Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
In this extract from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we once again read words of encouragement. Just in case his readers were in any doubt, Paul provides a concise summary of his message with an emphasis on the power and impact of the resurrection, which also demonstrates that scripture has been fulfilled. This is what it is all about and Paul takes the opportunity at the end of this letter to spell it out again. For Paul, the Christians in Corinth were messing up. They had to get their priorities right, get themselves sorted out and realise the reality and implications of Jesus’ resurrection.
In a time where many congregations are concerned about the future, where there are fears about membership statistics, concerns about buildings, worries about finances and discussions about ministerial deployment, it is certainly a different context from first century Corinth. However, perhaps on reflection there have been times when we did get it wrong and we did mess up. Despite a contrast of contexts between then and now, there has been one constant and that is Paul’s message. A message that can so easily become lost in the challenge of congregational survival as many struggle to keep things going, hold on to what has been and become overwhelmed by politics and problems.
Why would someone feel inspired by your faith or excited by your congregation? Why would they want to join the worshipping community that you are part of? These are key questions that have to be addressed and in seeking answers it has to be accepted that it will mean some self reflection and then perhaps action if changes are required. It will also mean accepting that we are who we are. So we shouldn’t waste time trying to be something we are not but make sure that with God’s grace through the power of the Spirit we are working as hard at it as we can using all we have to advance the Kingdom; never forgetting what it is all about.
God of grace, Wake us from our daze and inject us with passion. Remove all our frustrations and make us sure of who we are. Direct our energies and give us confidence so that we can take risks, speak out, tell others, and let your church grow. Amen
David Scott is an ordinand studying at the Scottish United Reformed Church and Congregational College and the University of Glasgow.