The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

6th Sunday after Epiphany                                                                           February 12, 2017

 

1 Corinthians 3:1-9                                  God Will Give the Growth

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

Your meal is supposed offer you nourishment and growth.

As for that food you put away, you can't just eat as you please or do your own thing. / /

+        But that's not what everyone would have you believe.

           "Your favorite food is fighting you?  Fight back fast with Tums. It goes to work in seconds!"

          That is to say, you should be able to eat as you want and not worry about the consequences. / /

+        Well, here's some better advice.   

          Rather than planning for that upset stomach, eat what you know is healthy.

 

We may say the same regarding food for the soul.

*   If you want to be truly served by it don't do your own thing; spicing it up, where you later must

          undo its effects.  Let God do his own thing.

*   That was Paul's mindset.  It wasn't his job or any other pastor's job to spiff up the Gospel and

          Sacraments to make them more edifying. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

*   And it's what goes on in the church today.

          Planting involves bringing in new members from the community.

          As a pastor, you baptize and catechize.  You teach your people the basics of the Christian faith.

*   Watering involves further instruction.  You indoctrinate your parishioners.  You give their faith

          a foundation.  You prepare them to defend their faith against the world and false teachers.

*   Every pastor who understands his calling will seek to both plant and water.

 

When all is said and done, however, it's not about the pastor's efforts or faithfulness.

It's God who gives the growth. 

*   And yes, he does so by calling the pastor to serve in his stead. 

          Through Holy Baptism and instruction, through private encouragement and absolution and

          the Holy Sacrament, God causes Christians and Christian congregations to grow. / /

+        Unfortunately, many in the church have a different mindset.

I –      Many look for growth by doing their own thing.   Rather than maturing in their convictions

          by feeding on God's Word they'd rather remain as they are spiritually.

*   They may be characterized as preferring milk over solid food. 

          Paul was concerned that the Corinthians had remained "infants in Christ."

          He writes them, saying: "I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it."

*   But ever since they were brought into the church their diet had not changed. 

          They were adults. But they were still feeding on milk. 

*   Speaking spiritually, they were still in the nursing stage.

          They hadn't learned how to digest solid food, consuming a message that would prepare them to

          defend Christ before the world.  Instead, they wanted what you might call as a feel-good message.

*   The message of the culture was: you consume what was personally pleasurable to you, both

          with respect to the physical, as well as the spiritual.

*   As for the spiritual, many in Corinth had received remarkable gifts from the Holy Spirit.

          They had received special wisdom or knowledge.

          They were able to prophesy, to speak in foreign tongues, to perform healings.

*   Unfortunately, they let it blur their understanding of spiritual growth.

          Growth, in their opinion, had to do with how the Spirit made you personally feel. 

          If you felt good, because you had received the Spirit in a way that others hadn't, this was

          a sign that you were more spiritual; you had received more growth.

*   And naturally, this led to jealousy and conflict in the church, so that the apostle had to

          confront them. "I fed you with milk, not solid food . . . And even now you are not ready . . .

          For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only

          in a human way?"

++      They weren't truly being fed.

          They were like that child, who's very happy sitting in the highchair. 

          But rather than eating his food, he's playing with his food, until he throws it on the floor.

 

You don't have to do your own thing.  God Will Give the Growth.

*   So, what might you say about your eating habits?  You've got some history behind you.

          It began with you nursing or getting your milk from a bottle.

          Soon thereafter you were spoon-fed, continuing with soft foods that were easily swallowed.

*   That is to say, you came to church and Sunday school.  Because your parents were managing

          your diet you learned "Jesus Loves Me" and how your Savior died to take your sins away.

*   It was a very comfortable time in your life.  You didn't have analyze what you were eating.

          You didn't have to make choices which might place you at odds with your friends.

          You simply consumed what your parents put in front of you, until you learned to take the

          next step and chew that solid food . . . / /

 

. . . Unless your eating habits have digressed.

*   Maybe you're more into that soft food.

          You prefer sticking with the basics, which never gets the least bit controversial.

*   How are your eating habits?  Are you willing to be challenged with a deeper understanding

          of your sin and how it exhibits itself in your life? 

          Are you ready to confess that Jesus took your sin upon himself in order to redeem you?

*   Or have you refused to chew on any truths that may upset either your ears or the ears of those

          who might hear from you the specifics about their Savior?

*   You can't have it both ways. 

          Either you grow from chewing your food or you imagine you'll grow from doing your own thing. 

          Either you eat what's in front of you, or you play with what's in front of you until it drops on the floor.

 

Many look for growth doing their own thing. 

II –     Others look for growth by following someone else's thing.

          Rather than promoting growth in the congregation they promote division.

          They prefer competing with each other, by pitting one leader against another.

*   Taking a look once again at the Corinthian situation, the jealousy and strife had become

          quite evident during the church service not only on a personal level but on a group level.

*   Paul continues.

           "For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?"

*   Their competitive spirit had altered their entire reason for going to church.

          It wasn't to attend the service primarily and receive the Lord's benefits.

          As we mentioned earlier, for many it was about showing off.

*   Or it was to observe those who might be seen as a bit better at showing off.  "See what gift I have!"

          There was St. Paul who planted the seed, bringing huge numbers into the church. 

          He was the founding father; the church's first missionary.

          He also was the one who was very direct in his teaching, not beating around the bush.

*   But there was also Apollos, who had watered the seed, and brought many more into the church

          by his very dynamic and impressive preaching.

          He, in many people's opinion, had brought about even greater growth.

*   And so, what was supposed to be the divine service had nothing to do with feeding on God's

          Word and receiving the Savior's forgiveness.

          It was all about competing; being a part of that most impressive following.

 

And sadly, we often witness the same thing today, for today too people have lost sight of what the divine service is.

*   The service ought to be primarily the Lord's activity, where he serves us by giving us forgiveness

          of sins and eternal life.

*   The worshiper, on the other hand, is primarily passive during the service, receiving God's

          invaluable gifts, and from which we're able both to receive encouragement and build up the

          fellow believer.

*   What we're seeing in the church instead, however, is competition.

          Which church has the greatest performance?  

          Why it's those who have the Spirit; those who are most active and expressive in their faith!

*   Yes, there are many who prefer to remain passive. 

          But many are passive, not in the sense that they're receiving the benefits of God's Word and

          Sacraments. They're passive in their observing; as they watch the performance.

*   Consequently, it's not God who gives the growth by giving his forgiveness.

          You grow by being entertained, which is why the service has become so competitive.

*   Have you heard about today's seeker sensitive churches?

          They try to reach out to the unchurched by making the church experience, as they'll call it,

          as comfortable and inviting and non-threating as possible.

*   The goal is to get as many unsaved people through the door as possible. What you do is

          introduce theatrics and musical entertainment to keep the newcomer from getting bored.

*   You rely on state-of-the-art technology for lighting and sound.

          And you rarely mention anything about sin or hell or Jesus as the only way to heaven.[i]

*   Is it any surprise?  When growth is dependent upon being moved by someone else's performance;

          being entertained, then those involved are sure to become competitive.

 

Then again sometimes churches who retain the traditional service are just as susceptible to this competitive mentality.

*   One parishioner says to another, "I was more comfortable with our last pastor." 

          Perhaps the current pastor has a personal quirk of sorts and it's the parishioner's reason for

          not attending as much as they used to.

*   Or maybe it's become someone's excuse for not getting as much out of his preaching or

          teaching as he did with Pastor So-and-so.

*   Or let's say you have been very supportive of your last few pastors.

          What might you anticipate when the next pastor arrives?  Will you continue to defend and

          encourage him or will you be tempted to compare him to the last pastor and maybe diminish him?

 

You may be greatly relieved that every pastor is just as human as you are.

Growth occurs not when you do your thing, nor when your pastor does his thing.

III – God gives the growth by doing his thing; giving us life through his Word.

*   Consider the words of Moses in today's Old Testament reading. For those who love the Lord

          our God, who heed his voice and hold fast to him, "he is your life and length of days."

          We're faithful to God's Word and we may expect to live a long and blessed live.

*   Also, in the words of Paul: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." 

          Never was there any competition between the two.

          Paul planted the seed of the Word.  Apollos watered the sprouts Paul had sown.  The two had

          worked independently from each other but had a common goal; that Christ's church should grow.

*   But would either of them cause the growth?  Absolutely not.

           "So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."

*   Neither Paul or Apollos could do anything.

          They were merely God's instruments through whom God would work to call others to faith.

 

And our situation is no different today.

*   As Triune God begins the calling process, you're hopeful the next pastor will serve as a perfect

          match; having every strength and qualification needed for the years ahead.

*   Well, I'm no prophet.  But I'm certain of this.  When your next pastor arrives, it won't take

          any time before you determine how in some ways he's very different from your current pastor,

          and in other ways the two of us are very similar.

*   I can also predict the two greatest things he'll have in common with your current pastor;

          number one: he won't be perfect.  He'll be a sinner, who makes his share of mistakes.

*   But number two: he'll understand his role serving as the Lord's instrument.

          He will know that your growth and spiritual health does not depend upon his human efforts or

          qualifications.  All he can do is provide the conditions under which growth can take place.

*   All any pastor can ever do is preach the Gospel in its truth and purity and expect his Savior

          to work through that same Gospel.

 

That's right.  While I may not regard myself as anything, nor may any pastor do so, the one who is

everything; Christ Jesus our Lord, you've got working for you.

*   And he will give the growth.  And he'll do so in each and every one of you.

           "I am the vine; you are the branches" Jesus declares. "Whoever abides in me and I in him,

          he it is that bears much fruit.  Apart from me you can do nothing."

*   Those last words we may consider extremely humbling.

           "Apart from me you can do nothing."

   ++   You might envision yourself in emergency on life support.

          The surgery had its complications and for some time it was "touch and go."

*   However, you're expected to make a full recovery, assuming that you remain connected to

          life support for the time being.  You don't attempt to come back on your own, apart from

          that i.v. and that oxygen and so forth. / /

+        Apart from God's life support we can do nothing.  We may only abide in his Word.

*   When we, however, are connected to Christ and his Word we have every assurance that

          he will bless us and cause to grow.

*   For he is our life and length of days. 

          Having redeemed us with his blood; atoning for our sins and the sins of the whole world,

          he is sure to give us life where he's promised to give us life.

*   He'll do so right here in God's building, God's field, where he's given us his Gospel of

          forgiveness and his holy Sacraments.

*   You don't have to do your own thing.  You don't have to do your pastor's own thing.

          Let the Lord Jesus do his thing.

          Come to church.  Be passive in your worship, receiving his forgiveness in the Gospel,

          receiving his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine 

*   And Christ will cause your faith to grow and cause this congregation to grow in every

          single way that matters. / /

 

Your favorite food should offer you nourishment and growth.

It shouldn't be a fight trying to consume it.

*   And it certainly won't be when we eat what is healthy; what God has placed before us.

*   It's my great pleasure each Sunday to give out to you Christ's forgiveness, which is present in

          his Word and Sacraments.

*   It's both your pleasure and mine to receive the Lord's gifts.

*   And it's God pleasure to give the growth.   Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



[i] /www.gotquestions.org/seeker-sensitive-church.html.