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05.02.2021 Building the Church Together 1 Corinthians 3.1-15 Sermon Summary

by on May 4, 2021

The Apostle Paul was a celebrity and he was also controversial. He had his critics. He had his competitors. So it’s no wonder some people attached their egos to him. They boasted about their relationship with him. They looked down on others.

Wrongly attached egos is a sign of immaturity. We were created to grow increasingly attached to God, not anything else. God did not call the church to immaturity, and the church at Corinth, with their wrongly attached egos, was immature. Paul’s response to this situation shows us how to build the church together.

The Corinthians were blessed with leadership; Paul and Apollos in particular. Paul appears to have planted the church. Apollos was an early pastor. Paul was the kind of leader who saw leadership potential in everyone. In dealing with the boasting around himself and Apollos he wrote, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.”

Some leaders mold others in their likeness, and some people want to be molded. But for Paul, everyone has an assignment. 

Some leaders project that they can step in for anyone else, and some people believe this about leaders. For example, people say, “Call the pastor, she’ll know where the new toner cartridge is.” But for Paul, everyone has an assignment.

Some leaders seek all the credit or take all the blame for their organizations. And some people go along with this. But for Paul, everyone has an assignment.

Paul compares the church to a field. There are many with assignments in a fruitful field. Someone prepares the ground, there is a sower, someone who waters, someone who weeds. There are people who harvest and others who transport to market. There are sellers. Everyone has an assignment.

Paul also compares the church to a building. Here again, there are many assignments. Someone prospected the location for the building. Someone dug the foundation. Another laid the foundation, and others build upon it with various materials. The building is sold by someone. Everyone has an assignment.

Paul writes that, “Each person must choose how to build.” He recognizes the responsibility we all have in and for the church. He calls us to stewardship. He calls us to build the church together. How are you choosing to build?

It’s Important because “the Day” reveals our choices. Paul refers to a “Day of judgment.” He’s got in mind a “final judgment” at the end of time—a cosmic, heavenly ordeal. But that didn’t happen as soon as Paul thought, and now we look back after 2000 years and see that “the Day” is a series of ordinary, this worldly trials.

The past fourteen months has been our “Day.” And what our Day has revealed is that at Faith Presbyterian Church we have a staff of builders.

A church can have maintainers or builders. Maintainers keep us someone else’s achievements; builders bring their own achievements. Maintainers repeat what has been done in the past; builders respond to present realities. Maintainers view change with skepticism; builders look for opportunities in change. Maintainers are guided primarily by the past; builders primarily by the future. 

Maintainers dread the Day; builders prepare for the Day. Maintainers are thankful to be alive when the Day is over; builders are thankful to learn what the Day reveals and to start building again.

Our Day of pandemic has revealed that we have builders on our staff. And I’d like to introduce you to them.

Jim is our custodian. During this Day he has found things to clean, paint, repair, move, and attend to that ordinarily he’s too busy to do. He has prepared our building for another day, one when we can return it to full use and capacity. He has been helped by Lloyd, Mary, Helen, Bob and several other volunteers. 

Carol is our music director. She has found musical pieces for instrumentalists and rearranged vocal pieces for smaller choirs. And she has become an amateur record producer so we can enjoy the gift of music during remote and hybrid worship. She has been helped by Charles, Linda, and our deep pool of musicians.

Kari is our bookkeeper. She has spent the Day “journaling” which means moving money from Peter’s line in our budget to pay Paul’s expenses, because things we thought we were going to pay for we haven’t, and things we could never have predicted now require our attention. Kari was instrumental in securing our payroll protection loan, and her management of our online giving has grown exponentially. She has been helped by Tom.

Carolyn and Britton are the leaders of our ministries to families with children and youth. They each bring decades of experience from camps and congregations. We hired them during the Day of pandemic, and with faith and courage they said yes and began building online and hybrid children and youth ministry from scratch. They have been helped by Julie, Cathy, Jan, Mary, and many parents.

Liz was also hired during the Day. She is unknown to most because she accompanies our musicians on the piano from another room or at another time and is recorded. For musicians to offer their gifts in worship with no congregation present is a huge adjustment. Yet week in and week out, with little to no personal relationship with us (yet), Liz gets help from our singers and instrumentalists to bring us music.

In 2000 Mazda Car Company launched a new marketing campaign. It was so successful they didn’t retire it until 2015. It was based on a boy named Micah Kanters who is now a thirty-one year old lawyer. With Mazda cars flashing across the screen, Micah whispered, “Zoom, zoom.” I want to introduce you to honorably retired Presbyterian Minister “Zoom, Zoom” Susan. She is our own Micah Kanters. Susan has moved many meetings and small groups for our church and presbytery online to Zoom. She has been helped by Dave and our small group leaders.

Barb is our primary pastoral visitor for people in homes and hospitals. During the Day she has moved her care from in house to on phone. And her flock has grown as we have welcomed more people to the church resulting from online worship. When they feel safe to have her do so, Barb brings Communion to these remote saints. 

And finally there is Amy, who during the Day has turned business as usual into starting a new business. We moved from printed bulletins to worship aids and slides. She has had to balance managing online school for her child and in office presence for our congregation. She has turned from supervising building use to monitoring virus precautions. We’ve moved from Word to Docs, she works on both PC and Mac, she has begun tracking new data, and continuously tests new online meeting platforms. Amy has been helped by Cathy and Connor, Dee, Cassie, Linda, Charles, Dan, and Nathan.

These are our church staff with just some of their volunteers. As Paul described, they each have their own assignment. But they are more than merely a church staff. They are builders. Their work is surviving the Day. Faith Church is surviving the Day. Yes, some things are burning away and we grieve their loss. At the same time, new things are being built. And this is thanks to the staff, our volunteers, and all our church leaders.

Recently the Personnel Committee performed a compensation review. They discovered that most of our paid staff are at or above average salary compared to churches similar to Faith. In my opinion, they all should be significantly higher than average, for all of them are better than average.

Average is for maintainers. We have builders. Average churches have already begun to close and are not likely to survive another Day of judgment.

I give thanks to the Session for ordering this review and recognizing that our staff deserves more. And I am grateful to the Renewal Committee for urging this Staff Appreciation day upon us. 

Our staff of builders is above average, and so is our church, and to remain so it depends on them.

But it also depends on you. We can’t be more than average without exceptional volunteers. We can’t be more than average without encouragement. We can’t be more than average without financial support. We can’t be more than average without prayers of thanks. Those variables depend on you.

That for which we are not grateful, we take for granted. And what the Eucharist teaches us is that God responds to gratitude with blessing. At the Table God blesses gratitude with presence, with intimacy, and with grace. Things we take for granted? They see God withdraw. Walk in nature and take it for granted? You won’t see God revealed there.

May we be a grateful congregation, serving alongside our staff, encouraging them, financially supporting them, and giving thanks to God for them. And may God bless our building the church together, each with our own assignment, and with Christ as our foundation. Amen.

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