Comments on Sermon: "The Foundation of Christian Unity"
January 27, 2002
I have two major comments, then a few minor comments.
Major comment 1: On the name of Jesus Christ (I Cor 1:10)
Phrases such as "We should all agree on the name of Jesus" and "The message of the church is Jesus" are a bit puzzling to me. They seem specific and vague at the same time, I think because "Jesus" is a name, but messages and agreements usually have to do with whole propositions.
Also, I think that many of us in the congregation, by analogy with modern naming practices, tend to parse the collocation "Jesus Christ" as a first and last name. Even if we know better, the force of our own linguistic conventions misleads us when we forget to be careful.
So, in this sermon, where "the name of Jesus" is a key term, I think it might be helpful to point out that "Jesus Christ" is actually something more than a name. It is a proposition in cryptic form, i.e. "Jesus is the Christ" (Messiah, Anointed One). That proposition in turn serves as a summary for the whole divine plan of incarnation and redemption. That is what we agree on. That is our message. That is why "preaching Jesus Christ" is for Paul, and for us, the whole enchilada.
In a Disciples of Christ congregation, this line of thinking could lead to an instructive reminder of what we call the Good Confession: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
The Good Confession recalls the biblical confessions of Peter and Thomas. But what makes it so good is that it says all that can and need be said in such a few words. It's a theological, spiritual, and linguistic case of "Less is More."
The "name of Jesus Christ" is not a way of sweeping theological controversy under the rug; it's a way of exposing such controversies as trivial in the light of
the one thing that matters. Here, then, is a basis for unity.
Major comment 2: On the Greek word studies of Schism and the word translated as Unity
The explanation of schismata as literally referring to the ripping of fabric was interesting and helpful. You mentioned to me later that the word translated as Unity had a literal meaning of creating a net. These two have such a wonderful complementarity that I wish you had had time to explore that a little.
A net is a fabric of a specialized sort. A fishnet is at one time both securely knotted and loosely woven. It functions as a filter--it lets the water, the debris, and the small fry go through and collects only the big fish, the keepers.
This idea might be developed to illustrate by analogy the proposition mentioned above, "Jesus is the Christ." The small fry of course would be the myriad
issues that divide Christians. The keeper is the truth that Jesus is the Christ.
The second principle of unity you mention, love and service, is completely right and worth many sermons.
Your comments on the alleged unity of the early church and the implications were insightful.
The coordination of the sermon with the morning's opening hymn, The Church's One Foundation, was effective.
Hope some of this is helpful.