Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 13, 2011

Article excerpt

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 119:1-8

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Matthew 5:21-37

Paul or Apollos? Pastor Jim or Pastor Alice? Worship at 8:30 a.m. or 10:00 a.m.? Intinction or drink from the cup? Protestant or Roman Catholic? The church with the youth center or the church with the projection screens? We in the church have a way of bickering, dividing ourselves, and aligning ourselves with many different causes other than the gospel. Some of these divisions and disputes fizzle out, some resolve themselves, but other issues of adiaphora seem to take over congregations and denominations, becoming the focus of the church more so than living and proclaiming the gospel. Paul's words to the church at Corinth are therefore just as relevant to us today as they were for their original audience.

Paul writes, "Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Cor 3:7). Rephrased for a modern context this might be written, "Neither the pastor who provides the mission trip to Costa Rica, nor the pastor who organizes the Youth Outreach Whitewater Canoeing Trip is anything, but only God in whose name all things are done."

What effect might it have on congregations to hear that Christ is where we find our commonality with the church universal in life and mission? What would it mean for preachers to first preach happiness in those who seek the Lord and not advocacy work nor social agenda, nor special trips nor congregational legacy. This might offend certain Lutheran sensibilities, those who would argue that our happiness is not solely based on our ability to seek the Lord but instead that the Lord brings happiness to all, meeting them where they are. Though I will not argue this point, it is important not to overlook that the psalmist wtites," Happy are those who keep [the Lord's] decrees, who seek him with their whole heart" (v.2). Again, we see the idea of those who seek the Lord being rewarded echoed in Deuteronomy: "Choose the Lord and his way, and you shall choose life. ... You will be given the land that was sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

In Paul's letters one can trace a back-and-forth between his ministry efforts, those of Peter, and even those of Apollos in the case of 1 Corinthians. However, a reader would be hard pressed to find an occurrence within either the Pauline epistles or Acts when Paul (or Peter, or Apollos) throw their hands in the air and say, "Forget it, just forget it. I'm done dealing with you. I'm going to take my people and start the First Church of Paul over here. …