Sermon: 2nd of Epiphany
St Paul’s words for us today
Readings: Isaiah 49: 1-7, 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9, John 1: 29-42
Preached at 0800 Service on Sunday 19 January 2020
Paul Ramsey, Reader
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The epistle this morning is really a sermon in itself, but then that is almost natural as St Paul, and here his brother-in-Christ, Sosthenes were by letter preaching to the church of God in Corinth. They were writing of those in the church as sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.
St Paul had founded the church in Corinth during his 18-month stay around AD 50 to 52, and obviously wanted to keep in touch. There is thought to have been a letter even before this so called first one which St Paul refers to in Chapter 5. That one was to warn the church not to associate with immoral people. This letter is still concerned with morality, but also with divisions in the church. How appropriate that we are thinking about this in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. What St Paul was saying then still needs to be taken to heart and acted on today.
But first Paul gives thanks to God for the people in the church in Corinth, ‘because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus’. Paul sees that these people have been enriched in every way – in their speaking and in all their knowledge – because of his testimony about Jesus which has been confirmed in them. He is confident that ‘Jesus will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Do we feel that we here in St Mary’s, worshipping together and living in our community can be addressed in our time in such a way? Well, we all are given God’s grace abundantly as we live in our belief in Jesus Christ. That grace is more than we can ever really thank God for. Just as his love, too, is so overwhelming in that it transcends all human love. We are all fortunate if we can give and receive love. Are we not all enriched in every way – in all our speaking and in all our knowledge – because not only of St Paul’s testimony, but of all those who have preached the message down through the ages to here today?
St Paul was confident that the people in the church in Corinth did not lack any spiritual gift. This was a great show of support for these people. As we think through our own spiritual life, maybe we are not so confident. Maybe we don’t understand all that is happening in our lives. We may be uncertain that we have the confidence to talk about our faith with others. We even find it difficult to convince ourselves. That is where God’s grace and love come in. They can and will support us through all sorts of conditions and events. Paul recognises that the people in the church in Corinth are eagerly awaiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. Then, only some 20 years since Jesus’ resurrection, there was still the likelihood that Jesus Christ‘s second coming was imminent. Certainly in the two millennia since, the imminent likelihood has diminished, although Jesus may return at any time – here today, next week or well into our future. Maybe for us it may come at the time of our passing through the portal of death. Whenever it is, we too have that statement of St Paul’s confidence that ‘Jesus will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ That is just as true for each of us in our congregation and in our worship. This assurance that because of Jesus and his love for us that he will forgive us our sins – as we seek at each service and as he grants. We can then continue to be confident that Jesus will keep us strong.
So indeed we need to remember as we are buffeted by the world in which we live. Last Sunday Bernard Moss, whom we have been blessed with as our Associate Minister, died suddenly. For such a kind and gentle man to be taken so abruptly is always a shock, so absolutely for Sheila and their family, but also for all those of us who came in contact with him. We shall miss all his stories. His establishing of regular monthly services in the many care homes in Nantwich has been his hallmark. A new study group has been established, and he has been at the forefront in developing our awareness of dementia. All these will continue, but they will not be quite the same.
For Bernard and all those who have gone before us, we believe that they have already again met Jesus face-to-face. May we, in the assurance of St Paul being kept strong now here and to the end, rejoice that in God’s love and within his grace, we can look forward, being forgiven, to everlasting life – life abundant and eternal. Amen