Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Jesus Christ, the Church’s One Foundation - February 23, 2014 Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: 1 Corinthians 3:10-23
This week we continue and actually conclude our trek through Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth. Next week we move to Transfiguration Sunday and on Wednesday we celebrate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of our Lenten Season. And again I will remind you that these are not my words to you. These are not Paul’s Words to you. These are God’s Words, through Paul to us here today.
We talked a little last week about how to grow the church. This week God’s Word through Paul is a little different as God, through Paul talks about how the Church, that is the Holy Christian Church is built. Paul talks about the fact that he laid the foundation and someone else built on the foundation he laid. Of course, the foundation that Paul laid is the foundation of Jesus Christ. So, truly, it is God who laid the foundation and the foundation He laid was through the preaching of Paul. Interestingly enough, these words harken back to Jesus’ Words to Simon Peter when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. At that time Jesus said that the Church was built on the foundation, not of Peter, but of Peter’s confession, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Here we see these words confirmed in God speaking through Paul that the foundation of the Church, the Holy Christian Church is Jesus Christ.
God through Paul laid the foundation and others built on that foundation. Today God calls pastors through congregations to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ and not to deviate from the foundation. Indeed, my preaching and teaching are not to be mine, but God’s Word in its truth and purity. I am not to deviate from the pure teaching of the Word of God, lest I be held accountable to God for any deviation.
Paul continues to explain that the building on the foundation will become manifest on the last Day. On the day of Judgement God’s Word will be the measure of the plumb of the building on the foundation. These words of God through Paul remind us that our job as listeners to what is taught and preached is to compare what is taught and preached to the very Word of God. As Paul says, we are to be as the Bereans, comparing everything we hear with the Word of God.
Through congregations, God calls Pastors to be His workers and the tools God gives to Pastors to do the work He has for them to do are the means of Grace. The means of grace are those ways that God has of giving us the gifts and blessings He has to give. In our world today our Lord does not usually distribute His gifts directly, or immediately, rather He gives His gifts mediately, through a mediator, through some means and in particular, His Word and His Sacraments. Why do you suppose I harp so much on making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, of being where the gifts of God are given out? Because God’s usual way of giving us His gifts is through His means of grace. It is kind of like the fact that you go to the grocery store to purchase physical food to eat, so we attend God’s spiritual grocery store, Divine Service and Bible Class to be given His spiritual food.
And what does God give. As one of my favorite professors said, and as I often quote on the Maundy Thursday bulletin, Jesus paid for and won, earned forgiveness of sins for us on Calvary, but that is not where the gifts are given out. The gifts are given out where the means of grace are present, Divine Service. The gifts are given out where the means of grace are most present.
And so, God calls pastors to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments and to forgive and retain sins, using the means He gives. God gives the means of Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is simple water connected with God’s Word, namely His name being put on us and through which God gives what He promises, forgiveness, faith, and eternal life.
Of course, as we confess, our faith life does not end with Holy Baptism, but as God tells us, to make disciples by baptizing and teaching and so God gives the means of His Word. The Word of God does what it says and gives the gifts it presents. Through the teaching and preaching of the Word of God we are given faith, we are given forgiveness of sins, we are strengthened in the faith our Lord gives to us.
And even more, God gives forgiveness of sins through the very means of confession and absolution. As we confess our sin, either in corporate confession, that is all together on Sunday morning, or in private confession, which is encouraged and is good for the soul, so when we hear the Pastor speak those words of forgiveness, “As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I forgiven you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” we hear those words not as if our Pastor is speaking, but as if God Himself is speaking to us and we know for sure, we have forgiveness of sins.
And yet there is one more. God gives forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith through the very means of His Holy Supper, the Lord’s Supper. As we come to the Lord’s table, we are given His true body, as we say, “in, with and under” the bread and His true blood, again, “in, with and under” the wine, so we participate in His perfect life, that is His perfect life becomes our perfect life. We participate in His perfect suffering, that is His perfect suffering becomes our perfect suffering. We participate in His perfect death, that is His perfect death becomes our perfect death. We participate in His perfect resurrection that is His perfect resurrection becomes our perfect resurrection. And we participate in His perfect eternal life that is His perfect eternal life becomes our perfect eternal life.
Ultimately, the work of the works of the worker of God, the pastor, is judged in comparison with the Word of God alone. It is the Word of God which is the standard for my preaching and teaching. If I should teach or preach something contrary to the Word of God, it is you duty, privilege and even responsibility to call my attention to such err so that it might be corrected, so the Kingdom of God might grow.
But Paul is not done. He gives a warning and a promise to Pastor’s in particular, but I might suggest to all of us who offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, that is to all who wish to share God’s Word with others. First Paul says that the worker is not to think too highly of himself in the case of the Pastor, and himself or herself in the case of any Christian seeking to share the good news with others. Indeed, none of us is above God’s Word, nor are we to speak more than or other than His Word, which is usually where people get into the most trouble, adding to or taking away from God’s Word in order to make it more reasonable or logical from our sin tainted human perspective.
Again we have Paul’s reminder that man’s wisdom is foolishness compared to God’s wisdom. This comparison is true mainly because human wisdom has been tainted by sin. Thus, as I have said many times, when human wisdom, or what is taught as human wisdom, which we might understand as scientific fact, contradicts God’s Word. I am going to stick with God’s Word as being right and correct and figure that human beings have made a mistake somewhere along the way.
Finally Paul reminds us that we are Christ’s. Because of God’s great love for us, a love seen in His creating our world and His redeeming our world. Because of God’s great love for us, He has purchased us, not with gold or silver but with His Holy Precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Indeed, we are His.
What does this mean? Let me give you a heads up in case you might miss it, but look who is running the show. It is God who has given us the Church, indeed we might rightly say that it is God who has given us to be His church, His local congregation here in this place for over 114 years, and this is not of us, but of God’s doing and God’s giving. Many people have come before us and many people will come after us. This really is not our church, but this is God’s Church made up of God’s people in this place. And God’s promise is that as His Word is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered, His Church will remain and that means even despite us at times.
God has laid the foundation for this church with His means of grace, His Word and His Sacraments. And God expects those same means of grace are used to grow His Church, in other words, God calls Pastors through this congregation to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments and forgive and retain sins. God also calls us to take His Word and work seriously, in other words, God expects us to take our eternal well being seriously. To think that we or any member of our family is going to be in heaven simply because our names are on the roles of this congregation is to be deceived and is to be a fool in God’s eyes. We do not boast in our craftiness, in our having our names on the roles, especially if our names are on the role but we make no effort to be a part of this congregation. No, rather we stand humbly before God week in and week out, begging Him for the forgiveness won, earned, and paid for by Jesus on the cross, knowing that as Jesus has paid the price for our sins, He delivers that forgiveness, and life and salvation, through His Word taught and preached, through confession and absolution and through His sacraments rightly administered. Indeed, our desire is to be given the gifts God has to give, unworthy though we are.
Yes, God grows His Church. He grows His church through the new lives of members born to this congregation as well as the new lives brought to faith by the Holy Spirit through His Holy Word. Our boast is only in the Lord and that we are His.
We are Christ’s, by grace through faith given to us. It is all gift and it is all from God. God gives and we are given to. God gives life at conception. God gives faith through Holy Baptism. God gives forgiveness of sins through confession and absolution. God gives faith and strengthening of faith through His Holy Word. God gives forgiveness and strength of faith through His Holy Supper. God gives, God gives, God gives and we are given to and we rejoice that we are His.
God knows what is in our hearts. As Paul so rightly says, “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it,” in other words, on the last Day God will see if we have rejected the gifts He has been giving, or if we have be given the gifts He has been giving. We are God’s temple, created by God, given faith and forgiveness, given all the gifts and blessings He has to give so that on the last Day we may rejoice that we are truly His and He will gather us and all the saints and take us and all the saints to be with Himself in heaven for eternity, where we will stand before His throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.