January 22, 2023
Third Sunday After Epiphany
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who makes us one. Amen
Our Gospel and New Testament readings for today
take us on a little time travel journey
from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry
where he calls his disciples,
to a community that gathers in his name
about a generation after his death.
And the contrast between the two communities is rather remarkable.
In Matthew, 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
The centurion who believed Jesus could heal his servant from a distance.
All wildly different people,
united by Christ,
And his mission to share the good news of the kingdom
And then we hear Paul’s letter to the community in Corinth
His reason for writing to the community,
Is that it has been reported to him
that the community is divided,
people are choosing patrons to follow
along the lines of who baptized them
and are claiming they belong to Paul
or Apollos or Cephas.
And if that’s not bad enough
Later in the letter it is revealed
that they are divided in other ways
They disagree on the practice of marriage
They are getting into disputes
and instead of settling them themselves
they are suing one another,
And worst of all they are abusing the Lord’s Supper,
combining it with a community meal
but instead of everyone sharing everything
people bring their own food so that those who are wealthy have great feasts
and those who are poor go hungry.
So very different from the meals where Jesus fed people
And all ate until they were full and there were even leftovers
Paul is very upset at what he hears
coming from this community for which he cares deeply,
he writes to scold and correct
the individual ways they have gone astray
but these things point to a larger problem
they have lost focus on the main reason they are gathered together
the life changing, lifesaving message
of the cross, the death and resurrection 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.
And Paul realizes that to most people
The causal observer
Those who go by the logic of the world
That this message is utter foolishness
“But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
To that end
Paul calls on the community,
to be in agreement,
to be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
That saving message of Christ.
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.
It is in unity of purpose,
That a community with such a variety of individuals
Is able to come together and stay together.
Of course this is something that we imperfect humans struggle with,
we get distracted and divided so easily
by things that are not the main point,
congregations argue over the color of the carpet,
the kind of music being played
and what instrument it is played on,
or who gets a key to the door.
On a broader scale we’re still playing out
some of the divisions that plagued the Corinthians,
there are some churches that say I belong to Luther
and some that say I belong to Rome
and others that say we follow the presbyters.
And between the churches there are arguments
about who can get married
and who can lead worship
and who can partake of the Lord’s supper.
And yet we are all Christians
Joined into one in Christ
It is utter foolishness
And it is what we are called to by God
Indeed it is only possible in God
God is under no illusions about us doing it on our own
Which is why we have Christ and the cross
Which is why God is continually reaching out to us
In water, word, bread and wine
Offering forgiveness, gathering us together again and again
Returning our focus to the main point
Sharing the life changing, lifesaving message of the cross,
the death and resurrection of Christ
and the experience of the power and grace of God
that brings new and abundant life,
It is foolishness
It is the power of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen
 New Interpreter’s Bible, “1 Corinthians.”