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!
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.