Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Preparing for the third Sunday after the Epiphany - 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Let me first say that while verse 18 is included in the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday's readings, I feel that this verse is better situated in a block that includes verses 18-25 or 18-31.  As such, I have listed it here, but am really looking at verses 10-17 as they may apply to this weekend's sermon.

The first century church in Corinth is apparently under the stress of divergent opinions to the point that division threatens this early church.  Paul is responding to these stressors by exhorting the congregation to be united.

Now let's be clear; Paul recognized all sorts of differences within the body of Christ.  Some of the differences within the people who would call themselves followers of Jesus are even attributed by Paul across his writings to the Holy Spirit's working to enrich the life of the church.  Paul's problem is not that different people have different gifts or that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of people differently for sanctification, mission or edification of the body.  Paul's main concern appears to be the fact that the church in Corinth has lost sight of the main thing.  I would think that our current episcopal leader, Bishop Scott Jones, would be proud of Paul telling the church to keep the main thing the main thing.  Essentially, Paul wants the church to remember that the basis of Christian unity is to be found in our embracing the shared death with Christ in which God began our new life in Christ.

Our unity does not rest on the power of persuasion and whether or not we hold the same view of specific issues.  Our unity is our solidarity with Christ and our inclusion into Christ and therefore into the kingdom of God.

I would invite you to think about the many issues that face the world and the church today.  What are some of the things that are causing divisions or disunity within our ranks?  If we were to fully live into the exhortation that Paul had for the church in Corinth (and has for our own local churches), what might that look like?  Maybe a different way of asking the question would be, how do we as local churches and individual Christ followers keep the main thing as the main thing?

Please feel free to comment below.

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