Today’s reading was a single verse:
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
What is striking about this verse is that Paul’s vision of how the church should operate is so contrary to our modern expectations. In his version, people come to contribute, and not just in time and money. They come with the expectation that God might give them something that could be helpful for the spiritual life of another, whether that is a song, encouraging word, or a revelation.
How different than many of our modern church services which are like a show. We come, we sit, we watch , but rarely do we see it as an opportunity to bless a brother or sister, to encourage one who is struggling, to hug the lonely, rejoice with those who rejoice or weep with those who weep. Our role is passive. We are consumers of a church service rather than creators. Paul’s problem is not getting people to understand this, but rather controlling them in their enthusiasm so that some semblance of order is maintained.
I think this “lack of contribution” mentality has also led to the nonsense of the non church attender who claims he can find God in nature, or at the beach, or listening to music, or reading a good book. Indeed God can speak through these things, but how selfish. How selfish to think that this is just about me and God.
When we become a Christian, we are brought into a family. The New Testament describes us as brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. There is a familial relationship with a duty of care, and we cannot practice that alone. It requires community. It requires life together. A selfish spirituality has no room for it, and is the poorer as a result.
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