Hanover College Chapel
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 and Philippians 2:1-11
Keep Doing, but Dare to Do More!
There was an elderly man in a nursing home who lost his dentures. That night went around with a pillow case collecting everyone else’s dentures from the glasses alongside their beds. After collecting all the dentures he tried them all on until he found some that fit him and then he took the pillow case around putting the teeth back in everyone’s bedside glasses (of course not their own teeth in their glasses). The next morning everyone woke up and began to put their dentures in, only to find that they didn’t fit! And so they tried to function as the nursing home sought a solution to the problem, all the while struggling because their teeth didn’t fit.
How many of us walk around this campus trying to function but feeling like our theology doesn’t fit? How many people on this campus feel alienated because their theology doesn’t fit?
In verse 11 of today’s text we hear the church being called out because there has been what the NRSV translates as quarrels among the people within this church, the translation of the word into quarrels doesn’t do the Greek justice because the Greek word can be translated into strife, contention, or dissention. A division is rising up and Paul says people are taking stands and choosing sides by saying “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to Cephas” today we might say “I belong to Luther” or “I belong to Calvin” or dare I say “I belong to Laura”. What does it mean to belong to someone, to agree with their theology? Does it mean your allegiance is to them? The next question posed in this passage by Paul is one of my favorites. He asks “Has Christ been divided?”
John Calvin puts it this way,
For no hope of future inheritance remains to us unless we have been united with all other members under Christ, our Head. The church is called 'catholic' or 'universal' because there could not be two or three churches unless Christ be torn asunder which cannot happen! (Institutes book 4)
In other words all of the quarreling that goes on within the church based on who we claim to follow, besides Christ that is, is all nonsense because Christ is the head of the church and Christ was not divided into pieces or split into factions! Therefore the church is called to unity in mission. In the end who are we here to serve? What is it that we are all working for?
If there is one thing this chapel community does well it is that we do not let our differences of theology get in the way of us being a supportive and loving community. Some of us like Maria focus on how God’s love relates to our everyday lives, how we come to be transformed and live as a transformed people. Those like Scott are wicked smart and have crazy formulas that end with the bottom line that God’s grace is super fantastic! Daniel likes to keep it simple stupid and let us know that because of Christ we can be in the presence of God. Laura believes the church is a support system, scripture is truth and nothing can separate us from God! Eric believes God loves everyone, even those who are his enemies! Rosa believes that we are the hands and the feet of Jesus in the world around us and therefore we do the work of Christ that reaches out to all people. And mine, we should just be like Jesus. Period.
And I could separate these theologies that we have submitted (if you haven’t given one to Laura see her after chapel and you will get a colored piece of paper and have your opportunity). I could separate them by content, by diagrams, by pictures, by many different things because though our theologies may seem to differ, at their core they all share the same mind and purpose that God has created a world and a people that need to be cared for and welcomed in. God is love and we are to be love on our campus and in our world! What a powerful message from this small community of folks from different backgrounds and traditions!
I paired this passage from 1 Corinthians with one of my favorites from Philippians because of this affirmation for our community. To let the same mind be in us that was in Jesus:
Who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Within our chapel bubble, which is even smaller than the Hanover bubble, we do a great job of being in the same mind as Christ. Serving one another, putting each other before ourselves, we have this down!
Most of you who have heard me preach before know I can’t just end here, though it is a high note, I do not believe we can read scripture and walk away simply feeling like we can pat ourselves on the back and say job well done. The Holy Spirit is always at work challenging us to see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and go out with new hands and feet to serve in a different way.
So now that we’ve patted ourselves on the back and come far enough to say we are a supportive and loving community that loves to do the work of Christ, let’s take a look at this text and see what is in store for the future of this community.
There are some key points in the text that raise good questions for us to ponder and answer, maybe not today, but as we grow and continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters on this campus, in E. KY, in Nashville, in Haiti, or wherever we may go.
While we have seen that divisions are harmful to the unity of a community or congregation, I think this text also challenges to take a deep look at what we do and do not believe as individuals. These individual beliefs often effect how we live in a community of faith. Do I believe that there is no way God could punish a person, made in the imago dei or image of God, by sending them to hell? Do I believe that hell is real and people end up there? Do I believe baptism is necessary for salvation? That it is merely an outward expression of an inward commitment? Do I believe that baptism signifies my presence in a community of faith? Or one of the other possible beliefs on Baptism? What do I believe about the Lord’s supper, or communion, or the Eucharist? Do I call it the Lord’s table or the altar? What do these things that I believe have to say about how I live in community with those here in this room and those who do not come into this sanctuary?
What does it mean to me for the message of the cross to be power to the saved? What do I believe about being “saved” and what does that mean?
What is our purpose as a community and what are we doing to make sure we fulfill that purpose?
Are these questions that we as a community answer or do we do so as individuals?
The question I would like to pose to this community is a tough one for myself and it may be a tough one for the community but I see the same faces here week after week, what are we doing to make sure that our brothers and sisters on this campus are feeling welcome in this space? What are we doing to make sure that peoples theologies are not being alienated, that they are not walking around feeling like misfits, but instead feeling the love and service of those who are here today?
Christianity has a long history of being a very exclusive religion. You have to believe a certain way to be in and if not you are out, but I’d like to see more communities like this. Ones where folks set aside differences to exemplify love, a word that my not so stuffy dictionary of theological terms defines as
Not a thing that is blind but the act of actually seeing the needs of others and putting their needs higher than yourself or your needs. (Crazy-Talk)
But I’d like to see the same community exemplifying love refuse to become complacent, to refuse to settle as if what they are doing is enough, because when I look out into the world I see people wandering around with their heads down feeling as if they just don’t fit in. May we challenge each other and ourselves to reach out to those who are not like us, those who we know need someone to welcome them in, those we know who are still figuring out exactly what it is they do believe. Because let’s face it, how many of us 10 years from now are going to have the exact same theologies that we do now?
Keep loving each other. Keep setting aside your differences to stand on common ground. Keep supporting one another, but dare to reach out. Dare to break down barriers that society has built up. Dare to be Christ on this campus. Dare to love radically. And dare to dream a vision of a chapel community without walls, so that all may come together to celebrate and proclaim the good news!
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.