2021-12-12 - 3. Advent - Prädikantin Renate Switala

( 1 Corinthians 4, 1-5 ) - [ Deutsch ] - [ Abkündigungen393.24 KB ]


Who am I actually as a Christian? A Child of God, a brother / sister of Jesus, a disciple, a follower, a pioneer./.trailblazer, a friend / girlfriend of Jesus ...? All of these are correct and possible answers.
The theme of the third Sunday of Advent is John the Baptist, son of the priest Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth. In the gospel reading earlier, we heard from Zacharias how he praised and thanked God. He also says that we can live in God's presence without fear and serve him all our lives as people who belong to him and do his will. And to John he said: You, my son, will be called a prophet. You will go before the Lord and pave the way for him.
John feels that he has been sent as a pioneer for the righteous and helper to come, "who brings salvation and life with him".

Zacharias says we are servants of God and John adds one more thing, we are also pioneers / trailblazers.
I would like to give a brief history of the sermon text before I read the actual text.

The church in Corinth was founded by Paul around 50 AD. After about 1.5 years, Paul leaves the church. The second phase of this church planting is then shaped by Apollos. This Jewish Christian then continues to shape the young church, but sets different priorities than Paul did. Nevertheless, Paul does not see him as a competitor, but as a valuable collaborator in the kingdom of God.

In the congregation, these two very different types resulted in groups being formed: those who were more likely to stick with Paul, the others who were more likely to think Apollos was great. Against these disputes in the Corinthian church Paul talks about in the chapter before our text.. He and Apollos laid the foundation in different ways, now it is up to the Corinthians to continue building. And Paul depicts the church as the temple of God. This is where today's text begins, with which Paul wants to convey the point of view that really matters.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 New International Version

The Nature of True Apostleship

1 This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

We are servants of Christ! Nobody wants to be a servant. Perhaps one could translate it better: We are helpers of Jesus. Someone to give Christ a hand. Instead of defending himself, however, Paul sets things right: what we as messengers of Christ have to be are henchmen, he writes.

Henchmen are only good enough to give the hammer or the spirit level. Being a henchman can be a relief, especially if we don't understand much of the task at hand.

Often, however, we prefer to do everything ourselves. We are reluctant to be told: “Give me this or that!” But we risk failure if we lack the necessary overview. -

God knows why he only expects us to be henchmen. At the same time, God sets limits to this task: We only need to be Christ's “servants”, administrators of his secrets. The only thing that counts is doing our job faithfully and reliably. That God's secrets are revealed to people is God's business, not ours. So I don't belong to myself, I belong to Christ! And because I belong to him, I listen to him, I take his instructions about life seriously and, together with the other Christians, consider how this can be arranged.

How should I live as a Christian in everyday life? Where is my service in demand? “Where is my service needed?” only makes sense because we are not only servants, but also stewards or stewards of God! A steward or an administrator, was an employee in Paul's time, who was entrusted with his employers property.

God thinks of us, you and me. he trusts you with his fortune! God says: I entrust you with my time, my gifts, my fortune, my world and I trust that you will manage it appropriately.
We only manage what God has entrusted to us. Church services, God's word in the Bible, conversations with other Christians help us with this.

Paul was fought against, he was rejected and accused, and therefore Paul has to answer some fundamental questions in the letter to the Corinthians, for example: Who am I actually? What is my calling and do I live the life, that God intended for me?

Paul understood that. He knew he wasn't the homeowner, just the steward. He knew that the gospel was not his, but that he should only share it with others. He was like a waiter who didn't prepare the food, just served it to customers. He was God's instrument to reveal the mystery of the gospel to the world. So it did not bother him that some Corinthians preferred Peter and Apollos to him. And if we knew Jesus the way Paul knew him, we would do the same thing that he did: We want people to think better of Jesus than of us.

Our own faith is owed to God's henchmen: the mother or grandmother, the father or grandfather, the religious teacher or the pastor or that congregation member. Through them and others we came into contact with God's secrets. They have helped us or are helping us grow in the faith. One day, however, we will have to walk our own path of faith.

Paul himself was not in a good position. Unpleasant allegations cast doubt on his credibility.
Instead of defending himself, however, Paul sets things right. I am no more than a henchman, than a steward of the divine secrets, he says. But in this task I am only responsible to God. He alone is entitled to judge whether I am loyal and reliable. Paul's clarity is impressive: How often do we squint at other people's judgment! Also when it comes to our faith: Am I recognized? Do the others see how capable I am?

This text directs our attention to our expectations during Advent and to the judgments we make - about each other and about ourselves. Judging - this is a topic that has preoccupied us through all our lives. Other people judge us, we judge others and ourselves. And these judgments are not always friendly, I even fear that we make more negative judgments than positive ones. Sometimes about ourselves too.

Paul does not make himself dependent on the "one says this, the other that". The only dependency he allows is that of Jesus Christ. Paul thinks thoroughly about himself and about what he is doing. The letters he has written to his congregation show that he listens and takes to heart what others say to him. And in the same way, he also hands out praise and criticism. So it's not about the attitude with him: I don't care about anything! It is about the question: How can I live with all the judgments without becoming dependent on them. Paul says: I do not confess to any person, nor to any authority, I do not even allow myself to judge myself, that is to say to speak a judgment about myself. This gives him the strength not to let criticism, especially unjustified criticism, get him down. This also gives him the courage to tell people that he has to deal with unpleasant truths, instead of holding back everything critical, out of fear of being no longer liked. Paul does not perish from his own mistakes and shortcomings. Yes: Paul has inner freedom. I also want it, but it is not easy for me, just like for most other people.

Where does my heart beat? To discover that – I have to see what gifts God has given me, what possibilities he has given me. And then use the gifts with all my heart. So calling does not mean being called as a missionary or pastor, but rather seeing: what has God entrusted to me, what is going on in my life, and where am I needed? Someone enjoys working with children, the other has fun tinkering with cars. Someone has the ability to read quickly and a lot, the other has a good way of listening. We only experience our life as worth living when we have found a meaningful task; when we know what we are there for, what our life is good for. John the Baptist saw his task and mission in being the messenger and pioneer of the Messiah. For us Christians he was and is not only a messenger of Advent, but also a role model.

It should always be clear, what we celebrate at Christmas: God becomes human in Jesus Christ and turns to us humans with all his love. Because we are on the trail of this secret, we have to do it like him: We have pass this love on to others, create trust and credibility, and meet one another as servants of Christ. We don't have to be Paul, Luther, or Mother Theresa. We don't have to redeem the whole world like Jesus did.

Nobody asks that of us, and God certainly does not ask it. But what he expects from us, and rightly expects, is that we are his co-workers in our environment, in our families, in our neighborhood, in our community and as far as our influence extends. What he expects is, that we not only make nice words and give Christmas speeches, but also help where there is a need. Nobody expects us to remove all the hardships of the world, but to show ourselves as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries, wherever we have the strength and the means for it. I wish all of us, that we will discover God's secrets in our lives again and again



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