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What changes lives? The Spirit's power!

July 23, 2022
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Daily Scripture

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. 2 I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. 3 I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. 4 My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. 5 I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

(We apologize. Yesterday a technical glitch kept a link to a short tool for spiritual gifts discovery we use at The Church of the Resurrection from working if you receive the GPS as an e-mail. Click here for a working version of that link.)

Corinth was a wealthy seaport city infamous for its immorality (which took some doing in the Roman Empire!). Preaching Jesus there, and preaching him “as crucified,” must have been scary. Scholar N. T. Wright showed the difficulty: “Imagine finding yourself standing up to speak…and having nothing to say except some stammering words about a strange thing that happened a few years ago which you know sounds crazy but which you happen to think contains the secret to everything….Crucifixion was regarded in the ancient world as so horrible, so revolting, so degrading that you didn’t mention it in polite society. Imagine someone at a fashionable dinner-party going on loudly about how he’d seen rats eating the body of a dead dog in the street; that’s the kind of impression you’d make by standing up in public and talking about someone being crucified….But Paul believed, and the newfound faith and life of the Corinthian Christians bore this out, that this was the clue to the mystery of life.” *

  • The apostle Paul was well-educated (cf. Acts 22:3). He knew the culture and ideas of the Greco-Roman cities he preached in, well enough to quote their writers (cf. Acts 17:28, Titus 1:12). But he also knew that many of them found his message absurd (Acts 17:32). He didn’t rely on catchy slogans or glib marketing, but on the power of the Holy Spirit—and it worked. In Corinth (of all places) the Spirit worked through him to produce vibrant, growing groups of Christ-followers. They had lots of growing and learning to do (read 1 and 2 Corinthians if you doubt it). But Paul trusted the Spirit to stay at work in their hearts and lives during that whole process (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11, 19, 2 Corinthians 13:13). How is the Holy Spirit’s power shaping your faith and growth in Christ? How have you learned to trust the Spirit’s power as you seek to share that faith with others?
Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit! Do the wonderful, mysterious work of the kingdom through me, teaching me how to rely on your power to reach beyond anything I could do on my own. Amen.

GPS Insights

Justin Schoolcraft

Justin Schoolcraft

Justin is a Provisional Deacon in the United Methodist Church and serves at the Leawood location. In his work with small groups and young adults, his passion is creating a culture of community where everybody feels like they can belong.

(Pastor Justin Schoolcraft first wrote this blog about 1 Corinthians 2 for us in June of 2020.)

It’s easy to talk about the weather. We enter a room with a stranger or acquaintance, and, not quite knowing how to speak to them, we say, “Man, it’s been hot here recently.” They say, “Yeah. I’m ready for fall.” It’s easy to talk about the weather.

It’s harder to talk about the big things. I had a professor who challenged my class to write and speak only from a place of “bedrock,” that core of your soul that contains the most painful experiences of your life, the deepest joys, and the rooted passions that make you tick. The problem for all of us is that those pieces of our lives feel as vulnerable as an egg on a spoon. When we unearth those breakable pieces from our bedrock and hand them to another person, we are ridden with fear. “What if they drop it?” Splat! “What if they laugh at it and toss it over their shoulder?” Crunch! “What if they throw it back at us out of scorn?” Ouch! We tend to keep those things tucked away, afraid to speak them. It’s easier to talk about the weather.

But maybe we need to talk about the big things. In the novel Old Friends, Tracy Kidder tells of a man in a nursing home who obsessed about how his wife always asked him, “Why don’t you tell me you love me more?” And he would say, “That’s not my way. I prefer to show it.” Now his wife had died and he was left wondering why he never said those important words. Why leave them tucked away? Why not just say it?

Imagine how hard it is talking about the biggest thing of all-–God, and what God has done for us. It cuts to the very center of our soul. In our reading today from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul reminds the church in Corinth about his first visit to their city. “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.” Can you picture St. Paul-–the greatest missionary of all time, trembling before his audience, stammering as he speaks? Talking about God cuts right to the most vulnerable parts of our souls. It’s a scary endeavor.

But notice two things. First, Paul says his message was not delivered with wisdom or eloquence. He relied instead on the Spirit’s power at work through his words, so that no one listening would give Paul the credit. Second, and most important, the content of his message was the testimony of God. Paul’s “bedrock” was not just his personal, vulnerable story: his bedrock was God’s story at work in him. The breakable pieces of his life were blanketed by God’s unbreakable power. In other words, God’s story strengthened Paul’s vulnerability so that Paul could freely proclaim what God had done in his life, even though that proclamation felt vulnerable and fearful.

We tend to think that those vulnerable pieces in our bedrock are as breakable as eggs on a spoon. We tuck them away and rob the world of our words. Paul is telling you today that if God’s story is a part of your story, whenever you speak those transforming parts of your life into the open, those in your hearing will not hear you, but the world-altering power of the Holy Spirit.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about the weather…I do it all the time. It’s natural to stay guarded and protect the most vulnerable parts of your life. But you can change the world if you speak your bedrock. Because if you are living in the power of the Holy Spirit, your bedrock is not breakable. It is Christ the Solid Rock on which you stand; all other ground is sinking sand. It’s deep, it’s personal, and you may tremble like Paul. But Paul, in his trembling, changed the world.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 21-23). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.