The Fleet of the Mother Ship I Corinthians 3:1-9

The car ran off a bridge, but was saved because the car was suspended by one of the rear wheels.  Motorists stopped to render aid and the fire truck secured the car; hooking onto the bumper.  The driver was in hysterics.  Every time the truck lurched forward to pull the car onto the roadway the driver yelled, “I will do it myself…I will do it myself“.

Even in trouble, we tend to think we can do it ourselves.  We are able to do some things ourselves; but we accomplish God’s desires by cooperation.  God calls us to find partners on the Mother Ship, celebrating the good work each are doing.  We need others to make a difference, thus we are called to cooperate on the Mother Ship; sailing into 21st century waters.

Corinth is a most gifted church; she possessed all the spiritual gifts.  Yet, they are embroiled in a battle over whose gifts were the greatest.  Paul calls them worldly, not meaning people who smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls who do.  Paul calls worldly those who argue, gripe, and quarrel.  The lack of cooperation among these Corinthian Christians causes Paul to call them babes in Christ who can’t handle the meat of Christian living. 

People aren’t impressed by unfavorable comparisons of others.  The person on the street has enough of that, so they don’t want to be part of any other “dog eat dog” organization.  So, people stay away when they perceive an uncooperative spirit in the church; figuring they can find more tranquility in their living rooms.  People are hungry to find persons who cooperate.  They want to unite around something positive not something negative; and speak for something not against something.

Cooperation grows as maturity occurs.  Terri and I hope we no longer have to say to our adult children, “Kids get along with each other and share.”  Adults can behave childishly.  A newly married couple opens a checking account and deposit their paychecks.  Then, they start spending as fast as they can to get out their fair share.  They soon find out that doesn’t work, when the lights get turned off and there are no groceries in the refrigerator.  Learning to cooperate with the checkbook happens as they mature.

Cooperation happens when we recognize God makes the assignments.  Believing God assigns the task makes teaching exciting, choir heavenly, leadership an honor, and service rewarding.  God must wonder why Mr. So and So wants to takeover Mrs. Do-Dad’s task and why is Mrs. Do-dad nosing into Brother Whatchamacallit’s job. We must not to put ourselves in adversarial positions on the Mother Ship; picking each other off.

God has gifted each of us for a particular task on the Mother Ship; making not only cooperation possible, but growth too.  Nothing stops growth faster than for the people refuse to cooperate in doing the task God has assigned in order to build the body.  Paul says they cooperated; he planting and Apollos watering, but God causing the growth because each did their task.

Cooperation calls for genuine humility.  Cooperation requires we put our needs aside to carry out the greater good.  Yet, we spend energy worrying who gets the credit.  Trouble can come in the church when we forget to give credit or give it wrongly.  What lies beneath the trouble is an anxiety God will not notice our good works.  Genuine humility is seeded in the firm belief God rewards the labor of the faithful.

The mother ship is like a symphonic orchestra; each member playing their assigned part to make harmony, not caring who gets the credit because reward comes on payday.  It takes a humble faith and trust in God to keep cooperating by doing our assigned task; not worrying who gets the credit.

Cooperation with others requires us to cooperate with God first.  An indicator we’re not cooperating with God is our difficulty in cooperating with others.  The text says getting along with others is linked to our partnership with God.  We indicate God may not have first place in our lives when we complain how unholy everyone is around us.  We give evidence of a poor relationship with God when we’re over concerned how unspiritual others are.  This implies a lack of faith in God’s gracious power to save and our lack of willingness to cooperate in that task.  It’s those who esteem others that demonstrate their faith in God’s ability to redeem every person.

Two fellows are riding a bike built for two up the hills of San Francisco.  When they get to the top, the fellow in front turned to the fellow in the back and says in exhaustion, “I thought we would never make it up that hill.”  The one on the back said, “We would have gone back down that hill if I hadn’t kept the brakes on all the way up.”  Do you know people like that?

Some are thinking. “You don’t know the cranky people in my life, which God asks me to cooperate.  I think Jesus said, “The cranky you will always have with you”.  If God is the center of life, we can cooperate with cranky people.  The love of God sheds abroad in our hearts, so we can love the unlovable; cooperating with God and uncooperative, cranky people.

Our self-reliant, independent ways magnifies who?  Us!  Cooperation magnifies God’s work, when it is seen in differing people do their assigned tasks in genuine humility, not worrying about who gets the credit; knowing cooperation means we are partnering with God for the sake of God’s visible and invisible kingdom right here on this Mother Ship called FUMC, Irving.

A 29-man crew, average age 72, manned the U.S. warship LST-325, which had carried men into D-Day.  They were sailing the ship from Greece to Mobile, Alabama; putting it to rest in a museum.  The crew was mostly WWII and Korean veterans, who paid their way to Greece and donated $2000 to cover expenses of recovering the ship.  They made the trip despite the Coast Guard warnings of crossing the Atlantic in the winter in that old of a vessel.  There was no glamour on this voyage as each man took his post and did his duty.  The cook was 74 year-old Joe Sadlier, a bus driver from Alaska who summed his feeling about this trip in this manner, I can’t think of any time I’ve been as happy as I am right now.

That is a perfect picture of the Mother Ship.  A church can weather any storm through cooperation.  There is no greater joy than when spirit blown cooperation occurs.  FUMC, Irving will become a an even greater thriving force for God and for good of neighbor as we demonstrate new levels of partnerships with each other and greater fleet in Christ’s church.  This will require openness to the Spirit that empowers us to go beyond our own ability to bring about genuine community.  The way to achieve meaningful participation and mutual affection among all is to be an open receptacle to wind of God’s Spirit that blows the Mother Ship’s sails.

I invite you to partake of this holy meal, receiving the means of grace that can open your heart to the Spirit’s wind in your life.  We come to remember Jesus who said what we have been saying when he spoke these words, “The person who is the servant and is willing to help with no regard for repayment is the greatest in the kingdom.”  Let’s do greater things for God and each other; cooperating together on the Mother Ship of FUMC, Irving.

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