We all have memories. Some are special. Some we would like to forget. Some that shape us into who we are! The writer of Psalm 126 also had a memory, a very particular one that involved the amazing deliverance that God gave to His people. And based on that memory, the psalm writer prayed what we find in this psalm – bring that memory to mind and letting it chapre his prayer for the now and the for future – that God would show His delivering power all over again!
While the majority of people have physical sight, there’s a high percentage who are blind in another sense. In Psalm 73:1-28, the writer, Asaph, confesses to this. When his eyes were on the wicked and their prosperity and the ease of their lives, he began to lose faith in God. and doubt whether serving Him was worth it at all. In other words, he baceme blind to the things of God as envy took hold of his sight and he began to slip. But something happened that changed this downward progression. It happened when he entered the sanctuary of God and his persepctive on what really matters in life was restored. We all need the reminder to keep on ‘looking to Jesus’. For when all is said and done, all He’s the only One worth looking to.
It’s not unusual these days for anyone to struggle with stress. We all have to manage it in some form. In his role as King over all Israel, David knew stress too, and this Psalm 86:1-17, we find him dealing with it through prayer to the One who could help him. In fact in the Psalm we find these elements present – sometimes David speaks to himself about God. Sometimes David speaks to God about God and sometimes David speaks to God about himself. All three are present in the psalm and all three are valid forms of prayer, and helpful with dealing with the many stresses of life.
In the final chapter of this letter of Paul to the church at Corinth, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-24, the Apostle comes down from the high point of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that that brings to His people, to speak of more down to earth, day-to-day matters – especially relating to the Corinthians’ financial stewardship, some travel plans he could share with them, some news regarding fellow workers they knew and final prayers and blessings up this often wayward church. These matters may not be weighty theologically, but they do matter on a practical basis and they remind us of what kind of church we ought to be – living out the gospel in the world in which God has called us.
There’s something to be said about a church than runs smoothly and orderly. As a Presbyterian church, we usually don’t know any other way. The worship is ordered and everything is in its place. That’s certainly not how Paul would have described the very un-Presbyterian Church in Corinth! Instead of order there was chaos. Choas when it came to the use of tongues. Chaos when it came to the use of prophecy. Chaos when people were interrupting! Rather than ordered it was disordered. In 1 Corinthians 14:1-40, the Apostle Paul had quite a bit to say about these things and we learn from them and seek to do them today.
When it comes to ‘life after death’ there are a whole lot of questions and lots of different ideas. The Corinthians too had questions about what happens to our bodies after death, and these questions were the subject of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, where Paul likened what happens to our bodies when they die to the whole process of pplanting seeds – what you get is not what you put in the ground! This portion of text gives rise to the Christian’s understanding about the resurrection bodies that God will give to His people. To last the distance of eternity, they need to be and must be of a different kind to what we have now! This hope ought to encourage and inspire us to get busy with God’s work and put the fear of death away – as it one day will be – forever!
Sometimes that ‘what if?” question of thought just passes through your mind. “What if I’d married someone else?” “What if I’d been born in another country?” So many options to think on like these! In 1 Corinthians 15;12-34, Paul asks the question ‘What if Christ was not raised?” and comes up with some devastating answers. The resurrection of Jesus is so crucial to the Scriptures that without it, everything else falls. Paul even says that we may as well live the the rest of the world and adopt their philosophy ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!’. But he doesn’t leave it there. One of the great ‘buts’ of the Bible puts things into their proper perspective!
When you compare the leaders of world religions, it’s clearly a no-contest. Only Jesus lives. The rest are dead. And the evidence for this resruuection of Jesus is something that the Apostle Paul was keen to share with the church at Corinth. So in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul did just that, reminded his readers of not only the information that had been passed down to him personally, but also of his own experience (not to mention that of at least 500 others) of the risen Christ. But this message of the resruuection is not just fact, it is fact that leads to a changed life and a living hope in the face of death.
There’s no doubt that the death of Jesus was one of the world’s greatest events for all the wrong reasons. Not only was He inncocent of all charges laid against Him and not only did the situation show itself to be one fuelled by anger and hatred, it was also true that it was possibly the greatest injustice ever handed out to a man. It’s telling that when the Son of God appeared on earth, mankind rejected Him and put Him on the cross. But that’s not the whole story and in Mark 15:1-15, the other side of the coin is made clear. Jesus went through with all this in obedience to God’s plan and in the madness of it all, we can trace the love and mercy of God.
There’s something about love that means that thousands of songs are written about it and everyone seems to want it! In 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, the Apostle Paul speaks about love quite extensively in a well-known text that has been used at many a wedding, but what he has to say really applies in the first instance to the church at Corinth, who had forgotten that the grace of love is better than any spiritual gift. And what he wrote was really for the church to put into practise – in loving each other – and loving in the way that Jesus loved the church, by laying down His life for her. Ultimately, our lack of love or lovelessness, is because we have moved far away from the cross – where we learn what love really is.