The video for this sermon can be found here.
Last year, when I applied to go back to school, I had to do something I hadn’t done in fifteen years:
Write a resume.
And do you know, resumes have changed a bit since the last century? The last one I wrote was to be a strictly one-page deal. Now it seems to be a manifesto of unlimited size.
And what goes onto this mega-resume of the 21st century? I’m glad you asked. Open up your Word processor so I can coach you in updating your resume. I’m serious, y’all – you want to be ready for your next employment opportunity, don’t you?
- The first part is super easy: Your contact information. Name, address, phone number, email. See? This isn’t so bad.
- Next comes your education. Where did you go to school? What degrees did you get? If you graduated with a good GPA, be sure to jot that down. If you barely scraped by, well, let’s just “forget” to include that part.
- Then is your work experience. Rather than go back to that babysitting job you had in high school, you might restrict yourself to the stuff that’s really relevant. As for me, I left off my stint as a sales rep for REI and focused on my ministry-related positions.
- After that you can include a list of awards and certifications. Since most of us don’t get a certificate every day this section can be kind of daunting. Don’t worry, after this comes the most fun section…
- …Extracurricular activities. Some people will advise you to be creative with this so a potential employer gets a more well-rounded view of you. Maybe on your list is “black diamond snowboarder” or “Co-ed Softball Champion, Summer 2015.” Go crazy!
As fun as that is, though, it really doesn’t make writing a resume a great experience. At least not for me; the whole thing feels kind of self-centered, because it is. Writing a good resume requires self-promotion. When my friend, Jenn, read my first draft she said something like, “Mary, I know you’ve got more things you can add here. Remember, you’ve got to tell them how great you are!”
For better or worse, I don’t typically have a problem thinking of good things about myself. If anything, I have an overactive self-confidence. But I’m at least trying to control it, and I know that I’m not supposed to brag on myself. Why is it perfectly okay to put a list like this on a resume when we would never walk around saying this stuff in everyday life? “Hello, I’m Mary, I did an internship with NASA, got my Masters at Harvard, and like to skydive in my freetime.” That kind of posturing is annoying and off-putting and divisive. We would never do that.
Except that we do. We don’t walk around with our resumes out for people to read, but we do read each other. We take mental stock of who’s got the best clothes, or makes the most money, or comes from the best family, or has the best jobs. We might even make choices that say something about our life resume: what car we drive, what kind of house we own, what brand shoes we wear, where we go on vacation.
This happens in the world, and we know it. Here in the church we live differently. We would never act like that within a congregation.
Except that we do, and pretty much from the beginning. Most Biblical scholars agree that Paul’s letters are the earliest content in the New Testament, so they give us a glimpse of what the church was like in its first stages. And – at least in Corinth – the church was about comparing spiritual resumes and fussing over whose was the best. Is it the guy who teaches? Or the one who heals? Or the person who speaks in tongues? They were posturing and elbowing each other out, arguing over who is the best.
This isn’t how the church is supposed to work. We know that – we remember the story about James and John and how they asked Jesus to be on his right and left. We remember Jesus’ answer to them, which included this: “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show of their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave…” (Matthew 20:25-27). We know all that – but did the Corinthians, who probably lived before the gospels were written down? Were they learning it for the first time?
We know that story. We know better. Right?
It’s a danger, though, that this kind of thinking can sneak into our congregations, too. If we don’t watch ourselves we posture our way into the same position as those early Christians, fighting over who has the best spiritual resume in our churches. Is it the girl who preaches? Or the one who chairs a committee? Or the person who has perfect attendance? Which one of us is the best?
That’s the wrong question – and Paul starts this section of 1 Corinthians with that point. What’s most important is our declaration of Jesus as our Lord. All the other stuff is just puny details.
With that in mind, take another look at your resume.
All that stuff you wrote down before, it’s good stuff. You are smart, talented people – every one of you. But Paul is reminding us today that none of that is what really matters. It doesn’t matter what gifts you have – not even what spiritual gifts. Here’s what matters most:
Do you proclaim Jesus as Lord?
If the answer’s “yes,” then your resume is done.
If you believe that, I want you to delete everything you’ve written and start again. This time, there’s only one thing on your resume: “Jesus is Lord.”
And anyone else who’s bothering to read this and play along, they now have an identical resume to yours. All of us in this body of Christ have the same qualification: we declare Jesus as Lord.
Now that is a good looking resume.