A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary - October 5

Sermon (October 5) - "Living Generously: Who Is the Boss?"

II Corinthians 8:1-7

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter which has a very different tone from his first letter to the Corinthians. Since that first letter, a very difficult problem had emerged in the church and Paul addresses it in this new letter. The letter ends on a positive note of the good news of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul is hoping that the church in Corinth will set aside money for a special offering that will benefit the impoverished church in Jerusalem. He briefly wrote about this special offering in his first letter to them (I Corinthians 16:1-4.) This offering will not only help the church in Jerusalem but it will also be an expression of unity between a Gentile Church (the Corinthian Church) and a Jewish Church (the Jerusalem Church.)

Even though this offering will do much good for the kingdom of God both in practicality (helping a church suffering through a time of famine) and symbolically (expressing unity between Gentiles & Jewish Christians,) there are also obstacles and challenges to overcome.

Verse 6 - Instead of using the word, "money" in referring to this special offering, Paul uses the word, "grace."Knowing that money could become a tricky topic with the Corinthians, Paul talks instead about this "work of grace."

By referring to the collection of the special offering as "grace," Paul is reminding the Corinthians that everything they do is to be an expression of the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ. Paul refers to the generosity of the Macedonian Churches who are much poorer than the Corinthian Church and yet they had given a substantial gift to this offering. Paul is hinting that if these poorer churches could give so generously, certainly the Corinthian Church would be able to do even more.

Matthew 6:19-24

This is a passage about priorities and having God as our very first priority.

In Jesus' day, when people fasted, they would indicate this by letting down their hair and putting ashes on their face. Jesus encourages a different approach, where we don't do religious acts just to be noticed by others. We should do these things for God alone.

In establishing the right priority, Jesus refers to treasure and a lamp. The treasure refers to the things that we are doing in the here and now. The lamp refers to keeping our eyes on God so that we can go in the right direction.

Jesus concludes by referring to not being able to serve two masters. Jesus wants us to recognize that money can easily become a god that would keep us from keeping the true God first in our lives.

[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

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