“United in Christ…We Lack Nothing” (January 19, 2020)

Sermon: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Pastor Philip Bigelow 

When I was a child I remember one hot, sunny, Midwest summer day sitting on the porch eating a popsicle.  If you have experience eating a popsicle outside on a hot day you know that everything goes as planned with delivering that cool treat into your mouth for about 90% of the time.  It’s when you get to the last few bites clinging to the popsicle stick like a tightrope walker that lost his footing where it gets tricky.  You have to decide which side of the popsicle you should bite while properly navigating the stick in your teeth, so the other side doesn’t fall off.  Needless to say, I failed.  There lies a chunk of my fruit punch popsicle on the sidewalk, which was no match for the strong sun that quickly morphed it into a popsicle puddle with speed to make even the best Transformers jealous.  After a few minutes I noticed something.  Here came one lonely ant to investigate this sweet newly formed lake in his world.  It wasn’t long until there was a continuous flow of ants coming and going to check out the just-hit-the-market real estate of Sweet Popsicle Lake.  And if you have ever watched ants at work perhaps you noticed this too, but it’s alarming how quickly they work together in unity.  It’s not only the speed that’s impressive, but it’s what they are able to do when they work in unity.  Ants are one of God’s creatures that by themselves really can’t get much done, but when working with thousands of other ants they can do extremely complex tasks that you never think they would be capable of like building and repairing the colony, gathering food and bringing it back to the colony, protecting the queen, eradicating diseases and foreign substances that harm the colony[1] and it’s all possible because God has designed them to work together in unity in an amazing way.

Ants are given this amazing gift to be able to unify and do amazing things.  So are we.  That’s what we are going to focus on over the next five weeks.  We are going to focus on the unity that we have.  First, we must establish what it is that unifies us and then, after we see what unifies us, we see the change it creates in us and what it means for us.

Why is it important to understand what unifies us?  Because therein lies the strength of the unity.  The unity with others and what you can do is only as strong as the common thing that unifies you.  I’ve played on and coached many football teams throughout my life.  I can tell you the most important thing that determined the success of a team, even more important than talent, is how unified the team is.  Is the team really a team?  Is everyone playing for the good of the team?  There were teams that had no business beating teams that had far more talent and players going on to play Division 1 college football, but they played better as a team.  What unified those guys?  The sport of football.  That makes players a close-knit unit for that purpose, but when you are done playing football that group of 40, 60, or 80 guys isn’t unified because they no longer have that purpose to bring them together.  What’s our purpose?  What really unifies us?  We are all Packers fans?  I’ll be the first to say that’s not it.

We said just a few minutes ago that we are united and because of that we can do amazing things.  What unifies us?  Our lesson doesn’t leave us hanging to figure that out on our own.  Listen as Paul opens his letter to the church in the city of Corinth, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you” (1 Corinthians 1:2-6).  As he opens this letter to the church in the city of Corinth, he describes them in a way that you would never expect if you knew some of the problems that were churning through the church.  It was a church dealing with some divisions, immorality, even lawsuits among each other.  It was a church that had some misuses of the Lord’s Supper and not using their gifts and talents in a loving way for one another.  It looks like an overwhelming list of problems they were dealing with and yet Paul says, “…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…for in him you have been enriched in every way.”  They are united in Christ and that made all of the difference.  How strong was their bond?  Well, what did Christ do for them?  He sanctified them.  They are set apart in Christ.  They are called out of the darkness.  They have been called out of the world that does what?  The world seeks its own interest.  The world seeks what benefits ourselves.  The world seeks to fulfill its cravings and desires.  Paul, right away as he opens the letter establishes, “That’s not who you are.  That’s not you.  That doesn’t describe you.  There has been a change.  There is something different about you now.  Now you are set apart in Christ.  Now you are called not for your purposes, but for his purposes.  And this isn’t just for you individually.  This isn’t to say, ‘Well, I see what God has done for me and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m good.’  You are called together.  Called together in Christ.  That is what unified the Christians in that church in Corinth and that is what unifies us.  We come here today and sat in the pew and maybe we don’t have a thing in common outside these walls.  But we are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.  That happens in Jesus Christ, our Savior.  That happens because he has made us holy.  That happens because we are declared not guilty in him. It is through Jesus that we are seen as perfect in our Father’s eyes.  Our sin is paid for, full and complete.

It is because this is true and because this is what Jesus has done for us and made us that our lesson goes on, Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Corinthians 1:7).  Maybe you haven’t thought about yourself in that way.  If we were to think about the people in that church in Corinth we would say, “It looks like they lacked a lot of things.  They lacked getting along, peace, order, godly morality, and we could go on.”  What about you and me?  Did you roll out of bed this morning and think to yourself, “You know what, I’ve got it all.  I don’t lack a single thing.”  Or does this sound a little more realistic and closer to home, “I lack acceptance because I feel like I’m never good enough.  I lack achievement because I can’t reach the goals that I want to reach.  I lack popularity because I feel like I’m the one that’s always left out and uninvited.”  When we focus on ourselves, we can make a long list of things that I don’t have or I’m not good at or that I wish I had or could do.

In these opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Christians at the church in Corinth there is a certain name that is used over and over again.  It’s Christ.  How many times is it used?  It’s used nine times in nine verses.  In no other portion of Scripture is it used so often in such a short amount of verses.  Do you think the emphasis is on us or on Christ and what he has done for us and gives to us?  I can focus on all kinds of things that I can’t do.  But, our focus is on Christ and in him you and I lack nothing.  In him we are complete.  Our focus isn’t on the acceptance I can gain, but that I am accepted in Christ and not on what I can achieve, but on what Christ has achieved for me and not on if I’m included or not but on the fact that I am part of God’s family in Christ. The reality is we lack nothing in Christ because united in Christ we lack nothing.

No, he hasn’t given us every gift and ability, but what he hasn’t given me he has given someone else to serve me and what he hasn’t given them he gives to me to serve them.  In an ant colony all of the ants aren’t the same and don’t do the same thing.  Some ants build and repair the colony.  Some go out as foragers to find food and bring it back.  Some protect the queen.  By themselves they can’t do much, but together they can do amazing things.  We are far more important than ants.  By ourselves we can’t do anything.  But, united in Christ and purchased and won by him and his love for us we lack nothing, and we can do amazing things.  We are going to hear more about that in the next five weeks.  Amen.

[1] Basu, Janet. “Workers without Bosses: How Ants and Bees Know What to Do When”  https://news.stanford.edu/pr/96/960318insects.html.  Article published March 18, 1996.