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11.14.21 Source and Summit 1 Corinthians 10.1-6, 14-22 Sermon Summary

by on November 15, 2021

This is the final message in a series called “Church in Challenging Times”. It is based on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, a group of churches that presented Paul with many challenges. What have we heard over the past ten messages?

  1. We belong to God, and this is a gift.
  2. This gift is revealed through Christ Crucified so that anyone who has felt foolish, weak, or just human, can be comfortable receiving the gift.
  3. We can trust God alone to judge, and this frees us to get about the business of love.
  4. We heard how love contrasts with knowledge. Knowledge leads to pride and the abuse of others, whereas love leads to service and the building others up.
  5. Then we looked at a case study on love: How we settle disputes. Will we do so using the tactics of the Kingdom of the World, of privilege and power? Or will we practice the values of the Kingdom of God, like social justice and forbearance?
  6. We were challenged: Instead of using technicalities to justify our wants, try the more faithful approach to seek God’s will for the common good.
  7. We saw how each of us is called, and that it is up to each of us to respond—no matter how difficult it is for us, or how different our response is from others’.
  8. In whatever our calling, Paul urges us to work at it like a professional athlete and with a servant’s heart.
  9. We were surprised to realize that the main point of the Resurrection of Christ is that God’s great cleanup has begun. True faith picks up a broom and joins effort in this life.
  10. And we saw how our primary and truest identity is as the “Body of Christ.” The universal welcome of God, the generous providence of God, and the Kingdom of God, were all on display in Jesus’ life. And so are they to be with us today as the “Body of Christ.”

Which brings us to this morning. How does what Paul says to the Corinthian churches, churches existing in challenging times, speak to us today?

Corinth is a Gentile city, a non-Jewish urban center. Still, Paul proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, from the Jewish Scriptures. “Remember our ancestors with Moses,” he says. These aren’t the Corinthians’ ancestors!

But Paul knows something, something Gentile Corinthians didn’t know, and something his fellow Jews didn’t realize: These two communities have been made one in Christ. Paul writes that these ancestors were, “all under the cloud, all passed through sea, all ate and drank of the same Spirit, and that Spirit is Christ.” Who knew?! Centuries before the birth of Jesus, the ancient Israelites with Moses were encountering Christ!

Jesus taught that, “God makes the sun rise on bad people and good people, and rain to fall on good people and bad people.” (Matthew 5:45) Jesus saw that God gives life to everyone, that God loves everyone, and that God is present to everyone. The church calls this “grace.” It’s helpful to remember these truths when we look in the mirror or at another person. We are all under God’s grace.

What Paul understood is that God has made us all one in Christ. Still, we can separate ourselves. So Paul offers a warning. We become separate when we worship idols, when we put other things ahead of God. He says this, “tests the strength of Christ’s bond.” Be assured, Christ’s bond passes the test! But why test it, Paul asks?

And so he says, “Flee from the worship of idols,” and he uses the Lord’s Table to illustrate his point. “You come to this Table,” he writes, “but you also worship at other altars.” We worship, for example, at the altars of physical safety, of financial security, of achievement, and at the altar of vanity.

Be honest: We each have our idols; we all visit other altars. These other altars test the spiritual bond with Christ. But the Lord’s Table strengthens it.

Paul is saying, “Here is the true altar. No matter where else you have worshiped, no matter what idols you may have, keep coming back to this Table.”

The new life in Christ starts at this Table, and God will always call us back to this Table. Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, the Jewish Messiah, the Christian Lord, is our source and summit. No matter what challenges the church may face, so long as we come back to this Table, we can hope in the deliverance of God. 

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