A sermon outline based on 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (RLD)
Step VI - Contemporary Address A. Description of Audience
This sermon will be preached at Canyon Lake Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 24 January 2002. There will be a baptism of three children on this Sunday.
Focus (What does the text say?): Paul reminds us that for all of our knowledge and wisdom, for all of the wonderful gifts God has given us as individuals and as communities and nations, nothing is as significant as the call to be part of the household of God, through the name of Christ.
Function (How will the text affect its listeners?): It is in the acceptance and living out of this call, that we are made complete as the household of God.
Introduction - Where I Have Been for Two Weeks
I have been gone for two weeks, but in that time, I have seen many different apsects of the Church. I have been studying for two weeks with pastors of many different churches and denominations. This last weekend, I had a two-day retreat with new pastors in our Presbytery. On Wednesday nights, I have been traveling from Austin to John Knox Ranch to tell stories for public school kids who are at our Church camp during the week for environmental education.
I have seen a lot of the Church in this past two weeks. And like the apostle Paul, I have seen a lot of good and a little bit of bad in the Church. We are doing great things in the world, but we are also still divided and still arguing with each other. We are not yet of one mind and purpose.
But celebrating a baptism reminds us of our need to remain united as a Church. We are united with all Christians, in all lands, in all cultures and ethnic groups, throughout the world and throughout all time, because we all receive new life in the name of Jesus Christ.
Paul's Understanding of the Christian Life
Paul reminds us that for all of our knowledge and wisdom, for all of the wonderful gifts God has given us as individuals and as communities and nations, nothing is as significant as the call to be part of the household of God, through Christ.
Of course, Paul was very much aware of the difficult realities of life that pull us away from this ideal. In fact, his entire letter deals with all the problems that existed in this early Christian community. People were living irresponsibly in their personal lives. There was sexual immorality and lawsuits among fellow Christians. There was disagreement about how to live among people who did not share the same faith. Doesn't this sound like the problems we face today, almost two thousand years later?
And the greatest source of trouble was how to worship. People could not agree how to celebrate the Lord's Supper, or how people should dress for worship. They could not agree on how much to pay the preacher, or who should be allowed to speak in worship.
In the midst of all these arguments, Paul calls us back to the source of our faith. Paul reminds us that we are called by God to bring good news to the world. And the only way to bring this good news, is to stay united in the name of Christ.
In fact, we cannot receive the good news ourselves if we cannot stay united in the name of Christ. But if we can stay united in Christ, Paul says that we will finally be made complete. God's purpose for creation will be fulfilled in us.
The Meaning of Baptism
This is a giant claim: God's purpose for creation will be fulfilled in us if we can maintain unity in the name of Christ. This is the promise of baptism. As we baptize these children today, we are proclaiming that God has a purpose for each of them. And we proclaim that they need God's help if they are to live out that purpose. They will need forgiveness when they do the wrong thing. They will need the guidance of the Christian community to find a vision for life. They will need a relationship with God to truly understand the new life God promises us in Christ.
When we baptize, we do not baptize into the Presbyterian Church. We baptize in the name of Jesus Christ, and only in his name. Baptism is a sign to us that God is offering all of the possibilities of a complete and wonderful life to these children of God. We do not believe baptism takes away sins. We do not believe people must be baptized to make it into the kingdom of heaven. But we do believe that all of the promises of Jesus Christ are being fulfilled among us, as we perform this sign of God's grace, as we are sealed with Christ's name.
If Our Unity Is in Christ, How Do We Experience It?
In a practical sense, what does this mean? Where do we see this new and different life? We see it in Jesus Christ.
We see it as we encounter Christ in Scripture. The ways in which Christ loved the people around him and the way he loved God, show us what our lives might look like.
We encounter Christ in the Christian community. We are called to live for others, to love and forgive, to teach others what we have learned in the life of faith.
All of this flows into us as we live a Christian life, a life that bears the mark of the risen Christ. Some would say this life consists of following Jesus on the road to the cross. We should reach out to others to heal, to proclaim God's love, to forgive, etc. Others, including Paul, would say that bearing the name of Christ has more to do with our attitude of thankfulness for the grace of God we have seen in Christ, who died for us, and was resurrected to give us new life. These two ways of looking at the Christian life are intertwined. Our gratefulness to God gives us the power to love each other. And by loving each other we deepen in our understanding of grace and forgiveness.
The Difference of Life with Christ
God's promise as we baptize today is that these children and each of us in the Church will live a far greater life than we would if we tried to do it without Christ.
When a friend or a teacher says the wrong thing or does something thoughtless or mean, we pray these children will have the strength and grace to forgive. We pray they will be confident enough in the power of God, that they will be able to risk forgiveness, to risk helping others, to risk reaching out to people who might be left alone without them.
We believe a life lived with the grace of Christ and filled with the power of God will be a better life in every respect. This will be true in elementary school and high school, in college and at work. It will be true when they start their own families. It will be true as they look around them in their community and see the good work that needs to be done. And it all starts here, at this fount, as we remember the One who calls us to this new life.
Conclusion - Becoming Complete in Christ
Paul reminds us that for all of our knowledge and wisdom, for all of the wonderful gifts God has given us as individuals and as communities and nations, nothing is as significant as the call to be part of the household of God, through Christ. God has a purpose for each of our lives and by accepting our call to live in this household of God, God will complete us and perfect us.