Lectionary Year B
July 2, 2000
II Corinthians 8:7-15
Step VI: Contemporary Address
(GG) C. CONTEMPORARY ADDRESS
[DH - redundancies between steps V and VI?]
Complete Your Work
The first 7 chapters of 2 Corinthians carries on Paul's side of the discussion
that is going on with the church. The crisis has passed and Paul
mingled his theology in a retelling of the events as he experienced
them. His challenge for them to unite in a work of grace begins at
Chapter 8 and continues through the end of the letter at the conclusion of
chapter 9. The early portion of chapter 8 is the introduction of the
exhortation to generous giving in the Lord's service.
This church had experienced a severe rupture in its unity. The split
has required time and energy to process. Some sense of unity has been
restored, and what is the first thing that Paul addresses after the
fight? AN OFFERING! He is seeking special gifts for the church in
As he begins, Paul calls to mind the wonderful work of grace among these
Christians in days past. Just as you have excelled in faith, in speech,
in knowledge, in sincerity, and in your love for us, excel in this work
of grace also.
The readiness and eagerness of the Corinthian Christians are recalled.
You were first with a desire to assist the saints. Now let your actions
reflect your desires. Let your deeds catch up with your words!
I do not speak these words as a COMMAND, indeed, what command is
needed when you have the example of Jesus Christ before you? The
central appeal is to the example of Christ.
Remember the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, remember the self-giving
of our grace-filled God!! Christ was willing to leave his splendor
behind and to chose our poverty so that we, the impoverished ones, might
know his riches. What are these riches? To know God! To be in
communion with the Divine Master of all things. It is no easy thing to
teach or demonstrate or live. This great gift of knowing the one true
God is given IN time FOR eternity! And Christ was willing to endure the
greatest suffering that we might see the power of God more clearly.
You have expressed a desire to participate in this grace, now, let
your deeds catch up with your words. Our Lord reminded us that the
"spirit is willing, but the flesh is week." It is much easier to say, I
want to make a contribution than it is to make a contribution.
It is not by command that we are required to give, it is by love that
we are urged to give for the glory of God.
The example of the Pennsylvania Church on NPR. Giving out $10,000
returned $62,000. The parable of the Talents -- that church needed a
parable. The parable came alive in their fellowship.
Nevertheless, a gift begins with a desire. That is an important part of
the package. Is there a desire to participate in God's work of grace?
Have we looked at the example of our Lord and been moved by it? Is our
faith in God so great that we look upon our earthly lives as rapidly
passing part of the journey? Is there a desire to be a part of
something larger? Something Divine?
That desire is important, but then it is important to follow desire
with action, to honor good intention with performance. It is time to
Complete the Work!
Back up your words with deeds! The confluence of words and deeds is
sometimes called integrity. Paul urges the church (and who is the
church?) to let their integrity find expression in this act of grace.
Where are our words? Some are found in our pledges of support. Also in
the question put to every member: Do you promise to support and
participate in the work and worship of the church to the best of your
ability? I do. This is my solemn vow before God. Yet there things
that keep us from supporting and participating to the best of our
abilities. The grace of God abounds in us, but grace could overflow in
great thanksgiving to God!
The gift has a purpose, to meet a need, to nourish the body of Christ,
to enable the Body of Christ to do its ministry in the world.
The Body of Christ still has the mission of revealing Christ to the
What is the work of grace that God has given us? We have been invited
to participate in a "work of grace." Is it giving? We are in need of
giving to the Lord's work.
The great work of grace to which we have been called is reconciliation.
How do you get over hard feelings and recover the love of Christ? That
is the challenge in a marriage, the C & M story [DH - what is C & M?]. It is the
challenge in a church.
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