I Corinthians 12:12-26
July 8, 2018
“It is easier to be God’s people when you are with God’s people!” That’s the line I’ve been using at camp the past couple of years. And I think it’s very true! “It is easier to be God’s people when you’re with God’s people!” When you’re around people of faith, it’s easier to live the faith!
Think about that. If you’re at camp, you’re living in a close community, and you’re around people all day who are talking about and singing about their faith. You’re doing worship every day. You’re being encouraged in your faith every day. You’re thinking spiritually, and sharing yourself and your beliefs in a non-threatening place. That’s the kind of environment we try so hard to create at camp. We want to make camp a good environment for living the faith.
The problem happens Saturday morning! Because that’s when you go home! When we would do retreats on weekends, it was always Monday morning. That’s when we were out of that environment of a Christian community. That’s when we were back in the “real world,” that’s when it became harder again to live the faith! We used to refer to that time as the “Post retreat let down!” And it was a real thing! And it wasn’t just about missing the new friends you made at camp. It was about continuing the faith, it was about being God’s people, when we were no longer around God’s people.
I think you know where I’m going with this. It’s the same with our church life. It’s why we have a church life. Because it is easier to be God’s people when you’re with God’s people! And that’s what I want you to think about today. “Being God’s people!” And I hope you’ll see that each one of us needs to strive to create that environment where faith can grow. And that doesn’t happen automatically. Because we’re all human, and as the Church we can lose that environment, can’t we? If we’re not careful, if we’re not vigilant, we can easily become the unsafe kind of environment that people come to church to escape! This is something we need to work on constantly! As I quoted from C. S. Lewis a few weeks ago, we need to be constantly reminded of what we believe!
And as I just said, it is “each of us” that needs to create that environment for faith! Saint Paul was very big on this one! In this letter we read today, he told the Corinthians that everybody – everybody! – is an essential part of the body of Christ. In short, he said that no one can say they are not part of the body, and no one can say that someone else is not part of the body. He said those two things.
And notice here that Paul says “all of us.” “We were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” There are no such distinctions within the church. And that kind of thought was unheard of in those days. And once again, coming from a Pharisee, a person who promoted those social and religious distinctions “for the good of the faith,” it was unbelievable!!! But those are the kinds of walls Jesus broke down. It was also the theme for Kirkwood this Summer. We were noting how racial, religious, and social distinctions seem to be growing in our world today. And yet we follow a Jesus that broke those walls down. What does that say about how we, as God’s people, are to see others?
At the very least, no one can say that they, or anyone else, are not important or essential to the Church. Can we agree on that? Every one of us with our gifts and talents and energy are important to the church. We are all “in the game.” Christianity is not to be lived “from the sidelines!” The Church is not a “spectator sport!” Everybody is “running the race!”
By the way, that’s another great metaphor for the Christian faith that Paul used in Hebrews 12. “Run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” That’s another great letter from Paul. And it’s another great chapter 12! That seems to be a good number for him! Romans 12 is another great passage in another great letter!
So think about it. We’re all running the race. It isn’t some of us running, and the rest are cheering them on from the sidewalk. We’re all in it! So, who is it on the sidewalk cheering us on? Saint Paul said it. He told the Hebrews that it was that “Great crowd of witnesses” that “surround us.” It’s those who have gone before us! They are our cheering section! We can’t see them, but we can know they’re there. Take a moment and think of those who are no longer with us in this life. Imagine them cheering us on from their vantage point!
Well that’s not all who are on the sidewalks watching us “run the race.” There are also the people in the world around us. They’re watching. And they’re not necessarily cheering us on, like that “cloud of witnesses! But they’re watching us! And if we say we are God’s people, they will be looking for us to be God’s people! We can’t get away from that one, my friends! We can’t shrug that one off! Whether we like it or not, we are that city set on a hill, as Jesus himself told us in the “Sermon on the Mount.” If we put the faith in a bad light, think what will it do to other people’s view of the Church?
On the other hand, if we are the people of God, we can shine his light, we can advance his kingdom, we can spark the faith in someone else. And that’s an amazing thing! And I’m not talking about “Evangelizing” them. I’m talking about influencing them. Because I believe that is the most important thing. It’s not about teaching the world the doctrine of the faith. It’s about living the faith before them. It’s about showing them the joy and the peace and the abundance the life of faith can bring – no matter what the circumstances!
I know I keep saying that. You’ve heard me. But I think that’s so important! Anybody can be happy and joyful and peaceful when things are going well. It’s keeping the faith, having the peace, and seeking the joy of the faith, even in the darkest times, that’s the strength of the faith we live.
So the simple message today is, it’s easier to be the people of God when we’re with the people of God. So, be the people of God – together. Together, promote that “environment” where faith can grow. Lift up those who are down. Encourage those who are wavering. Laugh, and cry, and rejoice with each other! Make this community of faith one that is a haven from the stress of the world, a safe harbor for those who have been tossed on a raging sea. Seek to know the joy and peace of the Lord, and to promote the joy and peace of the Lord, in all you do, no matter what the circumstances!
And may the Grace, mercy, and peace of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, fill your hearts and minds and your lives!
Eternal God, give us the strength we need to be your people. Help us to be that city set on a hill, that safe harbor in a stormy world. Help us to have your peace, so that we can show your peace to others. For these things we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.