1 Corinthians 11:17-34 – Lord’s Supper

Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

You probably noticed the familiar language that we hear as we prepare for Holy Communion in our church services.  It is helpful to remember that Jesus gave us this “ritual” to celebrate and remember him.  What we might not always remember is that in the early church, when followers met together, this remembrance was not set apart in a worship service but was most likely an actual meal shared between believers in a home.  The wine and bread were there, but so also might have been other food.

Paul continues to counsel the new church, and here he is clearly rebuking them for their disunity.  He was troubled by the way the believers were acting in relation to each other, and how they were distorting the beauty and meaning of the Lord’s Supper remembrance.  He wanted them to understand the true meaning of this.

It’s helpful for us today to reflect on Paul’s counsel.  How often do we just go through the motions?  We know what’s coming, we’ve heard it all before. Do our hearts lack the devotion and reverence in the moment to truly receive the gift of the Lord’s Supper?  Are we truly experiencing a moment with Jesus as his body is broken and he sheds his blood?  Think about the last time you had communion.  Were your thoughts free or did you bring some baggage, some worry, some distraction that kept you from truly experiencing Jesus’ presence?

This remembrance was instituted by our Lord for us.  It should be an honor to receive this blessed sacrament.  We should never forget that Jesus shed his blood for us, only hours after he shared his last meal.  We need to come to his table with a clean and open heart.  May we boldly proclaim his victory and wait with expectation for his return.

Let’s pray.  Heavenly Father – thank you for sending your son to show me how you want me to live.  May I have a heart of a servant and be all-in to serve you.  Forgive me for the times that I am distracted. I look forward to receiving your sacrament again so that I can truly be focused on you and your great gift.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 – What About Hair?

Read 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Paul continues to share with the people of Corinth good practice information.  The new church was, no doubt, in communication with Paul seeking clarification with respect to continuation of certain practices.  I’m not a Bible scholar, so this passage about the distinctions between men and women is a bit troubling to me.

The church was embracing the new Christian tradition that in Christ there is no male or female, and it seems women were finding some liberation in removing their head coverings, as had been the practice.  They were asserting a new freedom from a practice that had set them apart, not on equal footing with men.  Whereas, men were not to wear a head covering. Think of current day etiquette rules, a man arriving at to a formal dinner will certainly not keep his baseball cap on during dinner.  It is a sign of disrespect, is it not?

In context, it was shameful in this time and place for women to have their hair down in public.  We have a hard time with this because we have no such expectation in our culture, and to the contrary, women cut their hair, even shave their heads because that is what is “hip” or “stylish”.  Oh, how Paul must be reeling!!

With all of this discussion on the distinction of sexes, what is appropriate and not, I think we often get caught up in the details.  What do you see as the underlying message here?  I read a helpful suggestion from a commentary by Richard B. Hays, and it says, “Men and women live in mutual interdependence.  This does not mean that the differences between the sexes are abolished; it does mean however, that they are both radically dependent on God and they are called to live as complementary partners in Christ.”

Are you radically dependent on God?

Re-read the first verse of this Chapter.  How does this resonate with you?

Let’s pray.  Father, sometimes I struggle with passages in your word and wonder how they can apply to me.  Help me to discern your truth in today’s reading and understand if there is something I need to change in my life to be more pleasing to you.  As Paul states, I want to be an imitator of Christ.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 10:1-33 – Learn by Example

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-33

It is good to remember the past, maybe not best to “dwell” on it, but to look back and remember, and let the lessons learned speak to our hearts. That’s a good thing.  That is exactly what Paul is doing as he starts out this Chapter. Remember when…

I’m sure there are times in your life that are pivotal, where life’s lessons, while maybe hard, have moved you ahead to where you are today. As here, maybe it is the example of a friend or loved one and their struggle and victory that is speaking to you today.  Think a moment on your own experience, and then focus on the example of Moses, it’s a history we all share.

Paul gives this to the Corinthians and us as well as an example to learn from.  So what are some our takeaways?  Do not put Jesus (or God) to the test. Don’t grumble.  Stand strong.  Flee from idols.   Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.

One of the most misinterpreted verses of the Bible falls in this passage, verse 13.  Here it is: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  Paul is talking about “temptations” not bad things.  Over the years, I’ve heard many people say, “God will never give you more than you can handle” when it comes to bad things that happen in our lives.  That is NOT what this is saying.  First of all, God doesn’t give us bad things.  Bad things happen because there is evil in this world and we are sinful.  When bad things happen, God will be there to hold and rescue us.  But the promise here is rescue from temptation.  God will surely show us a way out when we are tempted, we just need to be looking for it.

So, what things tempt you?  For some it’s alcohol and drugs, for others pornography, for others, gossip, for others spending, or overeating.  You have your own struggle.  But rest in the assurance that you are not alone, that God is giving you that way out so you can endure and overcome.

Let’s pray.  Lord thank you that you are looking over us and providing for us when we are tempted.  There are so many false prophets in the world today trying to confuse us and draw us away from you.  Help us to stand firm to their temptation and hold strong to you and your truth.  You will give us the strength to say no to those temptations.  Thank you for how you are moving in my life.  May all I do be to your glory.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

1 Corinthians 9:1-27 – Support the Missionary

Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-27

We are all runners in this race, we call life.  I like that analogy, but Paul also says that only one can win the race.  That’s true in a race of the world, but in the race of life, we can all win the prize of eternal life so long as we are running with Christ.  But aside from the image Paul leaves us with, he also challenges us from the start of this passage.

I can’t help but think of all my friends and colleagues who are running this race as missionaries, like Paul, having to raise their own funds.  That can be so daunting.  I’m not sure I could do it, that is, asking people for money so that I can have a paycheck.  But there lies the problem…the focus on money when it should be a focus on finding new believers and telling people about Jesus.  Curious how this expectation is Biblical.  That is, those involved in spreading the Gospel “professionally” back in Paul’s day also had to support themselves.  I think that makes it even more beautiful, really.  People for centuries, those called to be missionaries, all share the challenge of handling God’s sacred trust.

I like verse 19, “[E]ven though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.”  We are free indeed, but think a moment on what it means to become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.  What does that mean to you?  Feel free to share in the comments below.  We are all called to bring the good news of Jesus to those around us.  Some of us will be charged as missionaries and need to recruit their own funds.  I am certainly rethinking my giving to those friends on the front lines.

Let’s pray.  Father God you have called each one of us to be soldiers of the faith.  Give me a heart like Paul that I would rather die than lose my right to boast about Jesus.  Open the hearts of others to be ready to hear what I will be sharing.  Thank you for the opportunity to be on fire for you!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 – Idols

Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

What did you think of this reading today?  I’m not familiar with idol worship and offering of food.  But at the time Paul was writing this, the eating of idol meat was a big deal.  He was responding to the questions of these new followers, just as he had on other topics in our readings over the past couple days.  So while it may seem obscure to us today, let’s dig in a little.

These new followers were wrestling with how do we set boundaries between what God wants and what the world wants.  I could say that kind of wrestling continues to this day.  The world would lead us astray on so many paths, and it is up to us to read God’s word and listen for his counsel to determine the boundaries.

I like how Paul starts out the discussion reminding them that we all have knowledge, “[b]ut while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.”  Love, indeed.  God has loved us first and in turn we are to love him and to love others.  Those are the two biggies.  Love God with your whole heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

This whole “food issue” and what to eat or not to eat makes me think of the people in our society who are tending toward veganism (yes, that’s a word?)  In other words, they have chosen not to eat meat, fish or poultry, and a true vegan will not use animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.  I am not a vegan, so I can’t speak to the motivations to make this choice, maybe for some it is a spiritual belief.  If it is an oath they have made with God, then it would be a sin for them to eat or use these items.  And our reading today warns us not to encourage others to sin.

It reminds me a little of how my husband and I will refrain from drinking alcohol if we are in the presence of a recovering alcoholic. It is, in part because of the wisdom and counsel of verse 9.  We certainly don’t want to, in any way, be the reason a friend would “stumble”.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this.  Please feel free to share in the comments below.  It is always good for us to read passages like this and while they don’t immediately seem relevant to us today, we need dig deeper.  Here Paul is helping them balance the boundaries between church and culture.  It is still necessary today to balance these, and with the rise of tolerance it is becoming harder and harder for our churches to thrive.  Christians often are ridiculed as bigots or hypocrites.  That’s not new, but it doesn’t feel good. However, it is important we take a stand on our beliefs and what we know to be right and wrong, from a Biblical standpoint.  Being wishy washy is not helpful.

What are the idols in your life that are keeping you from being a truly devoted servant of Christ?   Materialism?  Power?  Contemporary heros, i.e. sports teams, entertainers, etc.?  Wrestle with these and ask God to help you avoid destruction.

Let’s pray.  Father there are so many voices in our world today, so many messages pulling us away from you.  Lord help me be discerning and stand strong against injustice, against untruth, and be bold and courageous to stand for you.  Help me to love you with my whole heart and love others as well, even if they are different from me. May others see you in me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.