God Gives the Growth

God Gives the Growth

We conclude our series titled Somos del Señor following the Revised Common Lectionary and sourced from Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Sermons in this series can be found at this link.

In a United Methodist congregation, our clergy are assigned to churches on an annual basis.  Usually, these assignments are continued successively unless and until the church or the pastor request a change or sometimes if there is a need in another church, etc. I shared some history of this in a blog post back in September, and even more info on itineracy (which means traveling from place to place) can be found at this link.

While this system is not universally loved, one natural outcome of this system connects with this Sunday’s text. Paul suggests to the church in Corinth (a church that had been facing disagreement as we discussed on the last Sunday in January) that attachments to a particular human pastor, to a particular position, or a particular building may be a misdirection of our focus when we should instead grow our attachment to God. This is highlighted in the itinerant system. In the words of a colleague, “No pastor works in a vacuum, but builds on ministry and mission that others directed long before arriving on the scene. And, that will continue long after the pastor departs.”

When a church faces disagreement, perhaps Paul’s reminder to focus on God can bring greater understanding and peace.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (CEB)
1Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. 2I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. 3Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? 4When someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and someone else says, “I belong to Apollos,” aren’t you acting like people without the Spirit? 5After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. 7Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. 8The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor. 9We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.

Consider these questions:

  1. Paul’s opening in this chapter feels a little insulting! Even so, perhaps we can agree that we do not—and can not—know all there is to know about the triune God. Where do you see evidence of this in the global Church? Where do you see it in your own faith life?
  2. How can we face division? What can we do? Are there different solutions based on differing circumstances? What do you thing God calls us to do in these cases?
  3. What do you think about the itinerant system in The United Methodist Church? What are its pros and cons?

Post-Worship Update on 2/18

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

Sunday’s message began with a retelling of a comedic video about a Pastor who struggles with how to communicate with a congregation. Check out the video here:

This seems to me to parallel a little alongside Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth! It can seem as though Paul is insulting the members of the faith community, calling them unspiritual babies! But if we can get past this, we might see that Paul is drawing metaphors of growth. I believe that we are called to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ!

What does it look like to grow? What does it look like to take a step toward deeper and more complete discipleship? The image here is one way we might work to understand the journey of discipleship. It seems to make sense that we all start—as Paul suggests—in a spiritual place where we require spiritual simplicity. With the broad theological expanse that may be possible through careful study, we can understand the need to start small and to ease into a more comprehensive understanding. We don’t start Calculus in first grade!

Continuing the metaphor of growth, we understand that it takes work to prepare soil, to water and to weed, to nurture growth. It is good and right that we participate in this work, and it is good and right that we know that we do not undertake this journey alone. God works in us and draws us forward into a larger theological expression of discipleship. Along this journey, we grow; and along this journey, we belong to God.

Consider these questions:

  1. If you used an image to express where you are on your faith journey, what image would you choose and why?
  2. How has God used others to encourage you and help you grow in the faith?
  3. Who might God be leading you to nurture and encourage in their own faith?