7th Sunday after Epiphany – Year A – 1 Corinthians 3:10-17



Well good morning again everyone.  Today we are going to be Finishing continuing our mini series on these opening few chapters of focus on Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.  Today we are focusing on verses 10 – 17 of1-9 of chapter 3. It may seem like a rather odd place to finish our series – part way through a chapter.  However the reading that the lectionary has provided for us today is a good one on which to finish – and to sum up what we have discovered Paul has been highlighting Paul’s call to the church in Corinth over the last few weeks.to turn back to Jesus, rather than caving into the call of the world.  Before we begin looking too closely at this chapter though as we have each week, I think it is important that we recap what we learnt in our readings from the readings over the last fivefew weeks leading to this point.exploration of chapter one. 

To recap Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth in around the year 54AD while he was in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.  Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaea.  You will remember that the letter was written to this church because Paul had received reports that the church in Corinth was suffering under factionalism and placing great emphasis on the gifts certain members had over others. Others claimed superior knowledge and wisdom. While others were living immoral lives while still claiming membership of the church.

You will recall we read in our first week about Paul setting out who the Corinthians were in the eyes of God, and emphasising that though their knowledge and gifts are wonderful things they are all from God.   They enable us to see that we are called into a whole body of believers, that we are set apart – sanctified by God, that the spiritual gifts we have are from God, that our knowledge and abilities in the faith are from God.  Paul wanted them to understand the great truth that it is God at work in us that redeems us – that it is God’s grace – his unmerited, or unearned favour towards us that is what saves us – that is the very key to the Gospel!

Having set the scene for his letter to the Corinthian Church by letting them know that it is God who is at work in them, and their salvation, their knowledge and their gifts are all from God, and that they are all one body of believers – the body of Christ – Paul moved into discussing factionalism and division in the church.

Paul called the church to unity, to be of one mind. Now remember Paul  when he says that we as the church should all be of one mind wasn’t calling us to blind faith or conformity – rather he was calling the church to focus on the core thing – the Gospel. He was also emphasising that what we do and how we behave matters and effects how we are able to promote that Gospel – that is important!.

Remember he also gave us that model of evangelism – that being straight forward and honest about the Gospel without embellishment and without compromise.

Then we focussed heavily on how the cross of Christ is foolishness to the world.  We focussed on how it is through that cross we are reconciled to God.  That it is at the cross where the consequences for our sins are dealt with. 

It is at the cross where God incarnate says – even though you may think it is foolish, here I show you my love, here I do what I must to bring us back together.  It is at the cross that the bill we owe is paid.

Two weeks ago we readLast week in chapter 2 Paul continued talking to the church in Corinth about how the Gospel does not conform to the wisdom of the world.  Paul explainedIn the opening five verses of our reading today Paul continued to explain to the them how he didn’t come to them trying to appear wise and distinguished – he didn’t come to them trying to look and sound like someone who would be deemed respectable by the standards of the world – rather he came to them from a place of weakness – with a story that would seem implausible to them. 

Then he explained to us that it is through the spirit that we begin to fully understand what God has done for us.  It is through God’s Spirit working through us and guiding us that we begin to comprehend the magnificence of what God has achieved through becoming a human being and taking upon himself the consequence for sin. 

Through opening ourselves up – being willing to hear God’s call, being willing to let the Spirit guide us we begin to understand that what seems like foolishness to the powers of this world – is actually the very thing that will overthrow them.  When we are willing focus on what God’s spirit leads us to – we find ourselves drawn into an understanding of God that is astonishing. 

Then we also learnt that while there are those who Paul calls ‘unspiritual’ those who reject God and thus face the full consequence of sin. God never stops calling us.  He never gives up– it is not to late, for anyone – He is there waiting for us, calling us – all we need do is turn back to him. 

Last week we read Paul chastising the Corinthians for making him and Apollos idols – placing them in front of God. Paul called the church in Corinth back to fidelity to the God – and he calls us to the same.  We were reminded to search out the idols that we erect in our own lives – whether it be money, or reputation or our favourite sporting team – We need to identify anything that is in our lives that gets in the way of our relationship with God and set our priorities straight – because none of the things of this world mean anything next to the incredible love of God which saw him willing to die on the cross for us.

Today Paul is beginning to sum it all up for the church in Corinth – and for us!  You see what Paul has been trying to explain to the the Corinthians all along is that their salvation is not something that is built upon their own skills, or abilities. It is not something that is built on their own intelligence, their own knowledge or wisdom – you see no matter how knowledgeable, wise, skilled or able we are – we can never come close to God.

So Paul continues our section today having just finished explaining that he and Apollos and all the other preachers and teachers (including me) aren’t the ones who need adulation and thanks – but God is.

Paul says what he did in building a foundation of faith in the church at Corinth, was all through the Grace of God.  That word is important – Grace – we have heard it a lot over the past few weeks, have you noticed?

The word means unmerited favour.  What Paul is saying is that what he did in establishing the church in Corinth, wasn’t done through anything special about him. Rather he says that it was God at work – that he was a builder – yes a master builder – but a builder none the less, using the materials he had been given for free – the Gospel. 

Paul is saying to them – don’t you get it? You guys are arguing with each other, and getting caught up in petty squabbles, but the truth is that even Paul – the one who introduced you to Jesus, is no more special in God’s sight than anyone else.  Even Paul is completely reliant on the Grace of God.

Brothers and sisters we so often get so caught up in the things of this world that we forget what God has done for us. We so often get so focussed on the things that we want or that we think we need that we forget what God has already given us. 

Paul in this section of the letter is calling us back to God. He is calling us to remember that it is actually God who gives us all.  It is God who is creator and sustainer of the universe – it is God who calls us to live lives of love and care and compassion.  It is God who forgives us when we fail. It is God who became one of us and died on that cross in order to take upon himself the consequence of sin.  It is God who rose from death and forever conquered it – granting us eternal life.

Paul then says the most fundamental of things.  Jesus is the foundation. It is upon Jesus and what he has accomplished that everything else is built. 

Brothers and sisters we are called to be the very temples of God – each and every one of us – we are called to build upon that strong foundation that we have – that foundation that is Jesus Christ.  We are called to build upon that lives that are worthy of the foundation. 

We are called to put aside the things of this world and instead be shining examples of love and generosity and care and respect.  When Paul spoke to the people of Corinth about them being the temple of God, they didn’t have images of a modest church building like this one – no they had images of the Temple is Jerusalem – towering over its surroundings, seen from vast distance from any direction, adorned with Gold and silver.

Paul was saying to the people of Corinth and to us that we are called to stand out – just as the Temple in Jerusalem was sanctified – set apart as a dwelling place of God– and drew people from all nations, races and cultures to seek to know more of God – so too are we called to be set apart.
We are called to set aside the wants and desires – the idolatries of this world and instead to be those who like the Temple of Jerusalem draw others to seek to know God.

So let us seek to learn from the mistakes of the Corinthian Church of 2000 years ago.  Let us be the church that God has called us to be – a church which is truly set apart, sanctified – with Jesus Christ as or foundation. Let us be a church of people who are truly Temples of God’s Holy Spirit – who are adorned with the Gold of love, care and compassion.  Above all let us be the church that acknowledges that it is the grace of God – and nothing more – that has set us free and redeemed us.  Let us be the church that is willing to share that hope with others.

The Lord be with you.

Sunday 31st January 2016 – He knows us and calls us



The Word This Week:

A sermon on the Word:

Good Morning again everyone.  You will note that this week’s Gospel narrative continues on from last week’s.  And just as we spoke about last week Jesus finds himself the victim of an angry crowd, they try to throw him off the cliff.  It’s important to understand that they do this because Jesus points out to them that he, just like the profits of old will be rejected – but that this won’t stop him fulfilling the purpose that God has for him.
But before we talk more about that I want us to talk about Jeremiah.
Lets read from the prophet Jeremiah again –
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”[1]
You see, Jeremiah, one of God’s greatest prophets, tells us that he himself felt inadequate for the task that God had called him.  He tells us that he felt under prepared, that he wasn’t ready or capable of the call that God had placed on him.
Despite God – the creator and sustainer of the universe, telling Jeremiah that he truly knew him, that before he was born God set him apart to be a prophet, Jeremiah still felt under prepared!!
But let’s really focus on God’s response –
‘But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you’[2]
God’s response is one of encouragement.  He says to Jeremiah – I have called you and I will not abandon you. You don’t need to be afraid because I will equip you for your journey.
 Here’s the thing brothers and sisters, God knows each and every one of us too. He called each and every one of us to be his, and knew
before we were born where we would go, and what we would do. God knows what we are capable of.  Even when we doubt.  Even when we struggle with fear about our own abilities, and about how others may perceive us. God knows us, and he is with us every step of the journey. 
Jesus that day in the synagogue would have known very clearly what was likely to happen when he started his sermon. Yet he continued anyway.  Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah and says:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free
He then says that the scripture is fulfilled.  He points them to himself  – he knows that he is not alone as he stands in that synagogue.  He knows that God is with him.  That the spirit of God fills him and that he will fulfill his calling through the power of God.
Jesus knew that whether they accepted him or not he is the promised one – he is the Messiah who has come to redeem the world. He truly has come to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free.[4]
Jesus sitting in that synagogue is confident in who he is.  He is confident of God’s call on him, and he is sure of God’s love and care for him.
As we discussed last week as Christians in the world today we are called to take up this call of Jesus to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free as well.  We are called to bring others to know the love, freedom and forgiveness that comes only through relationship with Christ.
Sometimes though that can seem a daunting thing. How do we as individuals, with our own weaknesses and flaws bring others to know about God?  Seriously, I don’t know about you but I find it awkward trying to bring up God with others, if I don’t know where they stand in terms of faith.
I often feel under prepared, under qualified. What about you?
Here’s the thing.  We don’t need to feel qualified.  Jeremiah didn’t feel qualified, and God achieved great things through him.  When we recall Jesus we don’t see someone who was without fear or struggle – we need only recall of the Garden of Gethsemane where he asks the Father to take the cup of suffering from him… Fear and doubt and struggle are all a part of our journey – the way we conquer them is by being faithful, by trusting that God is faithful to his promises.     
God has placed a call on each of us, some of us are meant to be teachers and preachers, others are evangelists or prophets.  We have all got our own gifts and talents, and each of us is called to use them for God’s glory. 
There is however one thing that each and every one of us are called to be – witnesses.  We are all called to be willing to bear witness to God’s transforming love in our own lives. 
The way we do that is by being faithful.  Jesus that day in the synagogue in spite of facing a hostile crowd, was faithful to the call God had placed on him.  We are called today in a hostile world to also be faithful to the Gospel.  We are called to be willing to say no to a society that says God doesn’t matter.  We are called to be willing to say Jesus is the only way to salvation to a society that says all faiths are equal.  We are called to be those who say marriage is between a man and a woman, when the world says it doesn’t matter, we are called to say that Jesus is God incarnate who rose from the dead, to a world that says that isn’t possible.
It’s a daunting thing to face a hostile world. By witnessing to the truth of the Gospel, we will be ridiculed, called haters and bigots.  We will be labelled as backwards and outdated.  The truth is though that by holding fast to the Gospel, by speaking the truth to a hostile world we are holding out God’s love, because as St Paul says love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in truth. 
It seems daunting doesn’t it.  Like an insurmountable challenge – to be counter cultural. But God knows us, and he has called us, he will walk with us and equip us for the journey.  We like Jesus and Jeremiah need only be faithful.
The Lord be with you.

[1] Revised Common Lectionary. (2009). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Revised Common Lectionary. (2009). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 4:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 4:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.