Summary: Paul doesn’t describe himself as a clergyman. He describes himself as servant and steward. The servant role indicated hard lowly work. The steward role was carefully administering the Gospel mystery: God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself
2014 ADVENT 3 stewards of the mysteries I Corinthians 4__1
O LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Advent Collect. ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
The Epistle. 1 Corinthians iv. 1. LET a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing against myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
The Gospel. St. Matthew xi. 2. NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Paul doesn’t describe himself, as our BCP translation implies, as a clergyman. No, not a minister – a servant. And it would be inappropriate to visualize a butler, a man with a neat suit acceptable to serve in a grand household.
No, the word Paul used was appropriated from the language of seaman. The servant as Paul described himself, was the lowest on the rung of sea-men: he was a rower; an oarsman. He was not thinking of himself as anyone great. Paul described himself as the least of the evangelists, not fit to be called an apostle. He described himself as one who would tug on the oars when the wind no longer filled the sails and propelled the ship.
It would be a blessing today if the evangelists, ministers, clergy would abandon the high- titles and the innumerable degrees which that only stir up suspicion and ridicule. What kind of doctor are you – I’ve got this pain in my knees, doc ; what do you recommend?
Paul repeatedly refers to himself as the servant or slave of Jesus. But in his letter to the Corinthians in today’s reading he also says he is a steward of the mysteries of God.
Once again our understanding of the English in our text is misleading – when preachers talk about stewardship we often only refer to responsible use of finances and stress the importance of tithing.
Paul was not so shallow. Lets launch out into the deep with Paul. The word that Paul used for steward is a word that describes an active person. Stewardship, the way we use it today makes me think of a scrooge-like person carefully counting up his dollars and grudgingly digging out 10% for the church.