Summary: A sermon for the first Sunday of Advent.
“Strong to the End”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
The church that Paul founded at Corinth had plenty of problems.
Some members of the church were arguing and forming competitive cliques, and each clique was claiming that they were more spiritual than the other.
There was a sort of spiritual arrogance that was tearing this community apart.
It would have been easy, perhaps, for Paul to look at the Corinthian Church, see all the infighting and divisions which had arisen and just give up on them, but Paul does not do this.
Instead, Paul begins this instructional letter by thanking God for God’s grace given to this church through Jesus Christ and with the confidence that, through Jesus Christ, they will be kept “strong to the end.”
And this hope, this confidence is a true mark of Christian maturity.
No doubt, Paul had a pretty good handle on human nature.
The Church at Corinth was exhibiting some of our less attractive qualities.
There was a mess in Corinth, but this mess was not an end in itself.
The people who gathered to worship as Christians there had heard the message of Christ when it had been preached to them, they had accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation; they had begun the Christian journey and God wasn’t finished with them yet.
I’d like to think that God isn’t finished with me yet.
How about you?
It is easy to wring our hands and give up as soon as the going gets rough, but like newborn babies, Christian people must learn to roll over before we can crawl.
Then we must learn to crawl before we can walk.
And once we begin walking we must fall down many times before we are able to get very far.
And all along the way God is with us. God’s grace is surrounding us, picking us up, helping us to strengthen our spiritual muscles.
A person who was converted to Christ told this story:
A man fell into a dark, slimy pit.
He tried to climb out of the pit, but he couldn’t.
A holy man came along.
He saw the man in the pit and he said, “Poor fellow, if he’d listened to me, he never would have gotten there,” and he went on.
A doctor came along.
When he saw the man in the pit, he said, “Poor fellow, if he’ll come up here, I’ll help him,” and he too went on.
Then Jesus Christ came and He said, “Poor fellow!” and jumped into the pit and lifted him out.”
Through Jesus Christ, God has come alongside us offering us the power we need in order to face the demands of daily life and to rise above the muck of this world.
As Christians we are in the process of “becoming.”
We are living in the time of the “now” and the “not yet.”
That is what the Advent Season is all about, the “now” and the “not yet.”
The first Advent has already occurred.
God took on human form, was born into our world, and experienced what we experience.
He taught us how to live, love, and get along.
He lived with us. He wept for and with us, and ultimately died the death we deserve so that we no longer have to die an eternal death.
But the Second Advent has not yet occurred.
The Second Advent is when Christ will come in final victory and we will feast at Christ’s heavenly banquet.
When this occurs, we will “know” just as we are already “fully known.”
But right now, in the “not yet,” between the first and second Advent we still “see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.”
We are still childish in many ways, even as we are being called to put our childish ways behind us.
Paul talks about this in greater length later on in 1 Corinthians 13.
Right now our role is to allow ourselves to be the persons God created us to be.
As the prophet Isaiah proclaims in our Old Testament Lesson for this morning: God is our Father, “We are the clay,” God is the “potter.”
This means that we are to trust in God to mold us and make us, to stretch us and form us into the people we truly can be.
Therefore, patience and a worldview which recognizes these realities are imperative if we are ever going to get anywhere.
How many folks leave the church, following a brief period of enlightenment and excitement, when they suddenly become privy to the fact that Christians—including themselves--are far from being perfect, and that many of us are, at times, hypocrites, quarrelsome, arrogant, and immature?
There are no perfect people on this planet, only a perfect Lord and Savior.