4th Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
This was one of those rare sermons that I preach from the center aisle with only an outline to go on rather than a manuscript. Below are the headings of my sermon outline which should give some indication as to what the sermon was about.
-Wisdom of the world vs. the foolishness of God
-God has called us to be partners in sharing the message of the cross.
-God has called us to be foolish by the standards of the world.
-How do we figure out what is world wisdom and what is God's foolishness?
-We turn to the scriptures and what it tells us about how God lived when God became human in Jesus.
-We turn to the words of the prophet, today it was Micah
-we turn t the law, the 10 commandments are a good place to start since they cover relationship with God and others
-we turn to grace
-and from our experience of grace we share God's grace with others
-we are left with the question: How are we, who have experienced the grace of God and the call to be partners with God in this place, going to live foolishly? (remembering that God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God's weakness is stronger than human strength)
3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
“Unity of Purpose”
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the Lord Jesus Christ,
whose mission we share. Amen
Last week we began our time in 1 Corinthians
where we will stay until the beginning of Lent,
we heard Paul give thanks for the community in Corinth
because God’s grace was active in them,
even as he reminded them
that their community was a small part of the larger community in Christ
and that God had called them into partnership.
To the question: who are we?
We received the answer:
we are God’s, full partners in the work of the kingdom.
Today as we get deeper into the letter
we hear Paul’s reason for writing to the community.
It has been reported to him
that the community is divided,
people are choosing patrons to follow
sometimes along the lines of who baptized them
and are claiming they belong to Paul
or Apollos or Cephas.
And this is a problem for Paul
because his mission is not to baptize as many people as possible
but to share the life changing, lifesaving message
of the death and resurrection, the cross, of Christ,
the message that is the power of God,
that unites all people
by telling the equalizing story
of our utter need for God’s grace
and the gift of that grace through the mercy of God in Christ.
To that end
Paul calls on the community,
naming them siblings,
to be in agreement,
to be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
For those of us
who have experienced severe division
in the public sphere,
or un-mendable division in our families,
or the hurtful division in community
like the Corinthians are going through,
this seems to be an impossible
and even naive request on the part of Paul.
There are some breaks in this world that cannot be fixed.
but Paul reminds us
that we are dealing with more than the world,
we are being saved by the power of God
and in that power unity is possible,
because it comes from the source of life.
Now, it is important to note
that when Paul says unity
he does not mean uniformity
later in the letter
he rejoices in the variety and necessity of gifts and skills
that are brought together as one in the body of Christ.
What is important is unity of purpose,
for the community to be working for the same cause
and only with a common purpose
can the variety of gifts and skills in the community
be used to their full potential.
We see the importance of varied gifts and skills
in Jesus’ call of disciples.
We heard this morning
Jesus gather his first disciples,
fishermen, right out of their boats,
and to the fishermen he adds tax collectors
and people at loose ends on the road,
influential people like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus,
and the nobodies of society
like the man found living among the tombs
because he was possessed by a legion of demons.
Jesus’ disciples include
people whose focus is service like Martha
and people who sit and listen like Mary,
people who are quick to speak and act
and people who want to take the time and see for themselves
and foreigners like the Samaritan woman at the well
or the Syrophoenician woman whose child was sick.
The centurion who believed Jesus could heal his servant from a distance,
the friends who lowered their sick friend through the roof to get him to Jesus.
All wildly different people,
united by Christ,
people whose faith and stories
are the reason the community lives on
in us and our stories.
This is really the main reason we are doing our visioning process,
writing a new mission statement, setting goals.
We have a rich variety of gifts and skills within this congregation,
and I’ve seen firsthand
how when united under a common goal,
whether it is to feed children during the summer
or to care for families at Christmas,
this congregation does amazing things.
The vision process is a time for us to imagine
and put into words
our common goal,
as members of the world wide body of Christ,
as a community of Christ in Cass County,
so that united in the same mind and same purpose
our individual gifts and skills can be used to their full potential.
as a community gathered together
by the saving power of Christ,
the question becomes:
what do we have to offer?
For the rest of the sermon time I want you to turn to your neighbors and discuss the gifts we have to offer as a congregation, what is important to us? what is it that we have to offer to the mission of Christ in this place? After a time of conversation I’ll ask for some volunteers to share what their group came up with, There are some half sheets of paper in the pews, please write down your responses and put them in the offering plate.
 New Interpreter’s Bible, “1 Corinthians.”
The rest of the sermon time the congregation broke into small groups and recorded their answers to the above questions. Feel free to submit your own answers in the comment section!
This sermon is the first in a series on 1 Corinthians that will go until Transfiguration Sunday. Through this sermon series we will engage the questions: As a congregation: Who are we? What do we believe/ is important to us? How do we live out who we are and what we believe?
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace to you and peace
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
This greeting of Paul is very familiar to us,
I use a variation of it every Sunday to start my sermons
(and if you listen closely you’ll hear a mini preview of the sermon in the greeting),
and it’s a way to transition into sermon listening time.
since we use it so much
it is easy for the words to wash over us
without listening too closely.
But these words have more to say to us
so The next two months,
essentially until the beginning of Lent
we are going to spend our sermon time
with Paul and his first letter to the Corinthians,
we are going to pause
and savor these familiar words,
hear again the good news in them
and consider their meaning for us as a community.
Today we start at the beginning,
Paul always begins his letters
with grace, thanksgiving and context.
Grace because God has shown Paul
and the community of believers grace,
thanksgiving because God’s grace
is alive and active in Paul and the community,
because Paul has a point he’s trying to make in his letter
and that point is based on the identities
of the one writing the letter and those receiving the letter.
In the formulaic opening of the ancient letter
Paul reminds the community
who he is and who they are,
he is Paul a servant of Christ
working at the will of God,
they are the church of God that is in Corinth,
notice how he phrases that,
it is not the Corinthian Church,
it is God’s church that happens to be in Corinth
a small part of God’s larger church
found in every place
where people call on the name of Jesus Christ
who is the Lord of everyone!
How would it change your perspective of this congregation
if we regularly referred to it
as the church of God that is in Cass county,
or say I go to the church of God that is on highway 66?
It sounds a bit strange
because we’re so used to saying
my congregation is Christ Lutheran,
or I belong to Christ Lutheran
we know what we mean when we phrase it this way
but language and the way we talk about things matters
and the truth is that this is God’s church,
we belong to God
and we have been given the responsibility and privilege
of being stewards or care takers
of God’s church in this place
and all this is possible because of the grace of God.
The Corinthians had forgotten this truth
and Paul gently reminds them in the greeting,
but even as he reminds them
and prepares to take them to task
for some of their other actions in the rest of the letter,
he thanks God for them.
is not based on how much he likes this community
or how much he agrees with them,
in fact he profoundly disagrees with them,
and yet he gives thanks for them
because the grace of God is active in them
as it is active in him.
It has strengthened each for the service of God
and that is something for which to give thanks.
Maybe you’ve had this experience,
where you disagree with someone,
maybe you don’t even like them
and yet you cannot deny that the grace of God is active in them.
I had that experience a lot in seminary, I often told my friends that it was a good thing that I wasn’t in charge of everything because there were some people that absolutely drove me nuts, I profoundly disagreed with most of what they said I cringed when they spoke in class, some I just really didn’t like as people, and yet there were moments that reminded me that the grace of God was active in them, that they were able to do ministry in a way that I was not and it was all for the kingdom of God, thanks be to God.
Life in community is difficult,
but what makes it difficult,
the variety of personalities,
is also what makes community worthwhile.
Paul assures the Corinthians
that God will provide everything they need
and will strengthen them throughout the wait
for the return of Christ.
And he closes the introduction to his letter with a profound statement.
God is faithful; by him you were called into the partnership of his son Jesus Christ our Lord.
It’s an amazing statement.
God is faithful-
keeping all promises made
and God has call us to be partners in the work of Jesus Christ.
Little ol’ us who are anything but faithful.
It’s an astounding thought
that we are called to be partners with God
but that’s how God chooses to work,
Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, the prophets and judges- all partners with God.
John is a partner with God,
his testimony, his witness
is what brings Jesus his first followers
who become partners in their own right.
Did you notice that?
Jesus invites the two who approach him because of John
to stay with him,
to see for themselves what John has pointed to
and after a morning with Jesus,
one of the two, Andrew,
goes and finds his brother Simon
and brings him to Jesus.
The followers of Jesus grow
because Andrew works as a partner with Jesus.
God’s grace is active in him.
And here we’ve come full circle
to the joy, struggle, mystery even of being in God’s community,
that God is the actor, the author of grace
and God counts on us as partners
to make the kingdom of God happen,
to share the grace with others
so that they can share the grace with others.
It happened in our own lives,
someone brought us to Jesus,
often as a baby to the font
but other times as well
when they pointed to the lamb of God
and said look this is the way of life.
God’s grace was active in them
and it became active in us.
we struggle with this active grace
and the community it joins us to,
sometimes we ignore it,
sometimes we try to take ownership of it
all we can really do is live into it,
feel it work in our own lives,
share it with others
and give thanks to God for being in this place.
Thanks be to God Amen.
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.