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Weak Fools - 1 Corinthians 4

A service plan built around 1 Corinthians 4. Not only is the message of the cross foolishness to the world, but those of us who serve Christ are also viewed as "fools for the sake of Christ." Still, we must resist the temptation to soften our distinctiveness to minimize the cost to us.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Foolishness of Our Faith

A four-part series that focuses on the counter-cultural aspect of the Christian faith

Theme of the Service

Not only is the message of the cross foolishness to the world, but those of us who serve Christ are also viewed as "fools for the sake of Christ." Still, we must resist the temptation to soften our distinctiveness to minimize the cost to us.


Prelude: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" [see music notes]

*The Call to Worship from Psalm 24 [see liturgy notes]

*Song: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" PH 263, PsH 460, RL 7, RN 46, TH 38, TWC 62, UMH 103 [see music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, where is your trust placed?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

*Response: "Father in Heaven" PsH 252, SFL 55


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession:
You asked for my hands,
that you might use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment, then withdrew them,
for the work was hard.
You asked for my mouth
to speak out against injustice.
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.
You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty.
I closed them, for I did not want to see.
You asked for my life,
that you might work through me.
I gave a small part, that I might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you-
only when it is convenient for me to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so,
and only with those who make it easy to do so.
Father, forgive me,
renew me, send me out as a usable instrument,
that I might take seriously the meaning of your cross. Amen. (TWS, 2.2.35)

The Assurance of Pardon:
Hear the good news:
This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
that we might be dead to sin,
and alive to all that is good.
I declare to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
you are forgiven.
Thanks be to God. (TWS, 2.4.30, based on 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 2:24)

Sharing the Peace: [see liturgy notes]
Since God has forgiven us in Christ,
let us forgive one another.
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you. (TWS, 2.5.1)

*Song: "Like a River Glorious" PsH 560, TH 699, TWC 594


The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:1-13
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Weak Fools
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:10
The Foolishness of Our Faith #2

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "Will You Come and Follow Me" SNC 267 [see music notes]

The Offering
The Offering of Music: "Tú has venido a la orilla / You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore" [see
music notes]
We offer our gifts for..

Responsorial Anthem: "Tú has venido a la orilla / You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore" [see music

The Prayers of the People


*Song: "Friends in Faith" SNC 135 [see music notes]

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*A Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Friends in Faith" [see music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

Since we should not assume that everyone present was here last week, it would be wise to summarize and make the connection between this sermon and the themes of the previous one. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul candidly admits that the message of the cross is foolishness to unbelievers. Now, he goes a step further and admits that those who serve Christ also seem foolish at times. (You may want to look ahead to exploring this with the Christian Church in next week's service.)

Paul's relationship with the Corinthian Church is key to understanding this passage. The church in Corinth is a congregation in a pagan city. Paul has invested much in this congregation; he has visited several times and written at least four letters to them, yet they are his "heartache congregation." They have attacked him and attempted to undercut his authority. Throughout the paragraph containing verse 10, Paul sets up a contrast between "you" (meaning the Corinthians) and "us" or "we" (meaning himself and his colleagues). In the process he uses the literary tool of irony, a mild form of sarcasm in which the intended meaning is just the opposite of the literal meaning.

As he does so, Paul is pointing out a significant fact to us: Christian leaders must be prepared to be held in low regard at times. You may consider reading the text for this service from Eugene Peterson's The Message to reinforce the impact. Check out his reference in 1 Corinthians 4:9, 2 Corinthians 5:13 and 2 Timothy 3:12. Or listen to his colleague Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-16. Think of the story in Mark 3:20-21 about Jesus, or consider Jesus' words to us in Matthew 5:11 and Luke 6:26. There are many reasons for this attitude toward Christian leaders: our own weaknesses, the perceptions of others, and the counter-cultural value system in which we live and serve.

A city bus in New York once sported an ad from the Fifth Avenue Episcopal Church: "Become a Loser." Smaller print offered further details, "If you're looking for the courage to give up the things in this world that keep you from being the best you can be, give us a call. We'll help you lose your life and build a new one. After all, Jesus Christ lost everything, and he gained the whole world" ("Called To Be a Loser?" Doug Brouwer,Leadership, Summer 1999, p.31).

The challenge for Christians is that we accept the reality of this, refuse to compromise to avoid it, and live out our faith commitments after the pattern of ministry our Master set for us. It seems our generation must learn again what Peter meant by the privilege of suffering for Christ's sake (cf. 1 Peter 4:12ff.). What an honor and privilege it will be to say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

We encourage using your choir, ensemble or praise team throughout this service in assisting congregational song.

The suggestions for prelude are based on the opening hymn. Alternate harmonizations for that hymn can be found in the following resources:

ST. DENIO ["Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"]

Thomas, David Evan. Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003]
Carlson, J. Bert. (1995) Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-753 [1990] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Haan, Raymond H. Welsh Hymn Tune Preludes. SMP KK426 [1989] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Those Wonderful Welsh, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-842 [1992]

Wagner, Douglas E. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise. Agape 1238 [1986] (3 octaves, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Helvey, Howard. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

If your congregation is familiar with the response song "Will You Come and Follow Me," you may wish to consider alternating the first four stanzas between different groups within the congregation (i.e. men, women, east, west etc.) with all singing together on the last stanza. If they are not familiar with the song, have an ensemble sing the first 4 stanzas with the congregation responding with the fifth.

Suggestions for offertory music and the responsorial anthem are both based on SNC 269: "Tú has venido a la orilla / You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore". Again, consider using your vocal ensembles on selected verses with the congregation joining on the refrain. The congregation can also sing on the later stanzas if they have no previous experience singing this melody. Alternate harmonizations are also suggested.

PESCADOR DE HOMBRES ["Tú has venido a la orilla / You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore"]

Farlee, Robert Buckley. Many and Great. Augsburg 11-11033 [2000] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Cherwien, David M. Cantad al Senor. CPH 97-6628 [1999]
Sedio, Mark. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

Notice that the sung response to God's greeting and the closing hymn are sung to the same tune. Your vocal ensemble could sing one of the stanzas in canon using the alternate accompaniment given below. The postlude is also based on this hymn tune.

RESTORATION/ARISE ["Father in Heaven"; "Friends in Faith"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. Thirty More Accompaniments for Hymns in Canon. Augsburg11-10163 [1992]

Dahl, David P. Hymn Interpretations. Augsburg 11-10972 [1999] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 1. Augsburg 11-9318 [1972] (E-M)
Linker, Janet. Sunday Morning Suite. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7560-6 [2002] (E-M)

Carter, John. Folk Hymns for Piano. Hope 240 [1987] (E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. We are suggesting that Psalm 24 be used for the Call to Worship. There are a variety of ways to do this. The Worship Leader may read it, or sections of it may be printed for a responsive reading (cf. The Worship Sourcebook, 1.2.3). It could also be structured as a dramatic reading. In this case you might structure the Psalm as follows:
Reader 1 (leader): verses 1-2
Reader 2 (inquirer): verse 3
Reader 1: verses 4-6
All: verse 7
Reader 2: verse 8a
All: verses 8b-9
Reader 2: verse 10a
All: verse 10b

2. We encourage sharing God's peace with one another after receiving the assurance of God's gracious forgiveness. This can be done verbally as in this liturgy, or it may be a time in which worshipers turn to extend the peace of Christ to one another by a personal gesture-a touch, shaking hands or a hug-and the words "the peace of Christ to you." Please note this is different from the common greeting "good morning."

3. Because of the theme of this service and the message of this sermon, the Prayers of the People should intentionally intercede for Christian leaders who are finding the cost of leadership to be greater than they expected. Many leaders, locally or world-wide, are finding they need additional strength and courage to remain faithful when they feel misunderstood and are subjected to criticism that they feel is unjust. In a couple of weeks, we will focus on the persecution that many Christians endure, and they ought to be in our prayers today too.