February 5, 2023
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who acts. Amen
There’s an old saying:
Actions speak louder than words.
It points to the reality
that if there is a discrepancy
between what one says and how one acts,
the actions are often the better indicator of true values.
How we act is a more reliable way to gauge what is important to us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love words,
I believe in a God who spoke the world into being
what we say and how we say it matters
But if what we say and how we say it isn’t matched by how we live
Their meaning falls short
And this tends to be a particular problem
among religious folks who can talk a good game
but sometimes have trouble following it with actions,
we are still human after all,
and sometimes God has to get real with us,
encourage us to move beyond words.
Today’s texts are such a call to action,
reading after reading we heard God’s call to us
to be active in our partnership with God.
First we heard the prophetic voice of Isaiah
rousing the Israelites out of their complacency,
in their exile
they were relying only on sacrifice and fasting
to relate to God
and in the voice of the prophet
we hear God telling them,
“ sacrifice and fasting might work for those pagan gods around you
but I expect more from our relationship,
I expect our relationship to leave the place of worship
and impact all your relationships:
This is the fast, the way of worship that I prefer
that you loose the bonds of injustice
undo the thongs of the yoke
let the oppressed go free,
if you want to be in relationship with me
share your bread with the hungry
bring the homeless poor into your house,
and when you see the naked cover them,
mend broken relationships in your family,
then you will see the glory of the Lord. “
It is time to put your faith into action God tells them
That is when you will see the longed-for change in the world
The psalmist reminded us
that righteousness is the antidote to fear.
We get distracted by all the opinions around us,
what will people think? we worry,
but when it comes down to it
the only one we must answer to is God,
if we live in a way that is pleasing to God,
that is righteous,
we have nothing to fear.
Of course we are human,
and humans, no matter how hard we try,
tend to fail at living in a way that is completely pleasing to God.
which is why we need Jesus,
the one, the only one
whose entire life (and death)
matched what he said and taught,
matched the desires of God for the world.
We need Jesus,
we need his teaching
and we need to experience,
even for a moment,
life lived in accordance with those teachings
Actions speak louder than words
it’s time to show before we tell.
This was Paul’s strategy with the Corinthians
and it worked.
Paul came to the Corinthians
not with lofty words but with a demonstration of the spirit.
In our second reading today He’s reminding them of this,
Currently they are a divided community
parts of whom have been lured away
by people who have impressed them with fancy speeches
but what made them part of the community in the beginning
was the power of God,
a power they felt so strongly
that they chose to join this minority group of believers,
outside the mainstream,
often outside the protection of family
that didn’t understand what they were doing and cut them off.
You don’t give up your inheritance and place in society
for fancy sounding words,
there is more going on than that
it is the power of God at work.
Paul reminds the divided Corinthians
That God has acted
through grace God has redeemed them
and called them to be partners in the spread of the gospel
and that this is the purpose that unites them.
Paul acknowledges to the Corinthians
that according to the reasoning of the world
the message of God is foolishness
but since God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom
just as God’s weakness is stronger than human strength
we are called to act foolishly in our partnership with God
depending on the power of God
To work through our actions to spread the good news.
Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness
and the power of God shone through,
allowing Paul to show rather than tell
the life changing message.
Showing works much better than telling
this is our call as Christians.
Jesus puts it even more succinctly
at the end of the sermon on the mount.
Be who you were created to be.
If you are salt be salty,
if you are light, illumine what is around you,
that is how you honor God.
Now to be clear
this call to action isn’t about salvation
or getting right with God,
this is not works righteousness,
the thought that if we work hard enough
or do enough good or pray in the right way or make sacrifices
that we will fix things.
We don’t have that kind of power,
salvation is up to God and God has saved us.
Past tense on going action, that’s taken care of.
And it’s not about the prosperity gospel
the lie that says if you pray in the right way
or give enough or go to the right church
that God will bless you with lots of money and power and things.
God just doesn’t work like that either.
It’s about being who we were created by God to be.
Children of God,
made out of love for love
each endowed by God with unique gifts and talents.
If you are salt season,
if you are light illumine what is around you,
how can you do otherwise?
It seems simple
and yet the way of the world
is the way of distraction,
of tempting and telling us to be more than we were created to be-
this was the serpent’s method in the garden,
tempting our first parents
with the thought that they could be more than themselves,
they could be like God
other times the world tells us to be less than we were created to be
the Israelites were slaves in Egypt,
told that they were only good for making bricks.
Did anyone believe that fishermen and tax collectors
in a backward province of the Roman empire could change the world?
And why would anyone listen to you? You’re only________
God knows it is hard to hear through all the noise,
which is why even as God calls us to action,
God also calls us to rest,
To take time to listen to the Holy Spirit,
to discover our God given gifts,
to quiet the voices of the world
so that when we return to action
it is for the sake of God
And God has given us gifts to help us on the way
the holy spirit to help us understand, discern, who we are
the waters of baptism
to remind us who we are and whose we are
the bread and wine of the table
to strengthen and forgive us
reminding us that we are enough,
enough to take the body and blood of Christ into our own bodies.
God acts to show us just how much God cares for us,
As that infamous verse John 3:16 puts it God so loved the world that he sent his only son…
And as verse 17 continues “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
God has acted.
Creating, redeeming and sustaining us.
Now God calls us to action,
the action of being who God has made us to be,
The action of letting our light shine
And in the shining of our light, glorifying God. Amen