's appearances in a fresh manner? What is of "first importance" in our world to our congregations? I'm sad to say that it does not appear to be Jesus. It used to be that our primary interest was the proclamation of the Good News, now, it seems, the Good News is looked upon askance by the more sophisticated theologians as a throwback to a less intellectual time. They now seem to feel that the Good News is that Christ can be manipulated too, to make anything and any agenda palatable. Now, more than ever, we need to teach our people the need to have the Good News? Rev. Rick (from the soggy South, Ga., that is)
I will be combining this passage with the Isaiah passage and gospel this week. From here I will be focusing on the 10th verse and talk about how God uses our past and personality as instruments and not as hinderances. I can't tell you how often the people look at themselves as totally depraved and without hope, and it affects their perception of what God can do for and through them. So often our society builds upon the broken dreams and spirits of those that are marginalized. WHat is this call to be who we are for God?
Grace and Peace, Greg in Memphis
What I (Paul) handed on as of first importance: this is the core of the Gospel. This is the Gospel. Whatever else we do or say, if we deny or forget this - that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was raised - then, as Paul will go on to say, we are without hope and the most miserable of all people. God reigns in apparent defeat, conquers with weakness, brings new life out of certain death. We cannot repeat this fundamental truth often enough. Brad T. in MA
Yeah Greg,I too am struck by the connection between these verses. It seems that whenever people encounter God they are always falling down on their faces and saying, "I not worthy!" and God seems to be always saying, "Get up and get to work."
Rod in CA
I've sometimes thought that the saying, "But for the grace of God there go I." if used incorrectly can turn out to be a very proud and arrogant statement. But Paul uses similar words in verse 10 as he explains that his life as an apostle is based on Jesus, crucified and risen, and his witness to that, and that his ministry is made possible ONLY by the action of the grace of God in his life. It makes me realise that when we serve God, it's not us doing God a favour, as though God can't do without us, but that anything we do in ministry is by the grace of God. When we have sinful backgrounds just as Paul did, then it is God's graciousness which allows us the opportunity to serve and gives us that fresh start that we need. Where our past sinful reputation doesn't exclude us from ministry in the Lord's service.
I haven't explained myself very well. Hope you get the drift.
Graham, I thought you explained yourself well. Thanks for that input. IT could be interpreted in an arrogant manner if we ar enot careful.
Thanks, Greg in Memphis
One of the miracles that I read about this week was the change in the woman that murdered two people 15 years ago. I wonder what it would have been like to live under that sort of burden of guilt for 15 years. For any human being with any heart it might have been impossible. But Karla Tucker found a new heart through faith in Jesus - she knew that that dreadful act as terrible as it was did not have to be the determinant of her future. She discovered that she could recieve the forgivness of Christ and become a new person in him. She expressed her faith in God to the end. If God is great enough to help her to take her deadly focus on that sin then God is powerful enough to turn our heads towards his grace rather than our judgement. She could truly say By Gods grace I am what I am. because she knew the transformation that had taken place in her heart and she claimed the eternal hope that Paul writes of in Corinthians.
At church, we gather among the Master story and it intermingles with the local story. But at times of crisis (this was true for the church at Corinth) the Master story seems to dissapear. Through crisis, the community hits rock bottom, but then, the Master story reappears (through Paul in the case of Corinth) and the Master story becomes the redemptive story for the whole congregation. It's a powerful thing which happens through crisis. Chruches that have fallen prey to the cultural story can only be brought back through the passion/ressurection story! The Master story is told every Sunday at worship - through proclaimation of the Word - it becomes the common memory and it keeps people focused on Christ. We are the Easter People! I'll leave it at that. Bonnie in WNC
Greg in Memphis--this is VERY late, but I really liked your comment. I think it's a very common struggle in the path to healing from severe traumas to wonder where to "put" this experience in the larger scheme of life and especially, in the future. My Grandmother (another Memphian) rarely spoke of the trauma of her severely impoverished, abused childhood in the delta of Miss. The only way to overcome it was to never speak of it. Yet it affected so much about her. She was a deeply generous person who reached out to people on the margins, people in trouble, people often hated by others. She also gave a lot of people underwear, because to her it represented a person's dignity--something she had never had as a child. I didn't understand that so well when she asked this 12 year old girl (me) to take underwear to the 13 year old boy across the street as a present!! At the end of her life, we heard more about the beginning of her life, and it made so much about her and about US make sense. My only regret was that she considered this trauma a shame to be hidden away--and not the treasure it was, redeemed to now become good news. Once we believe in resurrection...what can possibly be beyond God's redeeming? What, however awful, from what can life NOT be brought out of? If even the grave becomes a womb for new life...what shame cannot be healed? God's grace is indeed, not in vain. Betsy in Ohio