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Line by Line the Preacher Preaches

Line by Line the Preacher Preaches November 23, 2015

It appears to be snowing and also, I’m petty sure I need to haul three children off to the dentist post haste. Why did I think 8:50 would be an ok time for a dentist appointment? 8:50 is when I should be still lying around in bed catching up on the Internet. It was that sort of weekend.

Yesterday we had the final installment of I Corinthians. We started this book the first Sunday of July 2014 in an innocent way. What book would be fun, we asked ourselves as a church. We’ve done Jonah and Mark and Colossians and II Thessalonians. Corinthians could be cool. The innocent and unknowing and lacking in wisdom chatting merrily away about the bible like it is a pleasant and digestible piece of cake.

Here, on the other side, I don’t think any of us, least of all Matt, would use the words ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ to describe this book. It’s been a hard slog. Some weeks it seemed Matt was gripping the pulpit in sheer desperation, his knuckles white, his knees bent, there should have been a crash helmet on his head.

The thing I learned chiefly through I Corinthians is how dangerous and unmanageable the scriptures are. The primary characteristic of humanity is that we want a reasonable God who will do what we say, wow us a little here and there, and then mainly stay sitting in the corner, ready when we call for a good parking space or a comfortable pair of shoes. Sometimes we brashly decide that God wants some kind of sacrificial act to be appeased for some kind of anger and we add some clever and pretty work to the picture–some prayer flags, or a walk around a mountain, a pilgrimage, something to make ourselves know how serious we are.

But we’re not serious about God. We are serious about ourselves only. It is our primordial state.

The Christian who walks up to a text like I Corinthians without warnings and handrails is liable to fall into exhaustion and despair. God is very real. And he doesn’t sit in a corner. And he doesn’t need our excuses and our troubles, but he takes them anyway, and cuts all the black, infected, ugliness of sin away, because, and this is the strangest part of all, he loves us. He did it to the congregation through the preaching of this book. He did it to me sitting quietly in my pew.

Yesterday I was cut to the heart over my selfishness, my pride, my giving up at the end of the day and making excuses for myself. And then, because Matt probably has whooping cough or something awful and Jerry, the assistant was sick, I had to wobble up at communion and hand out the bread, blubbering up and down the line.

The words that I wanted to say, as I mumbled “the body of Christ which is broken for you” or whatever it was that came out of my mouth, were ‘what is man that you are mindful of him?’ What is he? What am I? I am oriented entirely towards myself. I consider myself first in all things. And I am not alone. The Corinthian congregation is the archetype of me, of the world. It should be sent to the fire, o somewhere. Instead God gave Paul and his mind and pen and the Holy Spirit.

I’m so grateful for the work Matt did through this book. His discouragement and sorrow over the church, his perseverance day by day, Sunday by Sunday, his commitment to the text, to the church, and most of all to Jesus, to know what God is saying in the words on the page, all of it I’m so grateful for.

So, where should we go next? Hebrews? Then we could get through the old and new testaments in one shot! That sounds fun.


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