“Baby Food to a Five Course Meal”
I Corinthians 3:1-9
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Sunday, February 12, 2017
1 Corinthians 3:1-15The Message (MSG)
3 1-4 But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?
5-9 Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.
9-15 Or, to put it another way, you are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
On Divisions in the Corinthian Church
3 And so, brothers and sisters,[a] I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
“We are what we eat!” How many times have we heard that cliche used in our lives? Whether it was a science teacher using it as a description to explain the role of the food chain in some boring scientific fashion, or whether it was our parents scolding us (in a kind sort of way) for what we were eating or about to eat; a Big Mac, a Snickers bar, or that half gallon of ice cream we would sneak after they went to bed, knowing good and well that our mother had just bought it that afternoon. Anyway, it was or “is” used to make a point that what we consume has a direct impact on who we are and what we become.
Now, to a certain degree this is true. We are able to read the caloric make-up of the food we ingest; we are keenly aware of those foods that we crave without any thought or hesitation, usually a subversive snack food that makes us feel good!! My confession is that I love those maple nut clusters! I’ve been known to have been sent out on an errand to find a commodity but then, there they are, looking you in the face of the third isle of the Walgreen’s on Cornwallis Drive. Now, the commodity that I was sent after is no where near the third isle! The only “real kind” there is are the Brach’s brand; the off shoot, no name, dime store wanna be’s just don’t cut it! Yet they find their way into my shopping basket. And you know, they are magic! They are magic, because they disappear before I return to my destination. “We are what we eat!”
Paul, in yet another discourse to the church at Corinth was up in arms again about the “wisdom” that the church embraced. We have heard over the past couple of weeks that the wisdom Paul was combating was a type of wisdom that found itself devoid of the Cross. It was “man made” wisdom in the sense that it was of the “gnostic” brain knowledge type of wisdom. A wisdom that the people of Corinth had embraced in such a way that they were captured, “by the taste of what was said!”
I love this text; Paul tells the people of Corinth right up front, “I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.” (I Cor. 3:2-3) Paul was concerned that they had “stopped” digesting what was required of them in the Spirit and settled for what translates as “table scraps.” In a nutshell, there was no sustenance to what they were believing. Oh yes, they were satisfied, but not with what really mattered!
I love Mexican food, but you know, Mexican food is fake! Sort of like Japanese food. You go to the restaurant or fix it yourself, you enjoy it, you feel full, then two hours later, you’re hungry again! It fools you into feeling like you are satisfied to the point of fullness. Now, this may be a stretch, but this observation comes from some serious research. Yet, I liken it to the what Mark Achtemeier says in his commentary in relationship to Paul, he says, “The problem with the Corinthians is not their desire to grow in divine wisdom (they wanted to). The problem is that they have been seeking the wrong kind of wisdom from the wrong sources.” 1
If I really want to be full when I eat and receive the nutritional value, then I need to plan my meal with the right intake of calories, carbs, protein, and balance it with exercise. It becomes a discipline of being what I hope to become.
I find yet another parallel with Paul in this pericope as well. Paul wants the people of Corinth to value and understand the work of the Holy Spirit. The people struggle with this concept of being fed and nourished by the Holy Spirit, just as we do. Yet, I think Paul in his food analogy makes this come alive in a wonderful way. He talks to them about being fed as infants and then growing (through the use of solid food) to be mature Christians. It is kind of like going to the restaurant and looking at the menu. What does it take to constitute a “balanced meal?” For Paul, he is seeking the goal of helping the church at Corinth, and the people surrounding the church search for a balanced life in the Spirit.
The Spirit of Christ for Paul was that one who claimed to be a Christian needed to embrace the make up of the Spirit or better yet, as we see in I Corinthians 2:16 “the mind of Christ.” If we read carefully, this becomes the menu for a mature Christianity that embraces “acting, thinking, and loving like Jesus.” The menu allows us to put it into action! Thus we go from “baby food to a full course meal!”
None of us, I’m pretty sure, remember what it was like to eat baby food. I’m pretty sure that is a gift from God. Yet if we look at the progression of our eating over time, we have come to an understanding that a balanced meal, whether three courses or five courses, allows us to become a healthy, solid, full, and whole individual. Hence the same is true for our Christian life!
When we are able to “act” like Jesus–to feed the hungry, to clothe and shelter the poor, to embrace the imprisoned, to love the outcast–then we have moved beyond the baby food (i.e. the milk) we start with. When we are able to “think” like Jesus–to make informed decisions, to love on contact, to think through a detrimental situation, to seek the written Word of God with the intent of the heart–then we have moved beyond the baby food we start with. When we are able to “love” like Jesus–to hold the hand of the dying, to fill the soup bowl of the hungry, to visit the imprisoned, to speak to the homeless–then we have moved beyond the baby food we start with.
In the analogy for the title of this sermon this morning, it is my intent for us to gain a working knowledge of how to digest what God has given us in Jesus Christ. To take what we digest and to use it be the “Full Body” of Christ in a way that impacts, shapes, and transforms the world for a love of God through Jesus Christ!
We all start with milk and baby food. What a joy it is when we progress through the “foods of our life” and enjoy a full course meal that allows us to be a Christ-like church and individual in every move we make, with sustenance and energy to transform the world!!
Amen and Amen!