Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sermon Take-aways

We had a good reminder this morning from the pulpit about building the core muscles of our bodies, and the core of our faith. Usually by this time (2 hours later) I remember little of the sermon, but I recalled this from some medical literature--"Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. Aside from the occasional sit-up or crunch, however, core exercises are often neglected." It reminded me I'd forgotten to pay attention to the core in my exercise program.

The other take-away was to use the gift of prophecy--um, well, we weren't told when to use it (it's the least popular of all the gifts listed in the OT or NT), only not to use it in a critical, harsh way, always keeping before us Paul's letter to the Corinthians and his admonition about love. Immediately before that wonderful chapter 13, come chapters 11 & 12, when Paul tells them (I don't know if this was prophesying or just being cranky Paul) they are doing everything wrong when they assembled for worship. The women weren't covering their heads, the men had long hair, which he considered disgraceful, they were getting drunk when they gathered for fellowship rather than observing worshipfully the Lord's Supper, they were squabbling about who had better gifts and whether the gift of tongues was more important than that of miracles, etc. He says it's OK for women to prophesy and pray--just not with short hair or uncovered heads.

Then in chapter 14, he says to desire especially the gift of prophecy because it edifies the church and is for believers, not unbelievers. He says that if an unbeliever happens across a service where there is prophesying, "he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"(NIV)

Then Paul closes (as he opens with in Chapter 2 and inserts in Chapter 11) with a reminder for all churches (not part of today's sermon). I consider chapter 15 the core of our faith, not Chapter 13, which is a both a description on how to end disputes on gifts and a picture of what perfection will remain when all else passes away: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and (he lists all the people to whom he appeared). . . If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

It may not be the gift of prophecy, but like Paul I nag about this a lot. . . my SALT group, my Women of the Word group, my pastors, my Christian friends, my husband's friends, the Visual Arts Ministry, food pantry ministry, churches I visit, conference speakers I meet, people I encounter on the Internet, Christian writers, books I review--anyone who will listen . The death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just a good starting point--it is the point. When you wander away from that, the core muscles of your faith will soon be flabby, your witness will weaken and your service opportunities will dry up.

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