Daily Devotion for July 29, 2012
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Our offeratory anthem for this Sunday is Bach's most famous organ fugue, the Little Fugue in G Minor.
Prayer for Purity of Worship
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you and worthily praise your holy name. Through Christ I pray,
Prayer for Deliverance
Dear Lord, grant me, I beseech you, your divine helping grace. Endow me with patience and strength to endure my tribulations with complete submission to your will. You know my misery and suffering. I flee to you, my only hope and refuge, for relief and comfort, trusting to your infinite love and compassion; that in due time, you will deliver me from all the trials of this life and turn my distress into comfort. I rejoice in your mercy. I exalt and praise your holy name, oh Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: now and forever.
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.
~ Maya Angelou
1 Corinthians 4:8-14 (ESV)
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.
We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
Notes on the Scripture
When we read this passage, in which Paul gets a little carried away, it is important to remember what Paul is arguing for. It sounds like he is doing what he just warned the reader not to do — boasting about how abased he is, in God's service.
I cannot resist an old Jewish joke about this: during a Sabbath service a rabbi is seized by a sudden wave of guilt, prostrates himself and cries out, “God, before you I am nothing!”
The cantor is so moved by this demonstration of piety that he throws himself to the floor beside the rabbi and cries, “God, before you I am nothing!” Watching this scene unfold from his seat in the first row, the synagogue's janitor runs up, flops down in the aisle and cries, “God, before you I am nothing!”
The rabbi nudges the cantor and whispers, “So look who thinks he’s nothing!”
Anyway, if it sounds like Paul is boasting about his piety, he is. There's no way to read this other than Paul is offering himself (and others like him) as an example, to contrast against the behavior of the Christians in Corinth. But he says he does not do it to shame them, but to admonish them, and we must believe in his sincerity.
At several points, lines of right and wrong behavior are difficult to draw from the New Testament. The line between boasting about one's own actions and using one's life as an example of piety is, at best, thought provoking.
Similarly, the line between refusing to judge others and admonishing a brother or sister who has fallen into clear sin, and the line between a duty of forgiving others and suggestions that sinners be excluded from the company of Christians, are difficult to follow in the New Testament. It is a challenge, sometimes, not to find them confusing or even contradictory. We will study these problems more in the next few chapters.
But who are we to criticize Paul, if he offers himself as an example of a person who is reviled and persecuted for Christ? He is not in Corinth, where he might simply lead by silent example. He feels he must convey, to the wayward church such a long way off, that there are people who practice what they preach. If we feel feel critical of him, while sitting in our comfortable residence with breakfast in our stomachs, let us look to the beam in our own eye.