One in Christ

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S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 1:21 God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ and who anointed us. 22 God also sealed us and gave the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts.

O (Observation): Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. He is reminding them – once again – of their being “in Christ” together.

Paul really taps into the sense of oneness. He picks up on Jesus’ notion that as the Christ freely dwells in each believer, they act as if they are one! Living in different cities? Still one! Former Greek or former Jew? Still one, in Christ!

This means that they can be free to share with one another and welcome one another should they travel. Or share financial obligations.

A (Application): How many of us sense the Oneness? I fear many of us are so individually minded that we have a hard time sensing the oneness.

I have to look out for me and mine. That is a survival instinct that all of us have. But we are also imbued with a sense of oneness through being in Christ together.

Jesus is the foremost example of what it means to be in Christ. He shows forth the full expression of Christ: chosen, gifted, servant, loving, beloved.

We are all given these same gifts. Or we can stifle these gifts.

When we share, when we love, when we allow ourselves to be cared for…we are showing how we are in Christ with one another.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us of our oneness in you…amen.

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Women in Leadership

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of prophets are under the control of the prophets. 33 God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. Like in all the churches of God’s people, 34 the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says. 35 If they want to learn something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to talk during the meeting.

O (Observation): My first reaction to this text is that somewhere in Paul’s setting, a group of women that were following some other deity were disrupting what was going on at the local gathering of Jesus-followers. He resorted to a general call for women to be quiet. Probably responding to a particular situation in a particular time in a particular place.

Perhaps the worship setting was becoming disorderly and folks had a hard time focusing on worship or hearing the teachings for the day. Perhaps this was a call for orderliness to a particular community. For Paul himself lifts up females in church leadership in other parts of his writings.

Not only does Paul lift up female leadership in the church, I seem to remember Paul writing something else about men and women…

Galatians 3 – “27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A (Application): What are we looking for when we approach scripture? Tradition? New life? Forgiveness? Hope?

We can look for all of these and more.

Yet when it comes to female leadership in the church, we are stuck. And if we are okay with female leaders, we are not okay with paying them fair and equal wages.

God is revealed bit by bit for us. In our leaders – both female and male…and those who are still discovering their identity.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us towards your perfect light. Amen.

Temptation and Advice

One Bread, One Body

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 10:14 So then, my dear friends, run away from the worship of false gods! 15 I’m talking to you like you are sensible people. Think about what I’m saying. 16 Isn’t the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn’t the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread. 18 Look at the people of Israel. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices share from the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That food sacrificed to a false god is anything, or that a false god is anything? 20 No, but this kind of sacrifice is sacrificed to demons and not to God. I don’t want you to be sharing in demons. 21 You can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you can’t participate in the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

O (Observation): Paul has a lot to say about a lot of things. He usually has a theological point, followed by a very practical application of what the people are facing.

One bread, one cup, one body. That’s the main thing.

So, if you eat bread or drink when it was blessed to a demon??? What does that say about your intentions? The demon means nothing to us as believers, but what is the statement you’re siblings in Christ will receive?

Are you divided in loyalty? Will that temptation be resisted by you? Likely not.

No need to be playing in dangerous territory. Not that we believe demons or other powers are stronger than the Lord. But know this…dancing in that dangerous territory can be quite taxing.

A (Application): Paul likes to give advice to his followers. He built a rapport with them. They knew him. And he could be quite challenging to them. And what he addresses are sometimes universal issues and are sometimes unique issues to a place and time.

So, where do we place Paul’s prohibition? In the realm of salvation? Or in the realm of advice for followers of Jesus? In this case, I choose “advice.” Paul knows that demons are no match for Jesus. He just wants us to know what we are getting into. We can easily let demons and other temptations cloud our hearts and minds and therefore bend our allegiance away from God and neighbor (and towards evil).

Our good news is that whether or not we succumb to the temptations of this life, we always have a God who wishes for us to know unity with God and with our neighbor. Whatever challenges or temptations awaiting us (and we will succumb to them from time to time) we rest assured that our one-ness with God can never be shattered.

P (Prayer): Lord, make us one…give us strength and grace. Amen.

Unity with God

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S (Scripture): Psalm 56

All day long [my attackers] frustrate my pursuits;

    all their thoughts are evil against me.

You yourself have kept track of my misery.

    Put my tears into your bottle—

    aren’t they on your scroll already?

O (Observation): Countless times have God’s faithful shared their fears and worries with God. And countless times, God’s people trust. God knows the fears of the author of this psalm.

For God has captured all the author’s tears…God has recorded them…stored them…

A (Application): God knows our sadness and frustrations and fears.

What if salvation was more about God knowing us, and journeying with us, rather than helping us to desire to be removed from this world?

What if salvation is God helping us to become one with God for now and eternity? After all, God knows our inmost parts and worries and fears. God counts the number of our tears. In coming to us, putting on flesh, we know that God knows our very selves.

And God knows the worst…God knows death…and has overcome that separation we experience from God. Easter is about celebrating that God is with us, even through death and hell.

What weighs you down this day? How can knowing that God counts your tears help you in your journey?

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in you. Help us to know that you hear our suffering and cries and tears. Amen.

Unity with God

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S (Scripture): Psalm 56

All day long [my attackers] frustrate my pursuits;

    all their thoughts are evil against me.

You yourself have kept track of my misery.

    Put my tears into your bottle—

    aren’t they on your scroll already?

O (Observation): Countless times have God’s faithful shared their fears and worries with God. And countless times, God’s people trust. God knows the fears of the author of this psalm.

For God has captured all the author’s tears…God has recorded them…stored them…

A (Application): God knows our sadness and frustrations and fears.

What if salvation was more about God knowing us, and journeying with us, rather than helping us to desire to be removed from this world?

What if salvation is God helping us to become one with God for now and eternity? After all, God knows our inmost parts and worries and fears. God counts the number of our tears. In coming to us, putting on flesh, we know that God knows our very selves.

And God knows the worst…God knows death…and has overcome that separation we experience from God. Easter is about celebrating that God is with us, even through death and hell.

What weighs you down this day? How can knowing that God counts your tears help you in your journey?

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in you. Help us to know that you hear our suffering and cries and tears. Amen.

True Fellowship


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S (Scripture): 1 John 1:1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

O (Observation):  The community from which the author of 1 John is writing feels very strongly that they have a message to pass on to the recipients of this letter.  The author – and the community from which the author writes – is full of an overflowing excitement and spirit based on having had true life revealed to them. 

The desire of the author is an extraordinary fellowship, based not solely upon “common interests,” but upon true life revealed to them by being in fellowship with Jesus Christ and God.   

(I’ll assume that the Holy Spirit is the vehicle for this fellowship and this revelation.)  

A (Application):  The excitement that comes from a revelation of the Spirit is unexplainable.  I can think back to several times in my life when I FIRST sensed the Spirit joining me to a larger fellowship:

  • Becoming a part of All Saints Lutheran Church, in Lilburn, GA, after we moved to Lilburn from Lodi, NJ
  • Going to church camps in my middle school years
  • Seeking forgiveness from a friend in high school 
  • When I began dating Kelly (who is now my wife)
  • Entering seminary

So many times…some big moments and some smaller moments…I was acknowledging that God was up to something greater than just making me feel comfortable.  God was showing me what true fellowship can be like, what it can look like.  

Why did God do this?  Perhaps so that I can help create a welcoming environment for others, wherever I go (like those who were a part of the fellowship established in 1 John).  The most holy thing I know is true fellowship.  True fellowship makes room for those who have open hearts and minds to work together, to share our God-given gifts, and to welcome the new kid from New Jersey (the kid with the funny accent)…or to welcome anyone else.  : ) 

Can you name a time when you were welcomed in?

Can you name a time when you welcomed others in to your fellowship?

P (Prayer): Lord, you gather us together into one Spirit. Help us to know that oneness with you and with our neighbor. Amen. 

Women: Quiet Please…(not really :)

silent

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. 14:32 Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.

As in all the churches of the saints,   14:34 the women   should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak.   Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 14:35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.

O (Observation):  In 1 Corinthians 11:5, 10; 14:3-5, Paul makes it clear that women are indeed encouraged to be a part of public prayer and prophecy.  In this text, however, some difficulty exist in figuring out how to deal with Paul’s words about women keeping quiet in the church.

The disruptions that might occur in worship seem to be the only real problem that Paul has.   In Paul’s times, it was morally indiscreet for a wife to publically question her husband.  To keep the peace during a time of worship, Paul encourages these women to keep the silence and perhaps inquire more discreetly.  (Note, however, that Paul does encourage all to participate in v. 26.)

A (Application):  I see a big divide in Christianity, which comes down to the interpretation of Scripture.  We can’t deal with the issue of women having to keep silent in church, unless we first deal the interpretation of Scripture.

One school of thought is that the Scriptures are inerrant…that we must take, word for word, the instruction and admonition and invitations in Scripture.   I have trouble with this way of interpretation.  Taking Jesus at his word is fine.  But the further we move away from Jesus, the muddier things get.  What about creation?  Was it 7 literal days?  Perhaps.  But I won’t teach that as doctrine.  Instead, I see that God created and rested at the end of it.   What about Revelation?  I do not see a literal battle coming, but rather, this is a story of how Jesus wins in the end.

Those who see the Scriptures as inerrant also see verses like those I selected today to make it rather clear that women should be silent in church.   The inerrant viewpoint has problems, then, because Paul clearly invites women to be involved in other areas of faith development and worship, including names of women in his greetings and salutations in several of his letters.

The inerrant view also does not allow for context to be included in interpretation.   Including context seems a sinful way of interpreting the Scriptures (from an inerrant viewpoint).  Paul lived in a very different time and culture than that in which we live, though.   Separating a cultural matter from a doctrinal matter should be given quite some discernment.   Speaking about Christ as the body of which we are the members is very important doctrinally.  But women speaking in church seems to be more of a contextual issue that should allow for interpretation.

Seeing the Scriptures through the lens of Christ is the key for me and many others.   How would Jesus encourage us to see women in the church?   In Jesus we are one…men and women.  We are no longer slave or free, male and female… Oh, wait…Paul said that, right? (Galatians 3:27-28).  How would an inerrant viewpoint allow these two opposing views?

I’ll hang out here in the tension…in the Scriptures being the source and norm of our faith.  And I’ll enjoy the many female leaders in the church that have shaped my life and my faith these 38 years…

P (Prayer):  Lord, thank you for the many female church leaders you have sent into my life.  Amen.