Lectionary Year B
July 2, 2000
II Corinthians 8:7-15

Step VI: 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 Jerusalem. 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 world.

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.

| Return to gospel listings | Return to epistle listings |
| Return to Old Testament listings | Return to Psalm listings |
| User response form |