7th Sunday after Epiphany
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthian 3:10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5: 38-48
"Build with Care"
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace to you and peace from Christ the foundation of our faith. Amen
We have spent the last five Sundays with Paul
and his first letter to the Corinthians.
We’ve heard Paul greet the Corinthians,
giving thanks for them
because the grace of God was active in them,
a small part of a larger church.
We’ve heard him call the Corinthians
to a unity of purpose in Christ,
reminding them that unity is not uniformity,
that all their various gifts and skills
should be used for the purpose
of spreading the good news of Jesus
and that it doesn’t matter who does it
but that it is done in and for Christ.
We’ve considered with Paul
how the message of the cross
is foolish by the world’s standards
and yet God has chosen to work in ways
that the world deems foolish
and we are called to be partners in that foolishness,
doing justice loving kindness and walking humbly with our God.
We’ve taken time to consider
how we intend to live foolishly,
living into who God has created us to be,
if we are salt we season,
if we are light we illumine,
because living out the message of God
is a more powerful way to witness than using fancy words,
We’ve been reassured
that this way of life takes practice,
that we are not expected
to understand and live it all at once
but that we will end up taking baby steps,
and our role
is to keep taking those steps
it is up to God to make them into something,
God gives the growth.
today we have one last day with Paul and the Corinthians
though the letter goes on
Paul wraps up the themes from the section we’ve been reading,
bringing together his thoughts on the role of individuals and communities
within the body and mission of Christ,
and just as Paul is wrapping up this portion of the letter
we are wrapping up our initial portion of the vision process
that we began over a year ago,
we will unveil our new mission statement
and begin living into our vision
of who we are
and how we intend to live out what is important to us
as a community in Christ.
To the Corinthians, and to us, Paul says:
“build with care”
he switches from the gardening metaphor
to a construction metaphor,
we are builders who have been given a foundation,
the best foundation we could ever receive,
and as partners with God
it is up to us to build on that foundation.
In the part of the letter that the lectionary skipped,
he makes the point
that the building materials don’t matter,
they could be flashy gold or simple brick,
but what does matter
is the structure the building,
how the materials at hand are used,
it is possible
to build a shoddy structure
even given a great foundation,
build with care,
take time for reflection, self-examination
and when you find that you think you’ve got it all figured it
out it is time to return to the foolishness of God
because it is not about you or other humans
but about Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Self-examination may not be fun all the time,
in fact if we’re doing it right
we will probably make some discoveries
that make us feed uncomfortable
but it is a necessary part of building with care
on the foundation of Christ.
Here we not only have the foundation
but we also have the tradition of 126 years as a congregation,
generations have built on the foundation before us,
and while we honor those years of tradition
and the people that brought us to the faith
we also need to realize
that we are called to build on Christ
in this time and place
with the people who are in our community now
I don’t know if you’ve noticed it,
but the world has been changing rather rapidly as of late
and some of our valued traditions
may not be the best building method anymore,
we can no longer count
on people wandering through the doors
to swell our ranks,
though we rejoice when people do join us,
we need to take our welcome outside the building,
we can no longer count on society
making it easy to be Christian,
we need to work together
to support one another in figuring out how to live as Christians
in a world that increasingly acts
contrary to the values of our faith.
And while this seems a daunting task,
Christians have always lived in a rapidly changing world,
and our longest standing practices,
worship and the sacraments,
gathering as a community,
studying the scriptures,
supporting one another in prayer
and performing acts of service
all bring us back to Christ our foundation,
in this time we need them more than ever.
Rooted in Christ
we will build with care
using the materials given us in this moment.
And we build with care
because we have a great treasure
to care for and to share,
we have something to offer the world,
that the world needs.
We have the spirit of Christ dwelling in us.
It has made a difference in our lives
and we know that it will make a difference
in the lives of our neighbors
which is why we seek to build with care,
in ways that live out and build up the community of Christ.
Jesus knows that at times this will be difficult,
the world does not take kindly
to what it deems foolish,
resisting violence with peace,
praying for those who persecute you,
going the extra mile,
giving to those who ask,
loving enemies as well as friends because everyone is our neighbor.
Jesus was crucified for living this way
and teaching others to live this way.
But Jesus also knows that this way leads to abundant everlasting life,
through his death and resurrection
Jesus gives us this life.
He went to the cross because it is worth it.
So when this way gets tough
Jesus meets us at the foot of the cross,
brings us to the table,
and feeds us with his body and blood,
recalling to us who we are
and whose we are,
children of God who belong to Christ
who belongs to God.
And refreshed at the table
we are sent back out into the world
to continue building with care
on the foundation of Christ. Amen
This is the last of the sermon series on 1 Corinthians. Sunday February 26th we will unveil our new mission statement and celebrate with a potluck lunch after worship.
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.