I really love team sports, such as football, basketball, and baseball. One of the reasons I like them so well is that it takes people of different abilities to do their very best while working with each other. I love to see a fast break. I love to see a blocked shot that is sent to a teammate. Some are good at moving the ball down court. Others are good at shooting. Some are good at directing the activity of their team. When a basketball team is great it is like watching ballet.
Or let’s go to boot ball. Last night the Cincinnati Bengals, an underdog beat the Tennessee Titans with a field goal. But to get there the defense had to tip and intercept a pass. The offense had to get the ball close enough to kick a field goal. And wonder of wonders the 49ers beat Great Bay with a last-minute field goal.
On in baseball, there is beauty in watching a triple play, or a triple steal. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes teamwork.
The same is true of the church. We who are gathered for worship today are from all sorts of backgrounds, and places we were born, and the religions that have been part of our lives. I was baptized First Christian. Confirmed, and Ordained as a Lutheran. I have preached outdoors at a Lake Service, preached in the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Methodist Churches.
But there are some things we share. We have all been baptized in the name of the triune God, or believe the Spirit touched our life and called us to be a child of God. When we gather most of us come forward to receive communion. The Lutheran Church teaches we come forward to receive life, forgiveness, and salvation. Whatever touches you the Spirit has a way to call us all to come forward, even if it is just to receive a blessing.
Most of us share the same scripture we call the Holy Bible. It is from that Bible that we read scripture and the sermon reflects on its meaning for our life today.
Today we are focusing in on the latter half of the 12th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. He was the mission developer. After he left, the group started to argue over the preacher they followed and who was the best Christian. Their arguments got so strong it was threatening whether this congregation would live or die.
Paul’s letter is an attempt to bring them back together. In this chapter he is telling them they all have special gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit, bur they were given to support each other in their mission to make and grow disciples.
Knowing I will be asked to reflect on the scripture I picked this passage because I believed this passage has a lot to say about being a member of the church and to see it as a team sport. To get ready I research the scripture and decide after some serious prayer which text to use as the basis of the sermon. I meet with two other pastors on Tuesday to share scripture and sermon thoughts. Then I write a draft sermon that is put online, and share some copies with folks who have trouble hearing. But the most important moment is when I am preaching. There are several reasons I look at you most of the time. One, if I don’t know what I plan to say before I say it, how can I expect you to remember it after it has been said. But there is an even more important reason. I believe that the Spirit is present in the congregation and there is something mystical that happens while I am preaching. Sometimes the Spirit gives me material that I believe is from God through his people. The best sermons are when at least one of us know God has gotten hold of the meeting and is leading it.
We also need to deal with the tragedy of a divided Christianity. The great divorce between the Eastern and Western Church weakened its power to call people to become one with Christ and one with each other. It was even worse when the Western Church divided during the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and 100 years’ war. Many left the church, never to return.
In recent years there have ben some powerful efforts to get beyond the divorce. Roman Catholics and Lutherans have stopped and called each other heretics, and now call each other separated family. We have looked for ways with other Christians and sometimes with other faiths to help the poor, disenfranchised, and the homeless. There is such cooperative ministry both in High Point and Greensboro.
Once each year we gather to celebrate the spirit of Church Unity. This year it is happening at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church this Thursday evening at 7 p.m. They are located at the corner of Johnson Street and Skeet Club Road. I will be helping lead this service. Please come and celebrate our basic oneness in Christ.
We are having a great moment this morning. Larry and Chris Stenzel will be uniting with our congregation. Larry was born in Iowa and Chris in Wisconsin. They will bring new ideas. I am told an example of a healthy congregation is that it changes a little bit with each new member that joins.
We need to take time to get to know each other and over time we will change each other. The key is to discover what would God have us do together as his disciples in 2022, and then participate in what God is doing in this congregation and through this congregation. Each of us will need as a follower of Christ to ask ourselves what role that means when we love as a member of a family or live in a retirement community.
We need to discover how we fit together, and what is our role in this community of Christians, our family, or the local community in which we live. God will show us if we trust God will and give us the courage and love to be his people. God will show each of us where we fit in this puzzle.
And now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.