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Time to Grow Up!

February 16, 2014

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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany                                       Trinity Lutheran Church

16 February 2014                                                                      Murdock, NE

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Quit acting like little babies!

I didn’t say it!    Pastor Paul did!  “Brethren,” he says, “it’s time to grow up and quick acting like a bunch a little babies.  There is a time to be infants. To breastfeed and stay away from solid foods.  But you can’t be infants forever.  Eventually you need to grow up!  To be mature!  To be adults!  Time to stop being so worldly and be more spiritual.”

That really hurts Paul!  We’re not little babies!  We’re as spiritual as it gets!  In fact, we more spiritual than anyone around!  There’s no one more religious than we!

“Oh really?” Paul asks.  “Then what’s with all the jealousy and quarreling in the congregation?  Hmm?  Why the divisions?  Why the cliques?  Why the hurt?  The fighting?  The dirty looks?  The backbiting?  Badmouthing?  That’s not very spiritual!  In fact, that’s all in the way of being sinners!  Being sons and daughters of Adam and Eve!  Living for the self!  Looking out for number one.  The worship of the self!  That’s all in the way of death!”

Oh come on Paul!  Really!  That’s just going way to far!  Good grief, we’re not like that.  We’re not that bad!  Sure we have a few disagreements once in a while.  But jealousy?  Divisions?  Idolatry?  Death?  Now who’s being a big baby?  So be warned Paul!  You keep this up Paul and we may just have to … well … you know what we mean.  You’ve been warned.

Pastor Paul is not intimidated.  He doesn’t give up.  He will continue to provide the highest of pastoral care.  “Yes, you are big babies.  If the shoe fits, wear it!  You play favorites and divide the congregation.  You faint and swoon over certain preachers as if they’re celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Paul McCartney, or Justin Timberlake!”

 

St. Paul had been hearing the reports from Chloe’s clan.  And they were very troubling.  “Apollos:   he’s a much better preacher than Paul.  Apollos is dynamic.  Paul is boring!  Apollos dresses for success! Paul is a slob!  We can listen to Apollos all day but not to Paul!  Apollos will grow the church!  Paul will destroy it!  We won’t be able to pay the bills if we let Paul hang around in the pulpit much longer!”

 

The Paul crowd fights back:  “We belong to Pastor Paul!  Oh sure, his preaching style needs a little help but at least Paul knew the difference between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus!  Apollos didn’t have a clue on that one!  Apollos is just a show off!” 

There were other factions too.  In chapter one (1:12) Paul had heard about those in the congregation that pushed Pastor Peter as the best.  “Pastor Peter, he’s so passionate!  So authoritative!  He’ll soon have a cathedral in Rome with his name on it, you know!  And have you seen his ring?  Makes us just want to kiss it!  Peter’s going places!  You can either follow or get left behind!”

How do you beat that?  Well you pull out biggest trump card from your sleeve! The knock out blow!  And many did.  Here’s what they said:  “We follow Pastor … Jesus!  We’ll only listen to Him!  Not Peter, Paul, or Apollos!”  Who could argue with a clincher like that?

How mature!  Pitting pastor against pastor!  Teacher against teacher!  Causing needless strife, scandal, and splits in the church!  Sounds like people acting like little … immature … kids!  Too much attention on the person of the preacher!  Way too concerned with the man – his style – his gifts – his talents – his wisdom or lack thereof!  Way too absorbed with the man!  As if the survival and growth of the church are entirely up to the pastor!  And so the congregation takes sides.  The church is divided.  The church is not edified.  The church is not built up.

So we get some more pastoral care.  “What is Apollos?  What is Paul?”  Notice:  not “who” question but “what” question!  What are pastors?  And the answer:  “Servants!”  Big word there!  “Servants – that’s the what of a pastor!  Not lords!  Servants!”

“Servants through whom you came to believe in Jesus.” 

Pastor Paul, Pastor Peter, Pastor Apollos, Pastor Boerger, Pastor Bereuter, Pastor Kuhlman (and in my life Pastors Bundschuh and Simonson) – all sent by the Lord Jesus Himself to serve the church with Christ’s Word.  Why?  So that you and I, through Christ’s Holy Spirit filled Word, come to faith in Jesus.  Trust only in Jesus.  For salvation.  Now and always!

We are not given to play favorites with the pastors!  We are NOT given to believe in them!  Only Jesus the Savior of whom they preach!  Jesus gave Paul the task of planting the seed of the Word.  Apollos was given the task to water the seed of the Gospel that Paul planted.  Planting and watering!  Both serve a common goal.  The edification of the church.  The building up of the church.  And that’s faith in Jesus! 

So Paul says one of the most troubling and yet most comforting statements in the New Testament:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it BUT GOD MADE IT GROW!”  God gives the growth in the church!  Did you hear that?  Seriously!  Are you listening?

Here’s where it’s really time to grow up!  To be adults.  To be mature. To repent.  To be Christian..  To die to our sin and believe that GOD GIVES THE GROWTH!  We don’t!  The pastors don’t!

This is such an important point that Paul says it twice:  “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

 

Church growth is in God’s hands.  We are not in control of that!  God is.  Big babies want control.  Immature children would take away the growth of the church from God and give it to men!  “If ony we had the right pastor!  If only we …” and then proceed to take matters into our own hands.  Mature adults leave the growth of the church to God.  In His time.  According to His way.

So we’d better hear it again. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  God grows the church!  He sends pastors with different kinds of gifts.  Pastors come.  And pastors go.  Some plant.  Some water.  They are simply and only servants — of Christ and His church.  In and of themselves pastors are nothing — nobodies.  Don’t pay attention to their person.  Close your eyes and listen.  For as they preach and teach God’s Word faithfully they are “God’s fellow workers” in God’s “field, God’s building,” the church!

So, for all our playing favorites, for all our divisiveness, for all of our anger, for all of our bitter words, for calling our brothers and sisters in Christ “fools,” for holding them in contempt, for all our trying to control the growth of the church by being little gods in the congregation, Jesus, the faithful Shepherd of the sheep has died.

In His Body He has taken all our sin.  He’s answered for it.  And His pastoral Word to you is this:  “Listen up.  I’m going to plant a huge Word right in the midst of you!  I’m going to water it.  And it will bear huge fruit in your life together here at Trinity.  It’s good news!  The greatest news!  And I send my servants to proclaim it to you.  This is what I want to plant in your ears and hearts.  Are you ready?  …. Here goes!  You are forgiven.  Of everything!  You are a new creation.  Take and eat.  My Body and My Blood given and shed into death on the cross just for you!”  “

 

And the church’s growth?  I’ll see to that too.” Jesus promises. 

No need to panic!  It’s all good with Jesus!

In the Name of Jesus.              

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