Sermon for January 19, 2014

Sermon for Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 19, 2014, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Sermon Theme:  “Grapes and Peas”

(Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas; Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle A)

 Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Most Lutheran pastors lead into their sermon by quoting one of the Apostle Paul’s greetings, —  either, “Grace, mercy, and peace to you,” as I just did, or “Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Grace and peace” was the greeting used by one pastor every time he preached the sermon.  A little girl in his congregation sat by her grandmother every Sunday, her grandmother always wondering how much her little grand girl got out of each service.

One Sunday, the little girl was very bored and restless during the early part of the worship.  Finally, in childlike annoyance, she leaned over to Grandma and whispered, “When do we get to the grapes and peas” part?

“Grapes and peas” are not bad images to pair with images of grace and peace as the congregations prepares to hear the word and then are sent out to witness Jesus to the world.  Even when we are not in church, we are still part of the bunch connected to the vine.  As we move from worship back to the daily routine we are still peas protected in the “pod” of God’s presence.  Even when we are apart, we are connected.  Grapes provide a sweet, nutritional contrast to a salad, snack, or meal.  We are sent into the world to sweeten it with love.  Peas are less glamorous, more of a vegetable staple than a treat.  Still they are solid foundation for good nutrition, just as the Christian community provides a solid foundation for Christian growth.  Yes, grapes and peas indeed!

Out of the mouths of babes . . .

In today’s sermon text, Paul raises the question of what, as Christians, are we called to do?  He says, “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle . . . to the church . . . in Corinth . . . called to be saints. . . “To answer that question with “called to be grapes and peas” is not a bad response!

Some, like Paul, are called to be apostles or pastors, but not all are called to that.  There was one preacher who thought that he was called to force people to become Christians.  Whenever the opportunity presented itself he would point out a person’s sin, and shake the Bible in their face and yell, “Do you know that because of your sin you’re on the way to hell?”

One day a drunk got on the preacher’s bus.  The preacher wasted no time, he rushed up to the man, shook the Bible in the man’s face and yelled, “Do you know that because of your sin you’re on the way to hell?”  The drunk looked the preacher up and down and then said, “You know, the moment I saw you I knew I was on the wrong bus!”

All Christians have a call to be God’s saints; a limited number are called to be apostles, pastors, teachers, ministers of the Word.  Whatever the call, it is God who supplies the spirit and strength to fulfill it.

In life, most of the time when we are called on, it is to do something, but when God calls us, it is BEING that He is concerned about.  The Lord’s primary concern is who and what we are.  As I said, as Christians, we are all called to BE saints, to live holy lives.  We realize such sanctity, not by striving to be perfect, that would be self-defeating, but by offering each moment of our lives to the Lord.  We should simply say to the Lord, “I’m not much, Lord, but I’m yours.  Take me and use me as you will.”

“To be or not to be,” Hamlet says in the famous play by Shakespeare.  Society judges us by what we do, we are measured by our accomplishments.  The Bible indicates that doing flows from being.  Who and what we are is primary.  But what is it we are called to be?  Saints. 

Uh . . . yeah . . .Saints!  Well, that’s what Paul says!  Saints.  If that’s what we’re supposed to be, we need to know what that is.  “Saints” is one of the most misunderstood word in the English language.

We Lutherans believe what the Bible teaches about saints, namely that anyone who joins himself or herself to Christ is a saint.  According to the Apostles’ Creed, we believe in the “communion of saints.”  Thus, all church members, indeed all who believe in Christ and identify with Him, are saints.  That is our calling as Christians, to be saints, to be people of God through whom the light of Christ shines, brightening the dark places of life, and changing the darkness of sin and trouble into the light of Christ’s forgiving presence.

Since we are sinful human beings, we are not perfect, we cannot be perfect, we cannot be sinless, yet God calls us to be saints.  Our saintliness comes from being made useful for the purposes of God and being washed clean in the blood of Christ, with His righteousness imputed to us.

Paul tells us in our text that the grace of God was given to us in Christ Jesus, and that in every way we are enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge, — “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.”

As a group of saints, we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  How many times haven’t we seen that in this church.  We get computers in our offices, want a web site, and someone joins our church who is an expert.  We need a bookkeeper/treasurer, and an H & R Block employee has already joined our church.  We need someone to teach the Adult Bible class; he joins the church.  We need an audiologist and visitations pastor, and he joins our church.  Our church organist retires, and the pastor’s wife knows how to play the organ.  We need someone to play when she is out of town, and a guitarist joins our church.  And there are more examples!  Isn’t it amazing?  We do not lack any spiritual gifts, because God calls saint to join our congregation.

Aunt Sally was a peculiar woman with rather strange ways.  She had no children of her own, but she had numerous nieces and nephews, so when she died they were her heirs.  Not long after she died, they went through her things, and in the attic bedroom they discovered a treasure-trove of gifts.  Each present was wrapped in cheerful. Colored paper, and circled with shimmering ribbon.  There were dozens and dozens of wrapped presents, some stacked neatly against the walls, others piled high on the old sofa, others on the rug in the center of the room.

Some of the wrapping paper was decades old, brittle and yellowed with age.  As they opened the presents, they found toys, games, clothing bought so many years ago they were now out of style.  Why did Aunt Sally buy and wrap these gifts and keep them hidden away in that attic bedroom?  Whatever her reasons, no one ever benefited from those wonderful gifts.   Indeed, there is something sad, even tragic, about an unopened, unused gift.  It is even truer of spiritual gifts.

You see, part of the call for us to be saints is to use and give the gifts God has given us.  Your God-given gifts may be something the group of saints you have joined desperately needs.  Truly using and truly giving those gifts should be an outgrowth of your call to be a saint.  We must share our “grapes and peas” with others.

As Christians, we are called to be, not to do, our text says.  We are saved by grace through faith.  But being among God’s saints, we are endowed with spiritual gifts which we do not hide nor hoard, but use and give.  Paul concludes, “Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We are sustained, not with our grapes and peas, but with His grace and peace.  Amen.

 The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.