Growth In God’s Kingdom

1-corinthians-textTo read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.

Sermon based on 1st Corinthians 3:1-9

If the apostle Paul were to have chosen another vocation in life perhaps he would have been best suited to be a mediator. A mediator is a person who attempts to bring people or groups who are in conflict to an agreement or some sort of compromise. As much as Paul loved to share the good news of the Gospel, he often found himself more involved in trying to mediate between quarreling Christians. Sometimes Paul was able to handle these conflicts in person. At other times he would mediate through others on his behalf. Later when Paul was imprisoned his writings would serve as the tool of negotiation. In our lesson this morning we see Paul made reference to some divisions that were ongoing in the Corinthian church. People had been taking sides dividing their loyalties between Paul and Apollos. Paul made it clear that no one in the Church may take credit for successes. While many people were instrumental in the ministry and life of a congregation, Paul was telling his audience and us today not to take too much credit for our accomplishments.

Recently asked by a neighbor what would be some words of wisdom I might share about parish ministry with someone starting out in ministry I shared the following. After 20+ years in parish ministry our efforts as ordained ministers simply help to set the stage for God’s work among us. Leighton Ford, an evangelist who worked with Billy Graham for over 30 years, echoed this sentiment when he once said the following:

“Whatever our career may be, true leadership means to receive power from God and to use it under God’s rule to serve people in God’s way.”

During our InterSynodal Conference over the past few days this sentiment was echoed in the words we saw often, God Creates, God Redeems, God Blesses, We Respond In Faith, Love and Hope. The fact that we are here this morning is because God and only God made this happen. Why did God bring people together so many years ago to try to build a new congregation in this West Salem Community? Why has God brought us together this morning in worship to praise and serve him? God has brought us together to be what we are called to be. Together as a church, we are called through our mission statement to be the following:

 Christ Church seeks to be a caring congregation, worshiping God and encouraging one another, as we serve outside the walls of our congregation in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.

We are blessed this morning because as we study these verses of Scripture, we learn that God is with us every step of our journey together as we pursue our mission statement. We learn three things about the role of God in our lives.

First, God will enrich us. In verses five and six of this passage we hear the following:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

We learn in these verses that God will enrich us for growth through the ministry and service of others. In the case of the Corinthians, the ministry of Paul and Apollos had inspired others. The Corinthian Church already had members who were enriched by their gifts like speech and knowledge. They had the unique ability not only to proclaim God’s word, but they also understood God’s word and had the ability to explain to others who were seeking such knowledge. As Paul writes, Apollos and he were merely instruments while God serves as the conductor. In using the analogy from Paul about plants, we can watch and witness a green plant grow from a seed to a fruit bearing plant. It happens constantly and consistently in this world of ours. Yet why or how a tiny seed can grow into a plant might be a complete mystery to many of us. We can proclaim that mystery of growth yet not understand it full ourselves. As children of God, we are also equipped through God’s power to have the ability to proclaim his Word. We have the knowledge of His will and purpose in our lives by reading and studying Scripture. We all have the responsibility to proclaim the good news of God. This is our calling according to the Great Commission of Christ that says:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19)

 The second role of God in our lives is that God will equip us. In verse seven Paul writes for us:

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

Paul was reminding the Christians of Corinth that God had equipped them for their ministry and outreach. God has equipped us as well by giving each of us spiritual gifts to use for his glory. When we respond to Christ in faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive those spiritual gifts needed to do the work of ministry assigned to us by God. As Paul reminds us later in his letter to the Corinthians, we are all part of the body of Christ, each of us making up different parts of the body. Sir Michael Costa was a great Orchestral Conductor of the 19th Century. One day he was conducting a rehearsal in which a great choir joined the orchestra. Midway through the session the piccolo player stopped playing. It seemed innocent enough who would miss the tiny piccolo amidst the great mass of instruments blazing away? All of a sudden Sir Michael stopped the entire orchestra and choir. “Stop! Stop! Where’s the piccolo? What’s happened to the piccolo?” Sometimes in life we may feel like that piccolo player. We feel that we don’t have much to offer, that if we stopped our ministry no one would notice anyway. Yet the Great Conductor notices, and needs us to complete his orchestral masterpiece! With this in mind I am reminded of the old expression, “Where God guides, God provides.” As we are called into the fellowship of God’s Kingdom, we are equipped by God to do ministry for our church. We do not lack anything, we have all we need to love others with compassion, and share our faith with sincerity. God has equipped us to use our spiritual gifts within our church.

Finally with God in our lives we know that God will sustain us. In verse eight and nine of this passage Paul writes for us:

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.  For we are co-workers in God’s service you are God’s field, God’s building.

Whether we are teaching a Sunday school class, singing in our church choir or cleaning up after a worship service or a meal, we are all important and our responsibilities big or small are important in God’s eyes. Among our responsibilities is supporting our congregation with our time, talents and treasure. We have a ministry here at Christ Church that is important to revisit from time to time. This ministry opportunity is very easy for us to become involved in: Worship +2. Worship + 2 is a ministry that EVERYONE can become involved in! This ministry encourages our church members to be faithful in their worship attendance and to do two of the following things as well:

  1. Find a place in our church where we are growing spiritually, through Sunday school, small group ministries and other fellowship groups.
  2. Find a place in our church or in the community where we are being empowered to serve others in some way.

As we become involved in our Worship + 2 ministry we will realize that God sustains us in a number of ways. Through reading and studying Scripture we will become more faithful. In our faithfulness we will hopefully be inspired to love and serve others in greater ways as our mission statement calls us to do. Our mission statement as a congregation is a call to celebration. As a constant reminder of the joy of knowing Jesus, God enriches our lives, equips us for ministry and sustains us by his grace. We are to treasure our gifts and put them to use for God’s kingdom. Hear now this poem that speaks of our work to be done. This poem is entitled, “Treasures In You.

 Treasures In You

There are treasures in life, but owners are few

Of money and power to buy things brand new.

Yet you can be wealthy and feel regal too,

If you will just look for the treasures in you.

These treasures in life are not hard to find

When you look in your heart, your soul, and your mind.

For when you are willing to share what’s within,

Your fervent search for riches will end.

The joy and the laughter, the smile that you bring;

The heart unafraid to love and to sing;

The hand always willing to help those in need;

Ones quick to reach out, to labor and feed.

So thank you for sharing these great gifts inside;

The caring, the cheering, the hug when one cried.

Thanks for the energy, encouragement too,

And thank you for sharing these treasures in you.

The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.

February 19, 2017