Stewards of Worship
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.1 Corinthians 14:26-40 NIV
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace —as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Paul gives instruction to the Corinthian church so that all can be edified. After the opening verse of the passage, the rest of the text seems to stress the need for and manner of evaluating the use of spiritual gifts. That, too, is crucial to Christian stewardship. Early church father Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) provides a portrait of the early church service that is characterized by order, inclusivity and generosity.
“The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader ceases, the president in a discourse admonishes and urges the imitation of those good things. Next we all rise together and send up prayers. And, as I said before, when we cease from our prayer, bread is presented and wine and water. The president in the same manner sends up prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability, and the people sing out their assent saying the ‘Amen.’ A distribution and participation of the elements for which thanks have been given is made to each person, and to those who are present it is sent by the deacons. Those who have means and are willing, each according to his own choice, gives what he wills and what is collected is deposited with the president. He provides for the orphans and widows, those who are in want on account of sickness or some other causes, those who are in bonds and strangers who are sojourning, and in a word he becomes the protector of all who are in need.”
The stewardship of our life together in community is centered in our worship services. Stewardship theologian Helge Brattgard (1920-2007) asserts that the good stewards of worship is active.
“A good steward knows that he, as a good participant in the church service, has something important over which to be steward. Therefore he wants to take part actively in the prayers, the psalms, the texts and the proclamation. This, his activity, expresses itself not only in regular participation in the church service or church life, but also in faithful preparation!”
This responsibility toward the worship service can, among other things, express itself in hospitality within the Lord’s house! If unchurched people do not feel welcome at our worship services, then we have shown poor stewardship in this regard. In the monastic rule of St. Benedict there are some words worthy of our thought: hospites tamquam Christus suspiciantur – Guests must be received as if they were Christ himself.
People have come to realize that they must offer all their resources, their time, and their money, in order to help others come to the point of a regular participation in the divine services. When Jesus caught Peter, he got his boat also.
As you reflect on today’s reading ask yourself how might you better steward your part in the church service?