Second Sunday After Pentecost
June 13 and 14, 2020
“The Most Glorious Connection”
I Corinthians 12:12-27
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
This is a monumental day. This is a day filled with emotion. We’re here. In this place. With one another. I look out and you all look like a bunch of bank thieves. And you have never looked better. Together we are here worshiping our great God, together we are here singing His praises, together we join at the table and receive heavenly food.
On Friday the Thirteenth of March, the world was changing fast. I called a meeting with Arvin Michel, Roger Gaide and Bob Hea, some of the leaders of this congregation, and I told them that we needed to stop meeting together as a congregation in corporate worship. They agreed and we said that we would reevaluate our decision by the end of March. At that time the thought of not being together as a congregation to celebrate Easter, one month from that original day, was not even considered. But we didn’t join together in larger gatherings for Easter, or any of Holy Week, or since. Today (June 13) is exactly three months since that decision was made. But, finally, we’re here.
This is a great day. This is a day to celebrate the most glorious connection that we have. In the early days of Coors Field there was no social distancing in practice. For a number of years every day or night the Colorado Rockies played baseball, 50,000 folks would pack the stadium. Alan Roach, then the Public Address Announcer for the Rockies, to the roar of the crowd would say, “Welcome to Coors Field, the Greatest Place on Earth.” Roach is right about many things, but he is not right about that one. The greatest place on earth is where God’s people meet. The greatest place on earth is in the church. Today, for me, maybe for you, it is this place.
I have been meeting with more people in their homes or in my office over the last few weeks than I have done for a few months. Before we have a devotion from God’s Word and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we visit. One of my visits this week included a couple who said that they have learned a number of things during this pandemic – especially about making choices that really matter in life. They have had to evaluate what is truly important in life and what isn’t. I bet some of those questions have been raised in your life too. I believe that Paul, in our reading from Corinthians, is asking us to evaluate what is primary in our life.
The point of my sermon today is this – The most glorious connection we have upon earth is first with our God and then with one another. By the blood of Jesus we are made a member of God’s church and connected in faith to God. By the strength of the Holy Spirit we are connected in love to one another. This is the greatest place upon earth because here we are connected to Him and to one another.
Paul talks about this glorious connection with Jesus like this, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (I Corinthians 12:13) You are connected, in faith, by grace, to a living God. In a similar picture of a united body, Galatians 3 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ Jesus have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
During our services online I have gotten a few comments and a few suggestions about the service, or my sermons, or my appearance. Janet Heisz told me that she likes the services but she said that the lighting is too bright – my forehead is a little too shiny!! (Thanks, Janet!!) There is one thing that I have tried to say in most of the broadcasts, it is the simple call for everyone to trust Jesus. We need Him. We need to be connected to God our Father through the work of Jesus. Trust Jesus!! For the forgiveness of sins, for life, for death, for eternity – trust in Jesus. Jesus said the same when He spoke, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
First the connection must be with Jesus. Faith. Trust. Believing in Him. He is Savior and Lord. He must be your Savior and Lord. Mine too. Second – we must be connected to each other. Paul, in this reading that shows unity through diversity, says, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (I Corinthians 12:14) At the conclusion of our section he would bring it all together by saying, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27)
One of our folks shared a worry that she had when this all started. She said, “I am worried that our congregation won’t stick together through all of this.” I hope that we do and that whenever this is all ended we are stronger as a congregation of believers. But there is much that can divide us during this time, or at any time. The biggest obstacle for this most glorious connection that we have as a congregation is pride. In his picture of a church being like a hand or a foot or an eye or an ear, he says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’! On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable are treated with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.” (I Corinthians 12:21-23)
A congregation built on pride and arrogance is a congregation that will fall. It will be divided. It is built on self and not on Christ. When you are trying to understand a section from the Bible you have to read the context. I Corinthians 12 leads us into I Corinthians 13 – the chapter of love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal… If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (Portions of I Corinthians 13:1-2) The most glorious connection is when we live as God’s people in true love.
This picture of the church as a body didn’t originate with Paul. Some of the Greek writers before him used it. In a fable from Menenius Agrippa the various parts of the body got together for a complaint session to express their disdain for the stomach. All the stomach seemed to want to do was eat. The stomach enjoyed the best of food and drink and had lots of it. So all the parts of the body rose up against the stomach and decided to starve it. But soon they found out that by starving the stomach they too became weak. There can be no room for arrogance or pride because God had a say in how we would connect to one another – “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” (I Corinthians 12:18)
Paul says of this essential connection that we, various parts of the body in the church, have to each other, “There should be no divisions in the body, but that all its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (I Corinthians 12:25-26) In this most glorious connection that we have with one another, together we divide each other’s sorrows and multiply the joy of others.
This is a great day. But a greater day is coming. Some of our most wonderful folks can’t be with us yet. Their health is compromised and it is not wise for them to come into a gathering like this. But some day we’ll gather, get rid of masks, and have a group hug with hundreds of people. Someday.
Until then we do have the most glorious connection in the world. We have Jesus. Jesus has us. And we have one another. Amen!!