Sermon of the Week

I am the church - You are the church - We are the church together!

1 Corinthians 3: 1-9                                                                                Feb. 12, 2023

     “I am the Church – You are the Church – We are the Church toge

 Today the scripture passage is focused on the CHURCH – over the years people have been more than willing to tell others how to act in church …. //

A Sunday school teacher asked her little children, as they were on the way to church service, “And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?”  One little boy with answers, said,  “because people are sleeping? 🙂

There are misconceptions about Church —

The preacher was wired for sound with a lapel mic, and as he preached, he moved briskly about the platform..  jerking the mic cord as he went.  Then he moved to one side, getting wound up in the cord and nearly tripping before jerking it again.  After several circles and jerks – a little girl in the third pew leaned toward her mother and whispered, – ‘if he gets loose, will he hurt us?”

One sunny day in the South Pacific, a navy ship spied smoke coming from one of the three huts on an uncharted island. They quickly jumped in a boat and went on shore to see if anyone needed help.   At the shore, they were met by a shipwreck survivor.  He said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here?  I’ve been alone on this island for more than five years!  The captain replied,  ‘If you are alone on the island why do I see 3 huts?”

The survivor said, ‘Oh, well, I lived in one and go to church in another.  What about the 3rd hut? – asked the Captain.   “OH – that’s where I used to go to church!”  ☺

            Today our lectionary passage is about the early church and some issues/conflicts that happened in that 1st century church .

            Sometimes church is tough, but even with all of its problems . Humans have a need for worship. We are made to search for God.  We are made to have the desire to learn about and understand God.  (Colossians1:24) states that we are made with the desire to worship God.  Humans have been worshiping together as long as we have recorded history. 

            As we read about the early church, the first group of Christians, we read about arguments and divisions.  This passage is about people who were following certain leaders of the time (Paul – Apollos – Peter.)  Paul writes about people vying for power and leadership and we are warned to be careful of that…. Scripture warns the new church to work together and care about each other.  In Paul’s letters we read that there were arguments among the church leaders.  Peter and Paul disagreed about some things.  Paul

So what we see in scripture AND what we read throughout history and even what we experience through our own lives, is that we are the church, – a family,  and we are to love each other.  We work together and we are to defend each other.

Comedian George Burns used to say ‘happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – that lives in another state.’

In our passage for today we see that the first church was not unlike the church today.   We argue, we disagree, we think our opinion matters, we voice our thoughts, and we debate our point.   That’s who we are and that is what makes us strong – that is also what divides us.  And that is what sometimes separates us from doing the real work of Christ.  We get distracted and we forget to follow Jesus and live out his message of hope and salvation, forgiveness and caring for our neighbor.  Christ tells us to be the church, to be Christ in the world. 

            Since the EARLY church started there have been divisions. Divisions enough that they were addressed and written about in Scripture. There are warnings about judging others.  There are warnings about people putting themselves in positions of authority in order to be important.  There are warnings about those in power controlling those without power.

            There are warnings because we are flawed people who usually mess things up. We are selfish and we are self focused.  As long as we depend on our own leadership we are going to be in trouble, so let this time of worship remind us of our focus.  Let this time of thinking remind us of our responsibility to learn and study God’s word so that we can make solid decisions.  Remember  that we are the body of Christ and we need to notice and move away from, people or events that take us away from that focus. Our focus needs to be on situations that build us up and give us strength.

            We are a family. We strive to have the same Spirit.  We are not alike but we have the same united goals: to have our churches function in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Each time we gather around the table for Communion, we are reminded that we are a part of the larger church.  We are part of the church that is a family of God.  A church that is sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes wrong, sometimes distracted, but a church that is the body of Christ – reaching out to the poor, learning and growing, studying the word, sharing the Good news with those around the world.

We are directed by Christ to continue God’s work in the world.   Jesus Christ is the center of this gathering.   The church is the Body of Christ and we  (as ambassadors of Christ),  are assigned to share the Good News of Salvation and live as servants, looking for opportunities to reach out in care & ministry to all we meet.

refused to travel with John Mark because he thought Mark was immature.  At that same time the new church was a community, a family. 

The church is like a family and that is the good news – the church is like a family and that is the bad news.

Families don’t always get along. Brothers and sisters fight.  The church is like a family – we bicker.  The good news is that the church is like a family – we care for each other.    Someone once said ‘ if you are looking for the perfect church and think you have found it, for goodness sake don’t join it, you will mess it up for sure.’

Every family has to learn over and over how to care for each other.   The New Testament is filled with guidance and warnings about handling conflict, controlling tempers, refraining from gossip, and controlling our tongues.The writers of the gospels and the letters to the early church contained instruction as to how the church should relate.  These writers would not be writing about these issues if it did not need to be addressed in the early church. (Who knew that it would be relevant for more than 2,000 years and beyond!).

1 Timothy calls for tenderness, mercy, and responsibility because those are human issues that we humans struggle with. We are people in need of a Savior . We are people who at our best are not able to follow God.  We need help! 

Paul is working to address the factions in the Corinthian community that have formed around competition between three specific leaders in the church. Paul wants us to remember that it is not a human personality whom we worship, it is the Holy Spirit who allows us to know God. 

Paul warns us against voices or personalities who led us away from God out of a need to control, voices who deceive masses of people with self serving messages.  These voices over the years have led to divisions and damage to the CHURCH.

A quote from the commentary Feasting of the Word on this passage states,     “The problem with the church in Corinth was that they were seeking the wrong kind of wisdom from the wrong places.

            The Church is the body of Christ.  The Church (cap. C), the Church throughout history is not a building, IT is not it any particular denomination.  The Church is made up of people all over the world who have discovered the love of God as demonstrated by Jesus Christ.  THE CHURCH works to have ‘the mind of Christ!’   

            In other words, acting, caring, forgiving, loving, speaking out like Jesus is a sign that you are moving with the ‘mind of Christ’ as a person and as the Church.

   There are times in history where the CHURCH stood out and made a difference.  (usually we did not make the stand right away but eventually we did ) Our Presbyterian Church stood against slavery in the 1860’s and stood or marched for Civil Rights in the 60’s.  Our Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has a history of 

speaking out for issues of justice and care.  And sometimes that has caused division and that has been difficult.

            Usually we are told by some that the Church is  NOT be political, but we HAVE to balance that against being silent when we, in the church, are clearly CALLED to speak up against WRONG.

             Sometimes it is scary to be the Church because if we are to be the CHURCH, and we are called to have the mind of Christ,  we must take a stand.  We are called to speak truth to power and we are called to love our enemies.

            We clearly do NOT have to be all of the SAME political party, at the same time, to have the mind of Christ, we CLEARLY DO HAVE TO stand for the rights of those who have nothing.  We do NOT have to agree with HOW to care for the poor, but as the body of Christ, we CLEARLY MUST work to empower and lift up those who are in need, those who have no voice and who are being hurt by the actions of others.  

            We have been given MANY gifts and we are CALLED to use them to serve our GOD and care for others.

            We do not have to agree on policy decisions in this country but, if we are to be the CHURCH, we MUST follow JESUS’ call to care for others AND we MUST work toward that end.  This passage (2,000 years ago) is saying that we don’t follow any leader/person we are to follow GOD.  Because GOD is the one who gives us strength and helps us grow.   If there are clearly things in our society that are in opposition to the teachings of Jesus we (with our own conscience) MUST not be silent when we see situations of that are unjust.  Even in doing that there will still  be times when we disagree / because sometimes good people disagree! And that is OK, as long as we are listening to the words of Christ and working to care for, and work with, those (in our church family) who see things differently than we see them.

            We ask God to give  us the courage to stand up for the things GOD would have us stand up for and/or speak against, and  we ask God to give us the discipline to not speak if the mind of Christ calls for our silence.

            Our challenge is to study the scriptures until you KNOW the mind of Christ so that you can BE the body of Christ in the world and so that you can work to be a Christ-like person who uses your gifts to further the kingdom of God here on earth.

I am the church – You are the church – We are the church together!