-Rev Melissa Fain-
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
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:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Cor 1:1-9 NRSV
Corinth was an interesting place. It was the capital of Achaia. So if you could call the Roman Empire a country, Achaia would be considered a state. Corinth is to Achaia as Atlanta is to Georgia- judicially speaking. Corinth was also a bustling center of commerce. Its location was ideal for business because of its prime location between two major ports on either side of it. In some ways this means we could relate Corinth to, let’s say Chattanooga: located just off a river and pulling business from both Georgia and Tennessee.
I could visit the mix of Atlanta and Chattanooga. So far, sounds like a nice place to visit. Until we get to the rest of the story…
Perhaps it was Athens, or maybe it was just being a capital port city, but Corinth had a reputation. If it was Athens, we know it was the Greek center of educational prowess. Corinth was just north of Athens, and it’s prime location would have been seen as a threat to Athens.
Now, for those of you who know your history, Athens and Sparta rarely got along with one another. It didn’t help that Corinth usually took the side of Sparta when disputes broke out. Athens coined a term for those Corinthians: Corinthianize. This term is no longer in use, so let me give you a definition: Corinthianize means to make something lewd, raunchy, or sexually immoral. Whether it’s Athens responding to what they see in Corinth, or Corinth living up to its name, history marks the city as the center for prostitution and other immoral behavior. The biggest evidence we can use to pinpoint this fact is their city goddess. (All Greek cities chose one from their pantheon.) Corinth chose Aphrodite. You might be thinking Aphrodite is simiply the goddess of love, we, at the time she was better known as the goddess of prostitution. So, step aside Atlanta and Chattanooga, apparently Corinth is closer to another American City, Las Vegas.
You know, what happens in Corinth, stays in Corinth. Except when it doesn’t, and apparently it didn’t.
I need to back track just a little to explain. After Paul found Christ on the road to Damascus, he spent most of his time traveling and sharing the story of Jesus. Somewhere during his trip he spent a few weeks starting a church in Thessalonica, followed by spending two years in Corinth! While he was there, he roomed with fellow Christians who happened to also be tent makers, like himself. He got to personally know the people; knew them by name. Eventually he moved on and left for Ephesus. When he left, things were apparently going well. The church was thriving. The people apparently understood the message Paul had shared. They had even set up a community meal where all members could come and share in a love feast. I would imagine Paul was pretty happy when he left.
Then the word got out. While he was in Ephesus things went wrong. It all began to fall apart.
First, there was the war of tongues. Different leaders of the church began to pretend they were speaking in tongues even though they were really just gibbering. No one could translate what they were saying; even they were clueless. The leaders did it because they became obsessed with one-upping one another. Secondly, they were misusing the communal meal. The well off were showing up early to the meal. They would get off of work early, and they would gorge themselves on the food leaving nothing for the poorer congregants who showed up late. Third, when a member of the congregation would have issue with another member they would ignore the church leadership and go straight to the city court for resolution. This could have been something like a congregant suing another congregant for speaking falsely when all they would have to do was talk it over with one of the leaders. Basically, taking something small and blowing it out of proportion.
And remember how everyone knew the message Paul preached before he left? Well, it didn’t take long for that to digress as well. Some people had taken Paul’s words about salvation through Christ and took it to mean they were currently living a redeemed life. That might not sound all that wrong on the surface, but they took it as an excuse to say they were redeemed while doing “Corinthianized” type things.
Let’s spill some tea, stories of prostitution got back to Paul. It was going on in the early church. In fact, it was so bad, Paul heard word of a man who was sleeping with his step-mother! What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in Corinth gets back to Paul… in two ways.
First, there were some concerned church leaders who took the time to draft a letter a letter which no longer exists today, but I bet if it did it would be a page turner. I’m sure by the time we read through it we would be adding some sins to the laundry list I just mentioned. Second, some Corinthian servants traveled to Ephesis, where Paul was currently working. They came to talk and “visit.”
Everything I just said is beginning to sound like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show! So, like a tabloid show, let’s take a breather from it for a moment and do the sermon version of a commercial break: also known as a side story.
Did you know Abraham Lincoln used to be harsh with the written word? He was terrible! When he had a personal issue he would immediately draft a letter and send it anonymously to an editor or drop it on the side of the road knowing someone would find it! He never thought his words through first. He never marinated in his thoughts, mulled through his ideas. That is, until he did it one too many times and it backfired. The person who had been insulted figured out it was Lincoln who wrote the “anonymous letter” and challenged him to a duel! AND! He almost had to participate in it, save for the grace of God it was cancelled just minutes before it was to take place. The event turned his life around. He realized the power of words. He thought first and wrote second. Smart advice. Never send the first draft of an angry letter. Wati a day, rewrite it when you had time to think about your words. That actually advice from Dale Carnagie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
I bring up Carnagie’s book, and Lincoln’s actions because technically we never left Corinth and their debaucherious tale. How many drafts do you think Paul had to write before he penned the final version to send to Corinth? Let’s pretend, shall we?
Draft one: “You are completely hopeless! You are sheep without a shepherd. You know! I’ve got other churches, and I leave for one minute, and some guy is sleeping with his stepmother! Come on Corinth! You were better than this! If I came back, I would simply be wasting my time. You’re not saved people, and you never will be! I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time, Paul. [Crumple that one up and throw it on the floor.]
Draft two: “Seriously, I’m completely stunned at how deep into the world of sin you have gotten. If you got any deeper I wouldn’t be able to dig you out.
Now, you’re not hopeless but there isn’t much hope there. Don’t do anything else. You are on the edge and you shouldn’t trust your own judgement right now. Rushing over as soon as I put my tents up, Paul. [Crumple that one up and throw it on the floor.]
Maybe Paul wrote a couple of drafts before penning 1 Corinthians, maybe he didn’t. After all, he did not mince words with the Corinth people. He told them, in no uncertain terms, they were wrong. The truth is, we have no idea how he wrote his letters, we just have the end result. The end result is much better than those fake drafts I just shared with you:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in the 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: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
SAINTS! He calls them saints. As Bart Ehrman writes about the saints of Corinth, “One wonders what the Corinthian sinners looked like.” I would respond, they are one in the same. We forget judgment is not our job. Once we label a group hopeless, or lost that is what they are- to us! There is no hope to help a group of people we have labeled hopeless. There is no finding a group we have called lost. We cannot save those we have sentenced as damned. Saint’s not because they deserved it, but because they were trying. Saints, not because they were perfect, but because they were striving. Paul begins his letter with hope. Maybe these people are getting started on the wrong track, but they are getting started. Pontis Pilate washes his hands while Paul gets his hands dirty. Choosing to walk Christ’s path means moving outside your comfort zone. It means getting to know the Corinthians of today by name. Whether you realize it or not, you are living among future saints, but not yet. They are waiting for you to tell the story. Think about it this way: You are the saints in the church today. Where would you be if you hadn’t heard the story? Did someone decide you were worth saving? Let me conclude with Paul’s own words: “He will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen
-Rev Rebecca Yowler-
Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9 CEB
One of my favorite things to say is, “Patience is a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine!” This is probably the truest statement I ever make. I am NOT a patient person. I try so hard! I try to wait—to do what is right and know that things will eventually work out. I try to trust that I will eventually “reap a good harvest.” But, darn it, I want that harvest NOW.
This section of Galatians also contains the phrase “you reap what you sow.” This, to me, is the biblical equivalent of Karma—the idea that what you put into the world comes back to you eventually. If you do bad things, eventually the bad will return. If you do good, then eventually good things will come to you. This is all well and good, except it’s the WAITING that gets me every time! I want karma to do its thing and I want it done, now. Actually, I’d prefer yesterday.
Nowhere in my life has this been more apparent than my recent job search. I had spent two AMAZING years at a fantastic job and had been heartbroken to leave it. I had done all good things there and had the support of so many people as I moved to another state and started my search. And the job just wouldn’t come. The “perfect job” fell through, a Skype interview went less than perfectly, another “slam dunk” never materialized, and yet another “I would give anything to work here” type position completely vaporized. Everything from God kept saying “be patient,” and “wait.” Every hymn, every poem, every homily, every bible verse—EVERYTHING told me to wait. But I didn’t want to wait. Finally, months later, a pretty darn close to perfect job came along, and I knew what I had been waiting for.
Did I learn my lesson this time? Did I learn to trust God and wait for the harvest? I wish I could say, “yes.” I wish I could. But, I know myself better than that. I know that patience isn’t one of my virtues and that I am not good at waiting. So, instead of getting angry at myself or trying to figure out how to be more patient, I just pray more. I simply ask god to help me be as patient as I am capable of being and to continue to remind me that waiting is necessary. Even if patience can’t be my virtue, I can work on it…little by little…and keep on praying for more help. It’s the best I can do.
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Dear God, please help me be patient. And if I can’t be patient, help me wait with as much grace as I can muster. And if I can’t do that, help me to not make any poor decisions in the meantime. Amen
Rev Rebecca Ann Yowler is an ordained Disciples minister and an academic librarian. She is currently adjunct faculty at Valparaiso University. She is passionate about pugs, knitting, and figure skating. You can read her occasional sermons and devotions at www.beccassermons.livejournal.com
-Rev Evan Dolive-
Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife.
Proverbs 15:18 CEB
I can’t stand the cliché, “patience is a virtue.” It just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it is because there are times when I am not the most patience person in the world. I have been working on it, but there are sometimes when I fail miserably. I can be a loud mouth, a hot head and an overly opinionated person. On some levels I can’t help it or at least that’s what I tell myself; I find ways for the wrong doing to be someone else’s fault or I rationalize why whatever I said was in fact the truth and they needed to hear or that the hearer was just over reacting.
Words are important; the words we say and more importantly how we say them are of even more significance.
Patience is a skill that has to be crafted and often times re learned and that’s why its so hard. We actually have to work at it. Patience is not just something we remind ourselves to have when we on the verge of road rage but it is a key element in the Lenten journey.
In our society the concept of waiting or pausing or even inhaling is becoming a thing of the past. We want things and we want them fast. We want out internet to be blazing, we complain when it takes 10 seconds to download a song or a picture. Cell phone companies market their phones to show how a person can get things done faster or applications load faster than the competition.
Lent is not just a call to center our thoughts and minds on the life of Christ and the journey to the cross rather is one a deliberate patience. We want to get to the happy day of Easter but we don’t want to have to do the long way around to get there. There is something that we will miss if we do not take the time to journey with Christ in the Lenten season.
Take it from a fallible person who is continually working on patience, its not the easiest thing in the world, but I believe waiting for Easter will make that fateful day just that much more special.
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O God help me to be more patient in my daily life. Grant me the strength and wisdom to slow down and breathe you in. Calm my soul as I wait for your realm to come. In Christ’s holy name, Amen.
Rev Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He currently serves as the Associate Minister for Family Life at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, Texas. He is the author of "Seeking Imperfection: Body Image, Marketing and God," a theological examination of marketing and body images propagated in the world today and the Christian response. He also writes for various online publications and at evandolive.com
He is currently working on his Doctorate at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. He is married to his high school sweetheart and has three children ages 6,4 and 2.
-Rev Paul Appleby-
Be still before the LORD, and wait for him. Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead— someone who invents evil schemes. Let go of anger and leave rage behind! Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil. Because evildoers will be eliminated, but those who hope in the LORD, they will possess the land.
Psalm 37:7-9 CEB
I was once advised never to pray for patience. In a funny way it makes sense, especially when you think about how we become patient. Patience is learned through delayed gratification. Patience is learned through sustained low-grade suffering. Patience is, somewhat ironically, something we long to have but hate to learn.
Patience is a virtue, it's true
I recall a stand-up comic lamenting a lack of patience in our society. He recalled standing next to his microwave waiting for popcorn and thinking, "How much time is left! Come on, I don't have all minute!"
As aggravating as it can be, waiting for a snack, the patience of Psalm 37 is of a much higher order than that. In Psalm 37 the psalmist is addressing someone who sees the world as a place where the wicked are rewarded and the righteous suffer. This person sees those who are evil and unjust living high on the hog while they are stuck subsisting on the snout, the tail and the oink.
Where is God in a world like ours? Where is the justice? How can the psalmist advise one suffering such moral outrage, "Don't get upset… Let go of anger… Don't get upset—it will only lead to evil"? The Psalmist can give such counsel, because the Psalmist has faith. Faith that evil does not get the last word. Faith that God is just, and that God's purposes cannot, ultimately, be thwarted.
The patience of the Psalmist is not a patience that comes from being really good at waiting, it is a patience borne of faith. When we trust in God, when we share God's vision of the future, we can act in a way that displays a quiet confidence in God's control. In this way the patience to which the Psalmist calls us is the patience of lived faithfulness- fidelity to the God with whom we walk.
When the time of trial comes, when we suffer unjustly, when we see the wicked prosper, may we take heed of this advice. May we practice godly patience, and may we all be found faithful.
Dear Lord, give us faith in the face of evil. Help us find patience even when all seems lost. Amen.
Rev Paul Appleby: Raised in the Church, the teachings of Jesus came alive to Paul in a new and exciting way after studying the Sermon on the Mount, and rediscovering the brilliant, simple, and profound way Jesus encourages his followers to live and love. Along with his amazing wife Sage, he serves a loving Christ-centered congregation in Killeen, Texas.
-Rev Myra Torrance-
God will repay everyone based on their works. On the one hand, he will give eternal life to those who look for glory, honor, and immortality based on their patient good work.
Romans 2:6-7 CEB
I have often thought that the word “patience” is like a bold bright colored ribbon that encircles a small black box that contains that four letter word: WAIT!
We wait for a baby to be born.
We wait for them to turn over, crawl, and walk.
We wait for school to begin.
We wait for school to be out.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
And in contrast we also count our birthdays and wonder/wait for our time to die. We don’t like to be told to wait! It is a simple fact of life. But, it is in those waiting times that we learn the word “patience.” What we do what that time is what is most important.
Jesus knew His life was coming to an end. But, He didn’t sit around moaning and groaning. Instead, He went out and taught what needed to be learned.
That life is not lived by simply breathing. But, something more than sighs. It is getting out: Tending to the sick and needy, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry. As we do these acts of tending we find our souls are being nourished by God, Himself.
The black box contains the awful word “WAIT,” but the bright colored ribbon teaches us that the word “patience” is something to be hold in the Christian way of life.
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Lord of all: You see everything, and understand the timing better than us. Help us learn to wait with patience. Amen.
Rev Myra Torrance is the pastor of Chelan Christian Church, where she has led the congregation for four years. She has been a pastor in the Disciples of Christ Christian Church for over 35 years. Prior to being called to the pulpit, she was the Executive Director for Hospice in Vincennes, Indiana. Myra is originally from Vincennes, Indiana, where she raised her four children with her husband, Bud, before his passing in 2011. Myra loves to write and enjoys time with her two Chihuahuas.