Concordia Lutheran Church
Epiphany 1 - January 10, 2010
You Can Boast, in and of Christ
! Corinthians 1:26-31 & Joshua 3
† IN JESUS NAME †
May you realize your place in Christ, the place where God has called you to. A place of mercy, and of peace, where His love is so incredible, it is the source of all your confidence.
See your vocation
The first words of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth today, are incredibly profound. Consider your calling, is the way our translation phrases it. One of the oldest translations phrases it differently, “See you vocation”, and yet another, perhaps simpler – Realize where God has placed you.
The word translated Consider, or Realize, or See is one of the most interesting words I have worked with in the last few years. It is the word used to describe what Jesus did, when Peter heard the cock crow, and realized his betrayal of Christ (Luke 22:58). It’s the word in Mark’s gospel for the way Jesus looked at the rich young man, who chose to keep his worldly goods, rather than follow Christ.
The word means to see, but it more than a casual glance. It is the kind of perception that allows understanding, and a grasp of the object in front of us with incredible clarity and truth.
And Paul encourages us, along with all the church throughout the ages – to consider what God has called us to, our vocation, our place in life.
And so we shall!
The Have’s and Have not’s?
If I were to read this passage apart from the entire book of Corinthians, I might read this passage a little differently. For it would seem that Paul is applauding the simplicity of the people of Corinth. Yet, reading the letter completely, you would wonder if Paul might be using that gentle, special technique known as sarcasm.
If there was a city of people who thought they had it all going for them, that felt they deserved everything, it was the people of Corinth. Paul will spend this first letter to them, adjusting their focus. It’s not about who baptized you, or who your preacher and Sunday School teacher is, he will tell them. It’s not about getting justice, it’s not about finding the perfect mate, he will chide them. It’s not about who get’s the best seats to eat at the potluck, or at Communion. It’s not about who has what role in the church, for the Holy Spirit orders that. It’s never about who has, and who has not!
When Paul talks about people not being wise and sophisticated, when he talks of power and of noble birth, he is tearing at the roots of what gives them confidence.
God has never really cared about who His people are, in their own perception. It doesn’t matter to him if you have an elementary education, or a PhD from Harvard. He will use these things, as He builds His church, but they haven’t mattered.
God once took a man, who left his country because he killed someone, to rescue God’s people from slavery. He has used those who have lacked any courage to defeat armies 2000 times bigger than them. He’s elevated a field worker to become the king of His people. He has several times, controlled the very forces of nature, that His people may be delivered. Delivered from sin and guilt and shame, delivered to the promised land.
The greatest of blessings came not from one ruling on a throne, but one born in a barn, and killed as a blaspheming criminal.
That would seem like nothing to boast about…nothing that bolsters confidence, yet it is…
The Raging Water..
Let’s change directions for a moment. I want you to picture yourself as one of the priests carrying the incredibly heavy ark of the covenant. Made of hardwood and gold, you were chosen because of your strength. The leader of the people, Joshua, tells you to head towards the raging river. Just keep walking, a little farther, a few steps more….
You look at the raging water. You wonder what’s going to happen – Joshua said keep walking – were crossing the river today. You gulp, as fear and faith fight for control. And as you step into the river, you find yourself walking… on dry ground… not mud, for even the water that soaked into the riverbed dried up – that you might walk into the place God has prepared for you!
In the face of a raging river, the strongest man is no better off than the weakest. In the face of a God who would judge us, it doesn’t matter if you are Donald Trump or a homeless tramp. All are equal in their ability to stand before God, and no one has confidence based in their own worth.
In Christ – let’s boast
If we truly look at our place in life, if we truly realize our place, and consider our calling, as Paul advocates, where are we? Can we boast of our place in this world, can we walk confidently?
Yes, actually we can.
For God has used the simple to confound the wise. For God used the One, not born of kings and princesses but born of a poor day laborer and his his young wife. God use the one despised by the world and lifted up to die while others mocked and despised Him.
And God, places us in His Christ. He unites us to Him, even as He dried up the Jordan that Israel might cross.
And He takes simple things, like some bread and some wine, to remind us that He has called us, that He has placed us in His care, that He has cleansed us and made us complete.
He has shown us His wisdom, He has shown us His just, and His holiness in Christ, and in that released us from our bondage to things that are far less, that we might have confidence based in His love.
Can we boast? Can we have confidence?
Yeah, for the same reason that the lady, who had paid every doctor in town to cure her, who sought out every possible way to end her trauma, found the answer by touching the edge of Jesus robe. The same reason that the priests carrying the Ark stepped on dry ground.
He is with us. He has made us His. And yes, we shall come to know that He has healed us.
For God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, dwells with His people, and will bring us peace.