Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 12:1-11’ Category

Surprise!

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Epiphany 2(C), January 20, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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There’s a very famous prayer that many if not all Christians throughout the world, in every denomination study; it’s called Jesus’ High Priestly  Prayer.  I wanted to just share just one small portion of it with you, as a way to look at all three of our readings.  Listen: “And I am no longer in the  world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one,  even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has  been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. [John 17:11-12]

So, if the stated will of the Son of God is that we would all be one, that is be in concord with each other, then why is the church so divided?  We are   broken down in groups such as those who claim God’s Word is infallible, those who say it is only inspired, and those who say that history must  decide what parts of the Bible are true or fable.  We are further divided along denominational lines over following a historical liturgy and those who  follow no liturgy.  Some denominations claim that they follow no preconceived confessions of faith, while others, such as our own denomination  have an entire book of written confessions, with the stated purpose of defending the church against error.  We have divisions over the question of  what gifts listed in our epistle lesson are valid and what gifts are no longer needed.  Why we don’t even have to look outside of our own  congregation to find division; we have some people here at Trinity who feel that all forms of music are valid for worship, while some say only the  Organ and classical instruments and music should be used.

So what went wrong?  How did the church get in such a mess?  Is this something new, and particularly an American phenomenon that we are  experiencing? No!

In such a time as ours, when so many are claiming that the church ought to be free to follow the working of the Holy Spirit, we need to know what God has already spoken on the subject, and I can think of no better book in the entire Bible to start with, than the one our Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) comes from.  When Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Corinth, they were becoming fragmented; divided over doctrine that was not centered in the Word of God, but the will of men.  Things like immorality, stunted spiritual growth, and confusion, were threatening to rip this little church apart at the seams.

Paul discovered that several divisions, or groups had developed that followed its own chosen human leader, exercised their spiritual gifts and time, talent, and treasure selfishly, and cared very little for the health or ministry of the entire body, the church.  The Christians at Corinth had received an abundance of spiritual gifts (1. Cor. 1:4-7), but they were lacking in the higher spiritual graces, that is the kind of Christ centered character the Holy Spirit desired to create and keep in them.

Like the congregation at Corinth, we also suffer from divisions and party spirit, which undermines God’s work among us.  And yet to God’s glory and our shame, He still leads us to a true confession of faith through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the Spirit’s work among us.  Oh that God would mute our idolatrous pride and curb our party spirit.  So let’s examine our message today, so that the Lord can do just that; let’s allow Him to combine our hearts in works of love and praise to Him, into a true confession that declares “Jesus is Lord among us!”

In both our Old Testament lesson and our gospel lesson, the theme seems to be a wedding.  But we must understand that the wedding motif or theme is always used by God to symbolize unity, and His relationship with His covenant people.  In the old covenant, it was the nation of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were united to God as a bride to her husband.  Specifically, it was that peculiar group of people who willingly followed, trusted, and obeyed the true God.  To follow Him alone and forsake all other false god’s required faith.  Faith to admit that on their own they could not keep His commandments and laws, and faith to believe that it was God alone who would save them from their sins and create a clean heart within them through the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of God’s people.  When God’s people trusted Him, no matter what, they were called His faithful bride.  By faith, they were to know that they were not forsaken or forgotten; He alone would redeem them and save them from their enemies.  Just as a young man marries a young woman, so shall we be married to our God; just as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall God rejoice over His people.

In our Gospel reading (John 2:1-11), we find Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh, a guest at a wedding party.  Wedding parties are to be celebrations; a time to celebrate not just the joining together of man and woman into one heart and mind, but just as much, a celebration that they are not two threads or strands that make a binding, but three.  It is the third strand that gives the cord it’s strength, and the third strand is God Himself.  Jesus was among His people to celebrate the joining together and to bless their marriage with His presence and approval.

Now, in the middle of this celebration of life, a problem arose; they ran out of wine.  If the bride and groom and the honored guests knew who it was that was celebrating with them, they would have no need for worry.  But Mary, Jesus blessed mother knew.  She knew that in her Son, God’s own power was with them.  She didn’t need to send someone to the local liquor store to get more; she knew that if God was pleased with their celebration, Jesus would continue to bless it.  So she came to Jesus and simply stated the facts: “They have no (more) wine.”  And then she did something wonderful; she shared the calming of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit with these simple words: “Do whatever He tells you.”

That profound advice to the party goers from Mother Mary is still great advice for us today; as a church, if we want to see divisions healed and the kingdom expand with power among us, we must also do whatever He tells us to do!

So, let’s go back to our Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), and let the Holy Spirit tell us what the will of Jesus is.

In the first three versus, it becomes clear, God’s will is that we share in the same confession of faith, and that confession is that Jesus is Lord; He is God in human flesh.  He was born, lived among us as one of us, He suffered and died for our sins as a man, but He is also God.  He must be 100% God as well in order to rise from the dead and declare that all things have been made new.  He must be God in order to declare that your sins have been put away and you have been made right with your creator and redeemer.

In the early days of the church, a Roman citizen was required once a year to put a pinch of incense on an altar and say, “Caesar is Lord!”  For you Christians to be united with your brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world, you must agree that the very idea of declaring anyone or anything Lord over you is a cursed thing.  The Holy Spirit leads you to see that it is better to die for your faith than to confess trust and worship in anyone else but Jesus Christ.  And for us to be one in confession of faith, we will also see that it is only the Holy Spirit who can by the Word of God create this kind of faith within the heart of someone who calls themselves Christian.

In Verses 4-6, we see the church is much like the human body.  It has diversity and yet it has unity.  Our human members all differ from each other, they all work together for the health of the body.  In the spiritual body, Christ body on earth, the church, even our little congregation possess gifts which come directly from the Holy Spirit.  These gifts such as our time, talents, and treasures, some of which are listed in our lesson, can be found outside of the church, but here in Christ’s church, these gifts have been gathered and sanctified, that is they’ve been blessed by Jesus to give God glory and help advance His kingdom among us, in the middle of this sinful world, and within our community here in Encanto, within the City of San Diego, CA.

We have been blessed with so many spiritual gifts for two reasons, to serve God by being a blessing to each other and our community.  It is God’s will that each of us use our time, talent, and treasure, in a way that brings for His gift of forgiveness to a dying world.

Finally, in verses 7-13, we see a list of even more gifts that are not to be used to build or further our own reputations as individuals but to build up the church.  That is the gifts are to benefit the whole church.  Now as sinners, this can become problematic if we forget that (1) the Supreme Gift, that is the forgiveness of sins is not only the most important, but it is the very gift that unites us as one.  Each of us received this gift in the waters of our baptism, and each of us has the exact amount of “Holy Spirit” power to accomplish great things within the body of Christ.  It is this power of God that gives us other minor spiritual gifts as well, which are (2) the ministries of the church.  Through these ministries, Jesus blesses us with both natural and supernatural abilities and talents that both bless and change sinners into saints.  And all of these ministries have one thing in common; they are gathered and united around Word and Sacrament. (3) Then there are the spiritual offices, which are positions of trust within each local congregation.  What awful disasters have befallen various churches when their pastor comes among them not to bless God’s people, but to bless their own bank accounts!

(4) And finally, we find another kind of gift that we might call spiritual graces or miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Today, we hear a lot of talk among our brothers and sisters from other denominations, about faith healers and the outpouring of the Spirit that gives the gift of speaking in tongues.  I do not think that the intent of God’s message for us today is to dig to deeply in these minor and miraculous gifts, other than to say that if the minor gift becomes more important that the Supreme gift of forgiveness, then something is terribly wrong in the church.  If Christ’s gifts to His bride, causes division and not unity then we would not be worshiping a God of peace and unity, but a God who brings only division and chaos.  And if that is the kind of god some are worshiping, then we should want no part of that kind of god!

I find it fascinating that Jesus first miracle was at a wedding party.  I also find it fascinating that it was among a bunch of people who most likely had too much to drink already, and Jesus provided even more.  The point is not whether Jesus approves of drinking of wine, but that He is among those sinners who are drinking the wine.  He is a Savior who is interested and engaged in the simple things of life, even the pleasure and thirst of party guests.  Is that the kind of Jesus that most churches are comfortable worshiping?  Are you comfortable worshiping Him?

The point of His first miracle there in Cana was not to bless a party but to manifest His glory; that is Jesus was there to let sinful people know that He cared for and loved them; He wanted them to know that there is a God who is among His people.  And because of that miracle, many became His disciples and believed on Him.  Many were united and would become united in worship around a God who would and did save His people from their sins.

Let us pray… “Dear Jesus, you are no longer in the world as you once were, but you are in the world among us in your Word and Sacraments.  We thank you that even as you left in body to be with the Holy Father, you have kept us in your name, which you have given to us in our baptism, so that we may remain in you and be one with our brothers and sisters, even as you and the Spirit are one with the Father. Keep us we pray, as one, in your name, the name that the Father has given you.  Continue to guard us and keep us in your grace and concord, AMEN!

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… AMEN!