Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Key verse: (3) “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received…”
Reflection: Listening to the group of pastors debriefing about the conference we had just conducted the conversation centered around love of the church. “People don’t seem to have the love of the church they once did,” said one colleague. Another friend added, “’If God is to be your father, the church must be your mother,’ that’s what Cyprian said. And Momma needs more love!” Listening to the conversation, I remember my theological alarms going off. “Aren’t we called to love Jesus, not the church?” I asked. To which a wise friend responded, “I’m not sure I know the difference.” I replied, “Say more about that.” “I wouldn’t know who Jesus is without the church,” he continued. “The church baptized me into Jesus, introduced me to Jesus through Sunday School and confirmation and mission trips and youth conferences. Without the church, I wouldn’t know Jesus. If it weren’t for Jesus, there wouldn’t be a church. So, I’m not sure how to separate them.”
As I reflected on his response, I realized the same was true for me. Though I didn’t grow up going to church like he did, (he’s a preacher’s kid) though I never went through confirmation or on any mission trips or youth conferences, it was through the church that I came to know Jesus in my early 20’s. It has been through the church that I have grown in relationship with him. Through the church, I have served him. Through the church, I have known his love. Over time, I have come to understand what my wise friend meant.
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received,” writes Paul to the church he founded in Corinth. He then recites an ancient confession of faith. Though Paul met Christ in an instant of revelation on that Damascus Road, the faith was given to him, and he has passed it on through the church. Who handed on to you the faith? How have you grown in relationship with Jesus through the ministry of the church? Sometimes the church can be hard to love, but would you know Jesus without the ministry of the church?
This Sunday we celebrate the gift of the church in worship. We give thanks to God for working through the generosity of so many who sacrificially give of their time, talent and treasure to enable our church to spread the gospel of God’s love in word and deed. This Sunday, we show our love for Jesus, through our financial commitments given in love to the church.
I can’t imagine one without the other. I can’t imagine life without them both.
Prayer: Thank you for your love, O God, that I have come to know in Christ Jesus. Thank you for the church, that brings me into communion with Christ and with my sisters and brothers on the journey of faith. Bless us as we live into your calling to be the body of Christ in and for this broken and hurting world, joining your ministry of justice, mercy, and love. Through Christ, with Christ, in the unity and power of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours, Almighty God, this day and forevermore. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].