I Corinthians 3:1-15
First lesson: Psalm 1:1-3
Children’s time: I Samuel 3:1-18
May 22, 2016
Now you might remember that little church in Corinth, in Greece. We hung out in Corinth for a few weeks several months ago and we talked a bit about that church then. Pastor Paul had been in Corinth for about 18 months in about the year 50 or 52 and had started that brand new little Christian church then. They didn’t have a church building. They didn’t need a church building. It was a very small church. Small enough so that everybody could gather in one home to worship. Small enough so that everybody could eat together in a potluck meal in somebody’s home every week. After all these years, I love it that we even know the names of some of these people. There were a husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquilla who had a leather working business (and by the way, her name is always mentioned first, so we suppose that she was really the brains behind the business.) And there was Crispus who had been the President of the Jewish synagogue in Corinth, and Titius Justus who opened his home for worship and Gaius and Stephanus and Fortunatus and there was at least one wealthy, well established, business woman named Chloe.
In that small church there was a great mix of people. Some in the church were wealthy, well established business people. They were used to making their own decisions and running their own businesses and ordering their slaves around and they were not used to cooperating with others or collaborating. Then there were the slaves and free servants of these wealthy folks who lived with them and who obeyed because they had to. A huge diversity of folks. And as you may recall, there was this squabbling going on about how some people were coming to their congregational meals hungry and not waiting for the others before they ate, and eating up everything they could. Perhaps because there was nothing to eat at home.
It was a small, diverse church and it was also an isolated church. The nearest Christian Church to Corinth was 200 miles away by ship to Ephesus in Turkey. Or 300 miles by ship to Thessalonica and 400 miles by ship to Philippi. And those churches were also very small, very new, very struggling churches. The brand new Christians in Corinth had lots of other Jews all around them in Corinth, and they could have told them how to be a Jewish synagogue. But they didn’t have any other Christian churches to tell them how to be a Christian Church or tell them anything at all about Jesus. Once Paul had left.
So they made things up. And had differences of opinion about it all and they fought.
After Pastor Paul left, Pastor Apollos came. And after he left they made things up again and had differences of opinion and fought again. And we have the impression that they argued and fought and had serious conflicts and controversies about all kinds of things. Some people quoted what Pastor Paul had said and some people quoted what Pastor Apollos had said. Some of them lined themselves up behind Paul and some lined themselves up behind Apollos. And some of them had apparently heard about Peter and they lined themselves up behind Peter. And they were fighting it out among each other. Until finally they heard that Paul was over there in Ephesus and they sent Fortunatus and Stephanus with a list of questions to ask him. To get his answers and maybe resolve some of their conflicts. And while they waited, Paul sat down and wrote out the answers to their questions.
And he said to them, “What is this I hear about all this squabbling and fighting among you? What is this I hear about some of you claiming me and quoting me and some of you claiming Apollos and quoting Apollos? And some of you claiming Peter? We are only your servants.” (He says this to people who have housefuls of slaves and servants. They know all about servants.) Paul says to them, “God gave each one of us a task. I came first and I planted the seeds of faith there in Corinth. I was the first to tell you about Jesus and how to be the followers of Jesus and how to be a Christian Church. And after I left Apollos came. And he watered the seeds I had planted. But it was God who made the seeds grow. Only God can produce a lush harvest. The planter and the waterer are only planters and waterers. The credit for a field full of ripening wheat goes to God.
And then he shifts the metaphor just a bit, and says, “I laid a foundation with you there in Corinth and others are building on that foundation, but that foundation is Jesus Christ. Everything we know and do is built on Jesus Christ, that firm foundation.”
And that, my beloved congregation, is the story of North Kent Presbyterian Church. Right in front of your very eyes.
I’m so glad that Sally Luidens was our liturgist today. Her father was a very early pastor of North Kent church, and as you recall, their family arrived just as the roof was blown off this church in a great tornado. But the foundation stayed firm. Some of you remember having worship and meetings and Sunday School classes and choir rehearsals in the manse next door. You remember Rev. Luidens’ strong voice in the choir. He built on that strong foundation and you re-built the roof on that strong foundation. Then came other pastors – including Kurt Stiansen, and Walter Teeuwissen and Dwight Hillstrom and Helen Collins and Paula Vander Hoven and soon for a very short time Bert Nelson and then before long Karen Fitz La Barge will be here. We are seed planters. We are waterers. Maybe we do a little weeding. Maybe we plow the field a little. Maybe we cover up the tender seedlings when frost is predicted. Maybe we stake up the weak plants. Maybe we trim the bushes occasionally. But God is the Master Gardener and the harvest belongs to God. And none of us takes any credit along the way. Because we are servants. Slaves. We do what we have been called to do.
We love you while we’re here with you. We sit with you and hear your pain and we listen to your hard questions and your sadnesses. We are here with you when loved ones die. We sit with you and we celebrate your successes with you. We laugh a lot with you and eat good food together a lot. We live among you and we talk about Jesus constantly and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We talk about God, and what life with God can be like and we point you to God. But we only point.
We celebrate what God has done at North Kent Church while Jack Luidens was here and Dwight Hillstrom and the others. We thank God for all that. Today especially we are thanking God for fifty years of servant ministry for Dwight Hillstrom and for Edie alongside him, and especially we are thanking God for what they meant to this church at an important moment in your history. We are remembering the large addition to this building – the conference room and classrooms and offices and a large part of our fellowship hall - that were added during his ministry here. But the foundation of this building is Jesus Christ. Dwight Hillstrom and all of you built on that foundation. It is such a pleasure to think back and remember all that happened here. I hope you will spend lots of time talking and reminiscing well together during Coffee Hour. I hope you will tell wonderful stories and enjoy each other’s company. And thank God for it all.
But this is God’s church. It’s not Jack Luidens’ church or Kurt Stiansen’s church or Walter Teeuwissen’s church, or Dwight Hillstrom’s church or Helen Collins’ church or Paula Vander Hoven’s church or Karen Fitz La Barge’s church. Sometimes I call you my beloved congregation, and I do love you. But really, this is the church of Jesus Christ. You are the beloved congregation of Jesus Christ. And he will lead you into the future that the Spirit of God will show you.