Sunday, January 27, 2008

By Association 27 January 2008

By Association
Epiphany 3
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
27 January 2008

I have friend who likes to quote the aphorism, “You are known by the company you keep.” It is certainly the case that when people are forming judgments about us and they do not have time enough to get to know us personally, they often make assumptions on the basis of those with whom we associate. Scholars are known by where they studied and whom they footnote. Politicians are known by party affiliation and by who endorses them. Entrepreneurs are known by their brand and by their franchise. But Christians, how are they known?

The selection from 1 Corinthians 1 demonstrates how confusing it can actually be for Christians who are seeking to be known by association. In the midst of a conflicted and chaotic community, Corinthians were choosing sides and dropping names. Some chose Peter, some Paul, and others Apollos. No doubt as the founder of the church at Corinth, Paul had a substantial following among the members of the church. But rather than himself being sucked into the fray of competing allegiances, Paul reminded the church that Christ is not divided and that any messenger’s gift pales in comparison to the unity we experience through Christ’s cross.

In the 21st century, foolishness still abounds in the Christian world, as denominations and individuals fight for market share. We are apt to invoke the name of our church or our pastor to settle an argument or to gain entry into a particular club or clique. As much as ever, we need to be reminded again that our principal associate and advocate, our only entry point to abundant and eternal life is Christ. Who baptized us matters not so much. Into whose name we were baptized means a lot more.

Sing “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”

Let us pray:
Christ our Hope, we invoke your presence and your name asking you that you would enable us, our congregations, and all who call upon you to experience the manifestation of Christian unity in the bond of peace. Bind us together in love. Season us in faithfulness. Grant that we might keep before us the reality of your cross, living, speaking, and acting as one body. May we be known for having kept company with you, we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Needed Reminder 20 January 2008

A Needed Reminder
Isaiah 49:1-8
Epiphany 2
20 January 2008

Today I had occasion to give my testimony again, and with that opportunity came the reminder of how much farther I have come than I ever could have imagined. I call it “ridiculous blessing,” extravagance on God’s part that defies all reason and overwhelms even my capacity to take it all in. I have been a recipient of God’s favor all of my life. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

The prophet Isaiah likewise was in a moment when he needed a reminder. After a remarkable beginning, in which his tongue was a sharpened sword and his very existence one of God’s special weapons, Isaiah was discouraged. Rather than a display of God’s splendor, he regarded his own labor as being in vain. Breaking the silence of discouragement, God reminds Isaiah of the most important element in his prior success and his future promise: God’s faithfulness.

No matter how gifted we are, how blessed, how competent, how anointed, how successful, or even how spiritual we are, we all sometimes struggle with questions about the meaning of our lives, work, and ministries. We all will sometimes ask ourselves whether our labor and even our living are in vain. Seeking for answers in our own competence and giftedness will always lead to more uncertainty than confidence. That’s why we need the reminder to focus on the faithfulness of the One who has chosen us, the Holy One who had led us thus far and who promises to complete the good work in us.

Sing “There is a Balm in Gilead”

Let us pray:
For what you have placed in our hands, heads, and hearts, for all our gifts and talents, for our calls and our assignments, we give you thanks, O Holy One. We confess that the responsibilities and distractions of our lives sometimes cause us to doubt our purpose and usefulness. In those moments, by your word and by our testimonies, remind us of the solid rock that is your faithfulness, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen