Paul comes today grateful for the call of Christ to share Christ without expectation of reward or accolades for his efforts.
The reward for Paul is the reward of knowing he is the bearer of the greatest gift humankind has ever seen.
It’s kind of like a Super Santa Claus imparting gifts all over the world to eager children hoping they were good enough to get a bounty of gifts.
With Paul, though, his receivers knew they were not good enough but Jesus showers His grace upon them all, and Paul gets to see forgiven sinners rejoice at their salvation.
Today we begin our new member information class, Godconnects. I am reminded of a similar attitude found in our partners in ministry the Lutheran Layman’s League and more specifically the Lutheran Hour.
With no charge whatsoever they have produced high level videos, power point presentations and online evangelism courses to help share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and train anyone for witness.
What amazes me is their commitment to give these away to anyone that wants them for free.
Likewise we as well move out into our community to spread the free forgiveness of Christ to patron school families, partner community clubs and unchurched friends and family.
You can understand Paul’s enthusiasm today if you ever got to tell a sinner that Christ forgave them and you just can’t wait to find another sinner so Christ can make them a saint.
You also, like Paul, may have found your horizons expanding just a little bit as you keep finding those sinners who are desperately in search of a savior.
When Marcy Micah and I first arrived in Florida for our first call 18 years ago…we were a little confused as to where the church was.
They had an Orange Park mailing address, and we drove all up and down Kingsley Ave and were unable to locate it where the address said they were.
After a quick call to the head elders we discovered that was a PO Box address and the actual church building was 5 miles south in another town altogether called Middleburg.
Now we didn’t think much of it at the time, but realized soon after nothing in the bulletin, newsletter or even the yellow pages indicated the actual physical address of the church building.
When we inquired as to why that was the case; they indicated that Middleburg had a negative reputation in Jacksonville and they wanted people to think they were actually in Orange Park, thus the reason for the PO Box smoke and mirrors ruse.
Well the church had been limping along that way for almost 20 years and we were actually their last ditch effort to save the church or shut the doors for good.
No pastor with a brain would take the call and I, being fresh out of seminary, didn’t know any better.
In fact it was so tight financially they never knew for sure if they could pay me each week. And even though they never failed to pay me, they always warned me every pay period the check might not be in the mail.
So we set about to find every cut we could in the budget to stay balanced and not over expend our income.
One of the first logical cuts was the PO Box rental in Orange Park. The Post office would deliver to the church for free, so we cancelled that almost immediately the first year I arrived.
We changed our bulletin, newsletters and Yellow Page ad to reflect the new Middleburg address; fully anticipating it would probably turn off anyone potentially visiting from Orange Park or the Westside of JAX.
What we never anticipated is what actually happened next.
All of a sudden people started showing up every week and more than half of the people who visited joined the church. We went from about 80 people in worship to over 250 in just a few years.
Upon further reflection we were able to determine just why this happened so quickly after 20 years of otherwise stagnant growth.
First of all it was NOT because we were good evangelists, quite the opposite; we did little to nothing outside church worship on Sunday.
No door to door visits, no mass mailings, no community outreach fairs…and yet the people kept streaming in.
What we actually did was by accident and certainly unintentional by everyone concerned.
We became, Not all things to all people like Paul says in our epistle lesson today, but just one thing in particular, to one community in particular.
What we never realized we were doing, in our own backwards self -serving way, was we were making ourselves one with Middleburg, by simply admitting on paper, were are in Middleburg.
Gone were the days of people driving up and down Kingsley Ave in Orange Park looking for a church was not actually there.
You no longer heard the derisive comments about Middleburg in the pews, because we recognized this was our town too!
And people from all walks of life and mostly residents of Middleburg felt truly welcomed for the first time in 20 years.
People starved for a church preaching the forgiveness of Christ rather than the wrath of God.
People transfixed by a Jesus who loved them so much he died on the Cross to save them from eternal damnation, rather than a Jesus damning them to hell for having an occasional beer.
Now this is not to say, in the Spirit of Kevin Costner’s movie Field of Dreams, “BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME”. That’s just bragging, and truth be told none of us were that smart.
No it was truly in the spirit of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians U.T.I.O.T.H.S.
“We became all things to all people that by all means we might save some!”
When God wants it done, He’s gonna make you do it, of that we can be sure.
So God will get it done and we can just be prepared to do the DOING!
Like; making sure we are spiritually fit in the gifts of God’s kingdom!
Loving and serving all the articulated and sacramental Word of God and presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
We can demonstrate self-control for Christ’s sake so sinners will want Christ in control of their eternal salvation.
Under the power of the Holy Spirit, we can run our lives by the purpose for which God sent us forth; not as our secret society where we keep these Words of wisdom to ourselves, but teaching them to our children, sharing salvation with sinners and strengthening the Saints through Prayer and Devotion to God’s Word.
Submitting ourselves to Christ in every way possible, we can rejoice in His lordship over us.
God’s gonna do it anyways, whatever we do, let’s not miss it!