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Archive for January 23rd, 2017

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Text:  1 Corinthians 1:10-18

The Lord made His disciples to be fishermen of men.  The Lord called Paul to be an apostle.  Paul spread the net of the Gospel and had a net full in Corinth.  The Lord caught some very lively fish in Corinth.  Corinth was a major seaport in the Roman Empire.  The Roman Empire ruled all.  The Empire was a bastion of the cult of personality.  Augustus Caesar identified himself in a kind of a public relations campaign as embodying the Empire and not that the Empire should exactly worship Augustus, but “the genius of Augustus”.  At that time, “genius” did not mean as we know it, a very talented and bright person, but one whom the spirit of the gods attended that person from birth.  We have another word related to “genius”:  “genie”, a guardian or protective spirit, semi-divine.  Romans worshipped that ‘spirit’, that is the, genius of Caesar. 

The Romans identified themselves with Augustus’ genius, or as we would say, personality.  The Corinthian Christians, fished out of the depths of idolatry and immorality, had a  hard time shaking this cult of personality.  They identified with human leaders, albeit Christian leaders, What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”        Note how many times “I” is written in that sentence.  It is an ego driven world. Paul heard they were quarreling about their religious geniuses they were following and who, of these, genies  was the best.  Some thought they were so spiritual, Oh, I follow Christ, also disdainfully looking down on their brothers and sisters in Christ, in the name of Christ!  They then put Christ on  par with Paul, Apollos and Peter.

I spend this sermon time on this because the parallels between then and now.  Nowadays, a Paul, Apollos or Peter might be tempted to become Christian TV stars, personalities, complete with mega churches, tweets and blogs and books. In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, back then, those teaching and preaching the evangelical faith of the true Catholicism of justification by grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, began to be called “Lutherans”.  Luther responded by saying do not name yourself after “this maggot fodder”, but if anything, call yourselves Christians, little Christs.   Many have compared the fall of the Roman Empire, because of immorality, especially sexual immorality with our own empire and it is a fair comparison but so is this one:  we worship personality, the genius of  so many, just like the Romans, that they are genie like, capable of fulfilling our wishes.  With the demise of influence of Christian faith and practice, accomplished with the help of many doctrinal Judases in the Church, may we see the Lord’s sheer grace and favor in Jesus our Lord alone! 

When the cult of personality affects and infects the Church, dividing the Church, we must heed Paul’s questions:  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  These are rhetorical questions:

  • Is Christ divided? What is the answer: NO!  Christ Jesus is one, true man and true God, with confusing or dividing the substance, not man alone, nor God alone, but one who was born of woman, the Word became flesh. Why?

  • Was Paul crucified for you? What is the answer?  NO!  Even if a Christian is martyred, he is not crucified for you, only Christ Jesus could be, and was,  crucified for you, because Christ is not divided!  He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made”. This is Who was upon the Cross.  And so reaching in His Word to you from His heart to your body and soul:

  • Or were youbaptized in the name of Paul? What is the answer?  NO!  Paul, you, me were baptized in God’s Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, caught from  all the nations in  the net of Holy Baptism, the preaching of the Word of God, the preaching of the Cross.  The net has been cast.

The Corinthians were thinking that they had the good sense to be caught by the fisherman Paul.  How can a fish decide to be caught?  And the Father has caught us.  By His Son who bought by His blood.  The Holy Spirit has taught us God’s Word and still does. The only thing a person can do in regards to Christ and His Word is not to be caught.   Dr. Walther preached it well:

“Of course, no one can produce faith in himself. God must do that. A person may be in such a state, such that he cannot believe and God is not willing to give faith to him. A person who still considers himself sound and righteous cannot believe. “One who is full loathes honey” (Proverbs 27:7). In the same way, the soul that is spiritually “satisfied” tramples on the honey comb of the consoling Gospel.”

Walther describes the worst state and that is thinking I don’t need salvation because I’m “sound and righteous”.  The cross of Christ makes no sense.  It’s all about then, spiritual rules and regs. We live in a spiritually self-satisfied era, trampling on the Gospel, going after human leaders, spiritual and political and celebrities who do not save.  Yet,  there is a dis-ease at the core biting and devouring.

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 Paul could still appeal to the Corinthians because there was still the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ though they were falling away big time as we read in 1 Corinthians.  We all need to be reminded that it is the cross by which the power of God ever reaches us and teaches us.  And to prove it, the Lord Jesus Christ called as His first disciples fishermen!  Not academics, not pundits, not politicians and rulers and successful business men but men who’s job it is to catch fish. No college or seminary degrees but for three years they had a seminary education like no other to show forth that the surpassing power comes not from man, but God.  They were not only taught good information from God’s Word but formation in that Word. “I will make you fishers of men…” Follow Me, He said.  Do not follow this vain world, the path that is easy and wide that leads to destruction and it does all the time as celebrities have their followings. I have  baptized you head to toe, body to soul.  After our Lord’s Resurrection, it was a continuing education in Christ and for us as well, as we walk in our Baptism, after Christ, toward Christ, in Christ. It is bearing your cross, dying to sin and rising and walking in the Spirit.

 What a fine kettle of fish is the Church! Every kind of fish imaginable and the net is not torn of the Church the very Body of Christ.  He catches us out of depths into His own most marvelous light and so walk in the light, the light of His Word, learning, praying, communing.

 Pr. Bonhoeffer preaching on Peter’s confession, during a time when the Church was under severe attack and persecution by all the ‘goodness’ the Nazis were doing:

Peter’s church, that does not mean a church of opinions and views, but the church of the revelation; not a church in which what “people say” is talked about but the church in which Peter’s confession is made anew and passed on; the church which has no other purpose in song, prayer, preaching, and action than to pass on its confession of faith…

When it is the church of “what people say” then people are led astray, no longer built on the rock of the confession that Jesus is Lord.  This confession is what we pass on to others, not gossip about God. You  can be, and maybe have been, part of a neighbor, friend or family members’ divine and eternal joy  in Christ by confessing Christ is your Lord.  You are the Lord’s talking, praying, serving Temple. The place with His people receiving the fruits of Jesus’ sacrifice, once and for all, for prayer, praise and thanksgiving, the place of His Word, His Name.  His Temple is all gift.  “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians) 

 

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