Summary: Sermon on beginning of Third Article of Apostles' Creed: "I believe in...the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints."
About this time last year the world was gearing up for the Summer Olympics in London. We were eager to find out if Usain Bolt would win another gold medal when he ran the 100m dash. He did. Bolt is an incredible athlete but he doesn’t strike me as a team player. Then again you don’t need to be a team player if you’re running the 100m. That’s an individual event. Wouldn’t it be fun if they made the 100m dash into a team event? I’m not thinking of a relay. We already have the 4x100m race where sprinters take turns running around the track. I’m talking about having the sprinters from the same team run at the same time - like in a three-legged race you might see at a picnic. How would Bolt do tethered to one of his teammates? Would he be able to shorten his long stride so that the two could sprint in tandem down the track, or would he simply try to drag his companion to the finish line?
I’m using this imagery (as I did in the children’s devotion) to help us see what it means to confess in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.” What we’re saying with those words is I believe that no Christian is an island. I believe that we are one people, connected by one bond, with one goal. If we truly believe this, and I hope we do, it will affect the way that we treat one another. As we continue to work at guarding the good deposit of Christian teaching as outlined in the Apostles’ Creed, we’ll see how the congregation in Corinth needed to be reminded that they were one people, with one bond, and one goal. Let’s see how the Apostle Paul’s words to them can serve as words of encouragement to us.
Paul spent 18 months serving the congregation in the Greek city of Corinth. After he moved on, problems developed in this diverse congregation. Some members claimed to be followers of Paul while others preferred their new pastor, Apollos. Still others stated that Peter was their man, while another group tut tut-ed everyone else’s claim by saying they followed Christ. When Paul found out about these attitudes spreading through the congregation like spidering cracks on a frozen pond, he wrote these urgent words: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought…Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10, 13)
One of the most beautiful truths about the Christian Church is that although people from all walks of life from teachers to mechanics, and people of all income levels from Lexus owners to Dodge Caravan drivers, and people of all cultures from Caribbean to Canadian are members of the Christian Church, we are one people. It saddens God when cliques develop within the church as much as it saddens parents when their children can’t get along.
Could it be that we are walking in the footsteps of the Corinthian congregation? Have we allowed our preferences for certain personality types build a wall between ourselves and other members? I’m not suggesting that you must be a buddy to everyone in this congregation. Even Jesus selected for himself only twelve disciples to be his close followers and of those twelve he had three, Peter, James and John, in whom he especially confided. But when you say in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints,” you’re not just confessing: “I believe that there is a Christian Church.” What you’re saying is “I believe that the Christian Church is a communion,” that is, a common-union, a gathering where all kinds of people are welcome. You may confess that truth, but do you live it? When you come to worship here do you smile at everyone and make a point of greeting them? Do you take the time to ask how their week was and listen long enough to hear the answer and follow up with other questions? Wouldn’t these be simple ways to practice the truth we confess that we are one people?
The reason that we are one people is because we share one bond. Paul spoke about that bond in our text when he wrote: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours ” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Can you pick out our common bond from those words? One word, or should I say one name is the answer: Jesus. Jesus is the bond that holds us together for it is in him and only in him that God considers us to be holy and to be saints. Make no mistake. Holiness is not something that is earned, as if you’re a member of the Holy Christian Church because you worked hard to become one the way Bolt worked hard to become a world champion. No, holiness is not achieved; it’s received through faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus. So when you say “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints,” you’re confessing that the believer sitting in front of you and the believer sitting behind you are saints because they, like you, have through faith benefited from being washed in the blood of Jesus and cleansed from all sin.