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The Replacement Sermon

The Message – United with Christ(2)
1 Corinthians 1:18-31

In Jesus Name

May the mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, be for you, that which is the highest wisdom, and a great joy!

How do you explain…

There are times where sermons are set aside, because something that happens is more...powerful than anything a pastor can write. Sometimes these things are traumatic, a plane crash, an earthquake, a church being burnt, someone’s death. Rare are the times where something wonderful happens, something beyond belief, beyond explanation.

Yesterday, was the latter. By no means do I mean to deny the sorrow we have, for in Warren going home, a large part of who we are was ripped out. But I want you to consider some of the things that occurred yesterday, through the death of a man.

I think the epistle describes yesterday well:

26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

How else can we explain how this church was packed beyond capacity, a dream Warren shared with me, that he so desired – not for his service, but to hear the gospel, and see it in action.

How can we explain to the wise of the world, a 23 year old man, of another culture, another ethnicity, who spoke for his five friends with tears – about a 68 year old man, who they only knew with great physical limitations, and he spoke with great love and wanted to honor his friend.

How do explain the expectations that one person shared with me, that she was so eager, so hopeful for the return, if only for a day, of those who had left Concordia – because she was so certain they would find peace, some closure, and lots of love and they did!

How do you explain the hours that went into yesterday, the musicians who found as much joy in baking cookies and serving ice cream, of Marilyn carrying chairs back to where they were borrowed from, of Tom with the biggest smile on his face, as he saw it all come together. Of the hospitality team – I almost thing they were more happy opening those kitchen windows and having to sit and stand in their element.

The world out there – the world of big business, and governmental think tanks of philosophers and academics – never could explain what happened yesterday. For it was of God’s wisdom, a demonstration of Phillipians 2, where it say to have this mind in you which is in Christ Jesus – a mind that is willing to humbly serve, to give it all, even to endure suffering and bear a cross – that others might know peace..

It’s the same message Paul talks of today, when He says,

18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

Most of you do not realize the transformation that has happened in your lives. If you want to get a glimpse of it – try to explain what happened yesterday…it is astounding… let me be clear – it wasn’t us – it is evidence of what God has done to us, in uniting us to the Christ at the cross.

Fools, Morons, Wise and Intelligent

If you read this passage in most translations, without the context of 1 Corinthians, you might think that in calling the world “foolish”, Paul is mocking them – that he is playing a game with words, and that he is, and will always be against such people.

Talking about them as fools, and knowing how the world sees those who trust in Christ for something more incredible than they can imagine, we might equate foolishness with being silly, or wasteful of talent. I mean – why would Chris and Jon and Gina and Nam waste their time playing at church on Sunday – they could be trying to make it into the big time!

But the word for foolish in the Greek goes back to the medieval concept of a fool – and indeed the word in Greek describes it well – a moron. Not someone to be mocked as much as pitied. Not someone who squanders without thought their talents and time and treasure – but someone not capable of conceiving their value.

The words for intelligence and wisdom have a similar concept – the ability to “put it all together” is intelligence – to connect all the pieces to fully understand what’s going on, and wisdom is specifically bringing a high level of academic knowledge, especially that which is beyond the ability of most people to understand AND use it practically use.

For those wise and intelligent in the word, scripture is clear – Paul’s point is that God will destroy their ability to practically apply what they know, that their ability to put it all together will be suspended when it comes to God’s work. If they couldn’t understand why yesterday was so incredibly powerful, if they couldn’t understand why every person in this church, from the youngest helping people feel welcome – to the oldest helping clean up – served yesterday… how will they ever grasp what happens, as Paul says – when we are united to the cross in our baptism….

or when we kneel at this altar – and share in a simple feast of a tiny piece of bread, and some wine, the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for us, again uniting us to that cross.

Is their inability to grasp this – by their own reason or power something to mock them over? No, it is something to be pitied – and to rejoice when they can, in simplicity, realize that they are not God, and then find Him, revealed to them in their humility.

Remember – Paul is a missionary – like Cindee now is, as she is telling people about God’s love as they endure chemo together! Paul wants them to know God, and yet knows it is not by their own intelligence that can put it all together, and their wisdom – doesn’t cut it when facing death.

The Work of Christ

This is what the cross is about – this is the reason, the message, the logic of God, seen in a few church words – justification, sanctification, and redemption. I chose the translation of NLT here – because like last week – it breaks those church words down for us - to help us grasp the message.

So the cross was to benefit us in three ways – it pt three things together and connected the dots and in doing so, saved us, and helped us to get to know Jesus, and therefore the Father intimately.

First – at the cross Jesus made us right with God. Paul tells us in Romans 6 this was accomplished because we were united with His death, and in doing so, He made us right with the Father. God the Father was able to be just – able to punish sin fully, because Christ took our sin onto Himself, even as He made us wear His righteousness.

But being made right with God means we are made holy – and pure. We are set apart! That is what being holy means for one specific purpose; to be God’s people! We are to be His possession, to be in a relationship with Him, to know Him as our all powerful,, all-knowing, ever-present God yes, but also as our abba Father! And as we saw last week, as our friend, for He said he would no longer call us servants – but friends – that is what He set us apart for!!

That links to the last thing that the cross accomplished – it set us free from sin. From that which stops us from being able to love For their, the debt we owed, the punishment that was due to us, as sinners – Christ picked up and bore – so that we would never have to!

It all comes down to that – to realizing that we are right with God, His chosen people, chosen to know He is our God, we are His people, and in order to do that – the bondage of sin was shattered, because Jesus was beaten, crucified and buried, and He rose again, and now, waits for us at the right hand of the Father, acting as our advocate, the Holy Spirit bringing us comfort.

That’s what the world cannot understand, that is what God is using us to show them…

the kind of peace they experienced here yesterday, as you lovingly shared it with them, the peace of God, bought for us at great price – the price of seeing Jesus tortured on a cross – that our hearts and minds would be guarded and kept in that peace.

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