Summary: Paul roots the troubled Corinthian Church in the source of their identity- Him!
January 20, 2001
How many of you are gardeners? This is the time of year when we start to think about gardens. It seems that when the snow is deepest and days are coldest, days are shortest and nights are longest, we get out seed catalogs, if we received them, or start to look longingly at displays that begin to appear in Canadian Tire and other stores. We long to be getting outside into our gardens.
All gardeners have experience with getting new plants going. It’s quite a process! It’s, in fact, one of the most exciting parts of gardening, and, to a great degree, what gardening is all about!
I’m not the greatest gardener- in my family, Lynn is more the gardener than I. But last summer, I planted an apple tree in our backyard. It’s not very big, but it has grown and I hope to get an apple or two in a couple more years- if it survives this winter and gets another good growing season ahead.
The hardest part of getting a new plant or tree growing is getting it rooted. I had to dig a hole. But the soil wasn’t the best, so I had to put in some good soil to put the tree roots into to start, at least (it seems trees can put roots down and out to get whatever they need, but at first, that’s difficult!) I carefully put the tree into the hole with new soil and covered it and it’s my hope that the tree has rooted well- it seems to have because it did grow some last year.
It’s hard to root a plant in stony soil. It’s hard to root a plant in clay. It’s hard to root a plant in sand. But whatever soil we have in our gardens, we know that rooting is the most important part in adding a new plant to the garden.
This is true, too, when it comes to adding a new plant to God’s garden. It’s not easy to get rooted. In fact, there’s a parable- remember the sower and the seed- we find that story in Matthew 13? That story tells us how difficult it can be to get seeds rooted in various kinds of soils and conditions. Rooting was the difficult thing in the story. Not all soil is terrific and there’s a lot against a seed or plant getting properly rooted in some soils!
The great NT writer named Paul was concerned with getting some people rooted. He had been involved in beginning the congregation that lived in the Greek city of Corinth, and he’d had to leave. And things didn’t go all that well early on in the life of the church there, so Paul became aware of this and wrote a letter in which his principle concern was getting them properly rooted. The whole letter is concerned with this, but he begins this message and builds this message right from the beginning.
Please turn with me, today, to 1 Corinthians and we’ll focus today on the first 9 verses- that’s all! We’re going to look at the entire book over the next several months and I hope you’ll gain a great appreciation for the richness of this personal letter to this congregation. Keep in mind what Paul wanted to do throughout it, as you read through this letter and look over Paul’s shoulder and get some insights into Paul’s mind as he expressed the deepest of concern for these newer Christians!
I want this to be simple, today, too, so I’ll tell you what I see in these 9 verses- and why the title I chose is “Him”. Paul’s focus is on Him- on God- who has made it all possible for the Corinthian Christians. From the beginning to the end of this section, and from the beginning to the end of this letter, Paul is ‘high’ on God! He is ‘high’ on Him! It was a tremendously important lesson for those people. It’s a message that might have some relevance for us, in Cornwall/Montreal in 2001, too! We’ll consider that a little later.
v. 1- Paul recognized that he was all he was because of God- because of Him! He knows he was not who he was because of something in and of himself. So, he begins, in a standard Paul-type greeting, which was rather typical in letters of the time, and he declares who he was and how he got to be who he was! This is rather telling. He was called, and in the NT, that refers to a ‘call obeyed’. He had received a call- an invitation- a hearkening, in some way (dramatic, in his case), and he had obeyed that call. That’s fortunate for him, of course. That call came from the highest source!