February 12th & 16th, 2020

1 Corinthians 3:9-15

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

Upper St. Croix Parish UMC


We are God’s Church.

Here is a blank and white paper, which means there is nothing on it. Sometimes we give our kids a paper to make them calm during service. And then they could pay attention to drawing what they want. They do not bother us until they are done what they want. They do not take time for a long to think about what they want to draw. As soon as they get the paper, they may just start drawing on it. The younger kids may less take time to draw or to think of it.

What about teenagers? If I give them a paper, and ask of them, “draw on it whatever you want,” they would think what they want to draw on it at first. The time that they think about what they would draw may be longer than the time of the younger kids in kindergarten.

What about adults? I think adults may take longer than the kids to think about what to draw on it. Why do the elder people take more time to think of it? I think, because the elder have more ideas than kids. Even just for drawing a picture, they may take longer. They are more careful than the younger. The elder may think about what they did before, what they did well, or what they failed previously, and then the elder may decide to draw what they do well according to their experiences. I would call it “wisdom.”

We may not gain wisdom from a school for a short time. We may gain wisdom from time to time in our daily lives through our experiences. We may gain wisdom from lots of experiences directly and indirectly. Sometimes, we may gain wisdom through failed experiences. Wisdom is sometimes from kids because they have a different perspective and different experiences from adults. Whether younger or older, everyone has wisdom differently. We are different in age, experience, education, vocation, and personality.

Today, the Apostle Paul introduces himself as a skilled master builder. He begins with a discussion of the way he and Apollos were merely human instruments for God’s church. They were servants who played different roles in introducing the Corinthians to God. Paul uses an agricultural analogy in which he likened the role he played in preaching the Gospel as planting the seed, and then Apollos’ continuing role as watering the plants. They were not in competition with each other, but they were partners and team members in a common task for God’s ministry. And, while their work was significant, it was subordinate to the role of God, who provided wisdom.

When we apply the Apostle Paul’s word to us, it means that we are partners with everyone else who is at work in the church. This same sense of partnership needs to be among the lay leaders of the church as well, producing the feeling that each has a unique role to play and that God joins them all together to accomplish the purpose of God.

It is amazing how the character, personality, and interests of each person matched well what the church needs. We are supportive of each other and think of ourselves not as competitors, but as “workers together.” The source of real unity among Christian workers is that we are all servants of the same Master our Lord, and the source of unity in the whole church is that we are all products of God’s grace.

The Apostle Paul shifts his analogy from agriculture to building and emphasis from God’s part in the work to the need for those who work in the church to be responsible. He says, “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building” (V.9). The Apostle Paul considered himself as the wise builder of the Corinthian church. He put the cornerstone first before laid the very first convert. The cornerstone is Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of the church. The Apostle Paul says, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation. The foundation is Jesus Christ.” He says himself as “a skilled master builder” because he laid a foundation first before build on it “according to the grace of God.”

In other words, we may be a builder of faith. If we lay Jesus Christ first on our hearts as the foundation of our faith, we would be a wise builder of faith. I would interpret this case extending to our church members. Each of us would be a wise master-builder of our church. However, if you choose only gold or silver to build our church, because they are valuable from your perspective, think of what happened in the building. So, you may not be wise builders of our faith community. For the sturdy construction, we may choose not only gold, silver, and precious stone, but also wood, hay, and straw. We may not see all kinds of elements in the completed building. We may see only gold or silver because they are shiny more than other factors. Even though we cannot see all the nails, hays, sands, and woods in our church buildings, we know they are also essential factors for the building. As in this case, they play their essential roles, whether being viewed or not.

Today’s scripture is not talking about salvation. Instead, it talks about those who are saved in Christ already. It means, in other words, it talks about the works of saved persons building up the church or faith.  We began to build our faith and our church community. We are a builder of our faith and our church community. The important thing is how we build on it. The Apostle Paul says, “each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; the foundation is Jesus Christ.” While the church might have a variety of builders and different materials, it has only one foundation, and that is Jesus Christ. It is the church’s real basis of unity then, and it remains so today. As the Apostle Paul mentions, there is the possibility of a different quality of work being laid upon the original foundation. We may only think of the words “gold, silver, precious stone, wood, hay and straw” to stimulate pictures of things valuable or worthless; things that are costly or cheap; things that are permanent or temporary.

However, let us think of them differently. Through several occasions in our life, we meet many people and have lots of experiences. Sometimes we may reach those who influence our life to make a turning point. Sometimes we meet people who give us useful insights. Sometimes even we meet those who are forgotten, but they also lay on our lives whether we remember or not. As such, all our experiences and those whom we meet in our life may be “gold, silver, wood, hay, and precious stone,” which builds in our faithful journey. In the case of our church members, we do not know who would be like gold, silver, wood, or hay in which consist of our faith community, only God knows. So, no matter who they are, and no matter who we are, all of us are God’s church. So, we have to respect one another. Because we are different, our church would be healthy in Christ. “For we are God’s servants, working together” to build God’s church, we may go along with God. Let us build God’s church together according to the grace of God. Let us give thanks to God for all our church members who are all different. Therefore, let us respect one another, and we may learn one another because everyone may be wise in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us think of this paper again. Imagine that our lives may be drawing a picture on the blank paper. If God gives you the freedom to make your life as if drawing a picture on this paper, how would you build in your life?

Thanks be to God! Amen.