On September 23, 2018, Pastor Ginny Cetuk preached on the sermon series “By God” on the topic ‘Gifts for Giving’. Her text was 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11.
To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page
Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.
Pastor Ginny began by suggesting Paul had a problem. He was up against some attitudes and behaviors that had sprung up in the church at Corinth. And they weren’t good.
When we read the scriptures we see what is happening in the communities of the time since often they are being exhorted to change their behaviors. For example, in this letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul reminds the people that God chose the lowly so that no one would be able to boast before God. And he tells them not to be boastful.
So we know that they were boastful, don’t we? Indeed, they were.
Corinth was one of the largest cities in the region and five times as large as Athens.
Paul arrived at Corinth for the first time in the 49 or 50 AD and he found that Corinth was exceptionally diverse in every way – including race and religion – and a major center of commerce as well as the capital of the Province. All faiths of the time were represented in this cosmopolitan city, including worship of the emperor and his family.
Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months and it was here he came to know Priscilla and Aquila with whom he later traveled. Paul knew Corinth well and started a number of Christian communities while there. He loved the city and its people and wrote 4 letters, two of which were lost.
In the letter we read today Paul is clearly concerned about developments across the faith communities in Corinth. In the first several chapters of the letter he talks about the following: divisiveness; taking each other to court; offering food to idols; and class divisions at the communal meal – Communion – in which the poorer people did not receive the same amount of food (bread and wine) as others.
He writes in Chapter 11: 21-22:
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
Paul is hopping mad for sure…..but his heart is filled with love for these Corinthian Christians….all 40-150 of them…we can’t be sure….
As the letter goes on, we can see that Paul knows they misunderstand something very fundamental. And he does not blame them for that. Instead, he teaches them about the nature of God. For that is what they misunderstand. And they had this misunderstanding because they had absorbed notions about privilege in their very strictly stratified world and those notions had crept into the church.
If we look at their behaviors, we see that they didn’t understand why God would give the gifts Paul was talking about. They thought that some gifts were better than others and that those better gifts were given to the better people. Of course, there were no “better people”…but they didn’t know that, for their society told them differently. Christianity at the time – as it is today as well – was a truly counter-cultural religion.
And they were still learning….
In the passage from 1 Corinthians 12 read for today, Paul is talking about God-given gifts and how we use them for the common good.
Hear my conversation with God here
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