Monday, July 2Scripture Reading—II Corinthians 8:16-24
This passage picks up the theme from Friday’s reading about Paul’s efforts to collect funds from the Christians in Corinth (and elsewhere) for the struggling Christians in Jerusalem. I’m grateful that Paul wrote about these fund-raising efforts so candidly. Sometimes, many of us involved in the everyday life of the church, whether as pastors or as committed laity, become weary with the mechanics, the nuts and bolts of church life. We can all become quite critical of the seemingly inordinate amount of time we spend on the mundane tasks required to keep a church going—meetings, recruiting and training leaders, cleaning, maintaining, and repairing aging facilities, scheduling people to be ushers, greeters, and acolytes, and on top of all these things, trying to raise and manage the money needed to make it all possible. Many of us would prefer to focus our efforts on more noble tasks like prayer and meditation, study and discussion of Scripture and theology, developing beautiful and moving services of worship, reaching out to people in need, offering compassion to people in times of loss and sorrow, sharing our faith so that those who’ve never heard the good news can respond to it. But the two things are related—the mission to which we’re called and the sometimes messy and laborious tasks that make the mission possible. Here we see that Paul, the great apostle who had developed a profound theology of God’s grace and mercy for Gentile as well as Jew, is not above worrying about doing the little things necessary to make the mission of the church possible. He writes letters pleading for support. He develops a system for sharing the need. He recruits and trains leaders (Titus and others) who can go and ask for money, collect it, and then distribute it. In all of this, Paul keeps his focus on the greater purpose these intensely practical matters are intended to serve. All these are “ . . . for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill.” (vs. 19) The next time you’re asked to make a contribution, serve on a committee, assist the church in planning, or raising funds, I hope you (and I) can remember that though many of these tasks can be tedious, and though we can always strive to find simpler and more efficient ways to do such work, such things are necessary if we are to faithfully make God’s love known in our time and place!
Thought for the day: Though often tedious, faithfulness to Christ’s mission calls us to roll up our sleeves and do the small, often unseen, things that make that mission possible.
Prayer: O God, whenever we gather to work on the tedious matters involved in being the institutional church, you are with us even there. And help us always to keep in view the way our faithfulness in these smaller things enables us to be faithful to the larger things—the mission you’ve given us to proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. Amen.