“Unity In Christ”
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Sunday, January 22, 2017
We are blessed in that the disagreements, clashes, and quarrels are at a minimum here at St. Timothy’s. How blessed we are! But we cannot kid ourselves that there are not divisions among our larger faith community and the world.
We have just encountered, over the past 18 months, more public disagreement than most of our domestic generations have ever seen. We have seen public disagreements as recently as yesterday, public outrage as recently as yesterday, personal disagreement and personal outrage between public political candidates and the world that surrounds them, yet we have experienced the hush of the faith community through out this public ruffle.
We have heard bits and pieces of religious outrage and outspoken moments of truth, but for the most part, the contemporary 21st century Protestant Church remains silent when things get rough. I wonder, as the world progresses, how will we react?
The scenario is not far off the radical grid that Paul experiences with the Church at Corinth. Division within the Christian community was apparent, and Paul’s intention to bring everyone into agreement was at the forefront of his ministry. The Apostle Paul was outspoken on the fact that according to Chloe’s people, the Christian community was seeking to identify with those earthly people who were proclaiming Christ. The problem was that the identity that Paul singles out is that the believers had identified with those who had baptized in Jesus’ name and not Jesus. This in itself made for a tremendous power struggle. The identity had been lost!!
Divisions like this are still found in the church today. Dynamic preachers can risk the possibility of “cult like” followings, churches lose sight that they are there for the duration, most clergy (i.e. proclaimers) are just passing through. Followers can also risk the propulsion to follow a noted theologian and risk the separation from those who find truth in different articulations. The difference and the separation comes between the allegiance between and individual and Christ crucified.
The dilemma looms large, not only for Paul but also for us as 21st century christians who seem to encounter more possibilities of human alignment than did those of Paul’s time. There are so many more possibilities for us to align our belief in leadership and trust. We are constantly inundated with those who seek our allegiance and seek allegiance to us. We have the remarkable gift (free will) to make our choices in whom we follow.
It becomes increasingly clear that in our culture, not unlike the NT times, the impulse of desired leadership has increased with great magnitude. We have a culture and a society that is yearning to find leadership in all avenues of life, including religious life. We seek to be in the presence of good leaders, no matter the human process, how flawed or how perfect, we are humans, just like the Corinthian Church who are struggling with the notion of where does ultimate leadership come from or who will our ultimate leader be?
The confusion in Paul’s letter surrounds the irony of a time not unlike our present day. We still struggle with claiming Christ as our ultimate leader in our life. For Paul, the confusion and gist of the conversation was that people had forgotten whom they placed their trust in. They had forgotten the ultimate! They had forgotten what Jesus had done for them, and they had forgotten the reason that Paul was sent to preach the Gospel, not just baptize and when he did baptize, he baptized in Jesus’ name, not his own. For those who had forgotten that necessity in life has now made the Cross a joke, the “folly” of what Christ has done for them and for us. For Paul was literally saying that the work of the cross, Christ’s death and resurrection has become null and void and that our trust has been placed elsewhere.
We, as Christians, cannot allow our plea and search for leadership to become like folly! We must keep our eyes and heart upon the cross, upon the ultimate role model for leadership and hope! Our folly must cease to exist and we must lay claim upon the Son of God as our ultimate leader.
Sure, we will have earthly leaders but in order to live under them, just as Paul’s Christians had to do, our faith must be in the ultimate leader.
For we are reminded, just as the Church at Corinth was reminded, “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.”
AMEN & AMEN