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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Human Resources Department

2017-01-15 1Cor 01 01-09 Human Resources Department


Apostle Paul opens the letter by stating his qualifications. He's confident they make him qualified to be doing God's work. How are your qualifications? Would God hire you?


Because it's on TV and therefore, must be important, I watched a fair amount of the confirmation hearings last week. Not the whole thing. I don't hate myself that much. If nothing else, I respect the nominees for their powers of endurance. Eight hours is a long time to sit in a job interview, with politicians, who already don't like you.

I've had job interviews. I've done a few, too. What interviewees forget (because they're so nervous) is that most of the time (and Congress may be an exception, but most of the time), the people doing the interview want you to do well. They want to hear angels sing when you come in the door. Because they don't like this any more than you do. Interviewees, interviewers - everybody hates interviews. This is why God invented HR departments.

What if? What if God had a Department of Human Resources? Human Resources. Has kind of a different meaning in church, doesn't it? And what if God's HR Department had an application form? What would be on it? References? Relevant work experience? Will there be a drug test? What, exactly, are your qualifications? What kind of a candidate do you think God's looking for?

Today's scripture is the start of Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth. It's official. Business formal. Before anything else, he starts by reminding the church of his qualifications. And then he reminds the church of their qualifications. So, I guess qualifications must be pretty important.

We are human resources of God. Our church is a human resource of God. You are God's human resource. How qualified are YOU?




The letter starts:


Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

Pop quiz: How many apostles were there? 12, but with an asterisk. Judas, tragically, had to be let go. But, they had depth. There was a backup. Matthias: The Original 12th Man. And then, another asterisk. A little later and without proper vetting, comes the Apostle Paul. Lucky number 13.

Paul was a "late hire." Not selected through standard practices. Still, we call him an Apostle. Paul is an Apostle because he had an encounter with the risen Lord and "by the will of God called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ." Now, those are pretty impressive credentials – but not without some red flags.

"Didn't you used to persecute Christians… to death?"

"Didn't your name used to be 'Saul'? What are you trying to hide?"

So, wherever Paul goes, whenever he writes letters, he reintroduces himself. He always starts by reminding people of his status. Not Mister Paul. "Apostle Paul" is what he puts on his resume. Probably on his Facebook page, too. Curiously enough, the Apostle Paul IS on Facebook. He's South Korean and has 39 followers. Who knew?

You can learn a lot about people's status from Facebook. Like, if I want to learn about you, I'll look up your Facebook page. I can read your bio. I can see what music you like, where you went on vacation, how you looked at your wedding. Where you went to dinner last night. Some of you are very entertaining. Hey, if you don't want your preacher seeing it, don't post it.

Facebook has really become how we introduce ourselves. We put it all out there for the world. This is me. This is us. But not really. This is who we want our friends and followers to think we are.

That's the beautiful thing about social media. We get to choose how we're going to paint ourselves. We are the curators of the Museum of Me. "Look at me. I am the captain now." I'm happy. I'm cool. And thanks to Photoshop, I'm skinny.

Who knew how many people would want so badly to post to the world, "I am somebody. I am a valuable human resource. See? Here are my pictures. Here are my favorite quotes. Here are my qualifications for being here"?

Truth is, I think, we all do. I think we all want to prove – prove to ourselves if not to the world – that we matter. Apostle or inmate. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Cabinet-maker. Cabinet member. We all want somebody to know, somebody to believe that we are qualified, by God. By God. And in God's eyes. And in God's heart. We want to be accepted, approved, hired - to do… something. Something of worth. To be some-one of worth. Just like Paul did, when he was writing letters.




OK, we've talked about Paul. We know who he is. He told us. He's an Apostle. But you know who I wonder about? Sosthenes. Who? Sosthenes. Remember him? I paid attention to him solely because I spelled out his name phonetically for Paisley. I told her to pronounce it, Sauce (like barbecue sauce) the knees. Sosthenes.

The full reading of Paul's greeting is: From Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, (and from Sosthenes, who is also a follower).

Did you catch that? Sosthenes is the co-author of a book of the Bible… our President-elect says it's his favorite… and nobody has any idea who he is. He does have a Wikipedia page. You know what it says? That he's the co-author of the First Letter to the Corinthians. See also: Apostle Paul.

Poor Sosthenes, who autocorrect keeps changing to southwestern or softened.

Sometimes we wonder what people are going to say about us after we're gone. It's like, the value of a person's life is measured by the length of their obituary. Or the number of TV shows about us. He's just Sosthenes, whom the Apostle Paul simply says is (quote) also a follower.

What are his credentials? Being a follower.




Do you remember when Jesus was out rounding up his top twelve disciples? His apprentices? Remember all the ones who didn't make the cut? Me neither. You know why? Because there weren't any. Jesus walked along the seashore and said to fishermen with no relevant work experience, "Follow me."

No background check, no psychological exams, no hearings. Just "follow me" and they became followers of Jesus Christ.

No offense to Paul or any of the Big Twelve, but do you know the number one title of the followers of Christ? Follower. Not Apostle, not disciple, not preacher, not saint. Follower. You know what it takes to be a follower? Following. Just like  Sosthenes. Like you.

You have exactly the same qualifications as a co-author of the Bible. You are called to do nothing more than he was. You have exactly the same calling as the first disciples. To follow. To follow Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Be a follower.




In church, especially around Stewardship Season, we talk about what resources we have. Time, talent, money. Yep. We've got 'em. We are privileged to have whatever resources and called to freely share them in service to Christ.

But what we don't always stop to consider is that along with whatever resources you HAVE, you also ARE a resource of God. A human resource. We forget that. We think we have to do this or do that or check off so many boxes of good works and clean thoughts before we count. We forget we already are also followers of Jesus Christ. If we supply the resourcefulness, God will put us to work. We might not exactly know how, and we might not know until our work is done, We just need to be willing to follow.

You are so qualified to be here. You are more qualified to be here than just about anyplace else. Not because you're so great. But because God is great. And God says you are great and ordinary disciples like Paul and like Sosthenes. You right there with them in following. You are also a follower, too. Doesn't mean you're there. Doesn't mean your walk is over. But you're on the way. We're on our way. We're on God's way, together.

You're hired. And you're not gonna get fired. Because whatever else you are, whoever else you think you are or wish you were, you are also a follower of Christ Jesus. You are. And you'll do.