“Unfinished Business” A Devotion on 1 Corinthians 3: 6

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”—1 Corinthians 3: 6

At the beginning of my ministry I taught myself to cook. I was serving two small congregations in rural Maine. I was single then and rattling around the parsonage, so to keep myself occupied (and fed) I started reading various cookbooks and trying out different recipes.

I discovered I really liked to cook. I would buy the ingredients, follow the directions, and, at the end of the process, my dish either came out right or it didn’t. I liked that. There was no waiting around for the results.

One of the reasons I liked cooking so much was that it was different from my life in the church where you don’t see such quick results. In the church you seldom get the immediate sense of completion that you do in cooking.

I came to realize that the Christian life is more like gardening than it is like cooking. In the church, as in gardening, you plant seeds, you water and tend your garden, and you wait. You wait for God to give the growth.

Addressing a church fight in Corinth, Paul tells the congregation that the church is not about any one person. It is a team sport, and builds on what others have previously done. Paul founded the church in Corinth. He planted it, and Apollos, who came after him, watered it, but it was God who gave the growth.

The church’s business remains unfinished for now. Others will take it up. In the meantime we worship, we pray, we teach and learn, we care for each other and for our world. We move from season to season under God’s abiding care, waiting for that day when God’s great Garden will blossom and flourish over all the earth.

Prayer: Make us faithful gardeners, O God, until that time when you bring to completion all the faithful work done for your reign and realm, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for February 18, 2019. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

“You’ve Got To Serve Somebody” A Sermon on Luke 4: 1-13

When Patty Fox had her ecclesiastical council here in January I asked her to talk about how she goes about interpreting a scripture text to prepare to preach on it. She said several wise things, but one really struck me as particularly insightful. She said, “I always look for the odd, unexpected or unusual verse, and then I ask, ‘Why is this here, and is it important?” So as I was looking at today’s story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness I looked for something I may not have paid much attention to before. And you need to know that the temptation story, which is also in Mark and Matthew, appears in the readings for the First Sunday in Lent every year (from one of these three Gospels.) And I’ve been ordained 44 years, so I have had a chance to preach on this story more than a few times. Continue reading

“Passing the Baton” A Retirement Sermon on 2 Timothy 4: 4-7

Prologue

I am honored to be here with you on this high and holy day. I preached Steven’s installation sermon, and so I am privileged again to be in this pulpit at this service of celebration and thanksgiving for Steven’s ministry among you.

Steven joked that because of my bookending his ministry that I am the “Alpha and the Omega.” I replied that “we have an Alpha and Omega and I am not he!” Continue reading

“The False God SUCCESS” A Devotion on 1 Corinthians 4:10-13

“God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.”

—1 Corinthians 4:10-13 Continue reading

“Small Beginnings” A Baptismal Sermon on Mark 4:30-34

Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” —Mark 4:30-34 Continue reading

“We’re Still Learning.” A Devotion on Mark 10:42-45

“So Jesus called the disciples and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42-45 Continue reading

“SHARE!” A Devotion on Acts 2:44-45

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”—Acts 2:44-45

My son and daughter were born 20 months apart and so played together as children. Before I was a parent I imagined that the solution to sibling competition over toys was to give them each the same one. So, for example, if you gave one of them a colorful ball, you would also give the other one an identical ball. As reasonable as this sounds it didn’t work. Apparently there is something highly acquisitive hardwired into the human condition. It turns out that both children wanted both balls. I’m tempted to reference a certain Christian doctrine here, but I’ll hold back. Continue reading