Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
February 1st, 2015
Given before the Annual Meeting of The Church of The Ascension
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
“…for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge.”
So says Saint Paul in his epistle to the church in Corinth, which we heard this morning. We know, he says, that there is really only one God; one God that created everything, and for whom we live. And we know that there is really only one lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we are given a new life, but he goes on to warn them, not everyone knows this. Not everyone has the knowledge of God as the creator of the universe; not everyone has the sense of a divine being that is active in their lives; not everyone has a knowledge of Jesus Christ and what he actually taught and did; even fewer know about his Resurrection and the promise of forgiveness and new life that that gives us.
So because not everyone has this knowledge, and because you do, what you do matters. What you do matters, because the people who know less or are perhaps weaker in the faith are watching you. They are watching you to see if this so called knowledge that you possess actually makes a difference in your lives. Does this faith which you profess have any power to it? Can it change you? Can it change others? Are you more generous? Are you more caring? Do you live your life as if you actually had a real hope for the future? Do you have a joy in your life that others can see and feel? Does this Christ exert some power over your life or are you just like everyone else?
Now the issue that Paul is talking about in his letter this morning, that of eating food sacrificed before idols, that specific issue I won’t go into detail on this morning. It is a better discussion for a bible study than it is for a Sunday Sermon and at the end of the day the issue being discussed really has more to do with the Christians living in Corinth at that time than it does for us. But the principle that Paul upholds here IS a very important one for us. And that principle is this: that we Christians have the obligation to live out our faith in such a way that builds the members of Christ’s body up and not that pushes them down. We who claim to know something about God should be ruled first and foremost by our knowledge of his love for his people and not by our own inflated conceit. We should be always mindful of those who are weak in the faith or who may have no faith at all, and we should make sure that those people can see in us living examples of the power of Christ.
We are called here in this little outpost of God’s kingdom to be a place where God’s transformative power is on full display. We are called to be a place where people who are weaker in the faith are strengthened by the witness they see in the lives of those who are stronger. We are called to be a community that doesn’t just know things about God, but who uses what they know to transform their own lives and the lives of others around them. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up, and as important as knowledge is, it is love that actually builds the church.
There are plenty of people who supposedly know things about God and you wonder what difference it makes. There are plenty of people who profess Christianity and exhibit none of its virtues. There are plenty of people who are comfortable knowing Christ, but don’t actually want to be changed by him.
When Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaeum, people were amazed at how he taught and at how he seemed to understand the mind of God. It wasn’t just correct knowledge, but it was the power and the authority that he had that astounded them. And still, one person from the congregation called out to him and said: “What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? I know what you want, you want to change us. You have come here to change us, to destroy us. I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God.” The man wasn’t wrong. He knew who Jesus was. He had the correct knowledge, but he didn’t want to be changed by him. Not everyone who professes Christ actually wants to be changed by him. There is an old saying that some people may be singing “standing on the promises” while they are really only sitting on the premises. This man was one of those. And what does Jesus do? Does he kick the man out? Does he expel him from the community? No. Jesus casts out the demon and not the man. Jesus shows that he has the power to change someone who doesn’t even want to be changed and the people are amazed.
There are always gonna be people among us who may profess to know who Christ is, but don’t really want to be changed by him. Its ok. Christ has love for them to, and he has proven that he can be a powerful influence in their lives, even when they are resistant to it. But for the rest of us, for those of us who know Christ and who want to be changed by him, we are called to show the world just how powerful he truly is. We are called to display the wonderful knowledge we have of God through the love that is in our hearts and the grace that is in our lives. We are called to use that love to build up the people of Christ wherever they are, and at whatever stage they are at.
This little corner here at the intersection of North Village Avenue and Quealy place, this is a corner of God’s kingdom. It is an outpost that belongs to him, and not to us. We are merely the caretakers for a time. Hopefully what we do while we are here, the actions we take, how we live and what others see in us will all be things that build up the church of God, that will cause people to be stronger in the faith, and help people not only to know who Christ is, but encourage them to let his power truly work in their lives.