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Sunday, July 21, 2013
Today’s Reading | 1 Corinthians 1:1–19
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (NRSV)
I’m sometimes surprised to hear people toss around language about how complicated the church has become, as if there were a time when all Christians were in agreement. Paul makes it pretty clear in this introduction to Corinthians, and in all of his letters, that people in the church have always struggled with disagreement. The miracle is that the disagreements aren’t the end of the story for Paul. As a matter of fact, he gives thanks to God for the diversity of opinion within the church.
If you’re ever frustrated that the church has so many different ways of worshiping God, governing a church, and experiencing life together in a common community, it might do you well to remember that consensus has rarely been the case in the church, and furthermore, consensus may not be the point.
The great twentieth-century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that Christian community is “not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” (Life Together, p. 30).
Paul does something paradoxical in the opening of the letter to the Corinthians: he first gives thanks for “every way we have been enriched in Jesus Christ, in speech and knowledge of every kind.” Then Paul immediately admonishes the church to have no divisions and live in unity.
I thought Associate Pastor John Vest summed up this paradox quite well in a sermon, quoting Bono: “We’re one. But we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.”
Gracious God, thank you for all the gifts and diversity of your church and your people. Help me to be attentive to people who are different from me; help me to learn from them; and help me to share of myself that your glory might be
more fully known. Amen.
Written by Adam H. Fronczek, Associate Pastor for Adult Education and Worship
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