Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sermon for Feb 16, 2014; 1 Corithians 3:1-9

Rev. George Miller
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
“You Belong to Me”
Feb 16, 2014
A burglar broke into a home one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables. When he picked up a computer, a strange, disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying, "Jesus is watching you."

He nearly jumped out of his skin, shut his flashlight off, and froze. When he heard nothing else, he shook his head, promised himself a vacation after the next big score, then clicked the flashlight back on.

Just as he pulled a stereo out to disconnect the wires he heard, "Jesus is watching you."

Freaked out, he frantically shone his light around, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, the light came to rest upon a parrot.

"Did you say that?" he asked the parrot.

"Yep," the parrot confessed, then squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you!"

The burglar relaxed. "Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?"

"Moses," replied the bird.

"Moses?" the burglar laughed. "What kind of people would name their bird Moses?"

"The same kind of people that would name their Rottweiler Jesus!"

…If you were alive during the 1950’s-early 60’s you may recall that it was a magical era for music on the radio.

Rock and roll was new, and you may hear “Splish Splash I was taking a bath” alongside a song like “Moon River.”

There were tunes like Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E”: “L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see, V is very, very extraordinary, and E is even more than anyone that you adore…”

Or Peggy Lee’s “Fever”: “Never know how much I love you; never know how much I care. When you put your arms around me I get a fever that’s so hard to bare.”

Then there was the doo-wop music. Groups of handsome, clean cut young men who’d sing in gorgeous harmonies about their affections for a sweet, pretty girl.

These songs captured that all-too brief period in American history when everyone loved Lucy, liked Ike, war was over, jobs were plentiful and teenagers had cars meant to be driven slowly through town, with the top down, and to park at the drive in theater or at lover’s lane.

One of the song’s from that era is “You Belong to Me” by the Duprees. It has picturesque lyrics about pyramids along the Nile, sunrises from tropic isles, flying over oceans in a silver plane and seeing jungles wet with rain.

It’s rich with creation-based imagery that any ecotheologian would delight in. And, as “Sister Act 1 & 2” taught us, virtually any love song from that era can be turned into a song about God.

“You Belong to Me” sounds like a lyric God would sing to us as a reminder that it’s not pyramids or market squares or silver planes that we belong to, but it is God.

Not in a crazy, stalker way, or in a “Jesus as a Rottweiler” kind of way, but in a way that reminds us that we belong to God much as we would to a loving father, a faithful lover or a longtime companion.

Last week we heard a message from our guest speaker Joshua who used the teaching of Isaiah 58 to remind us of what God wants and what it means to follow God.

Today’s reading is a natural progression of Isaiah in which we read a letter from Paul reminding us of what it means to be a Christian.

There is controversy taking place in the Corinthian church. It’s the early 50’s, just two decades after Christ was crucified and resurrected.

Paul has started a church in Corinth and is succeeded by Apollos.

People are starting to stir things up. Who can belong, who can’t? What are the accepted sexual norms? How does the Holy Spirit function in worship? What’s the true meaning of the resurrection?

Who do we actually follow: Paul who started the church or Apollos who is now our current preacher and religious leader?

So Paul writes them this passionate letter. He explores numerous topics, but in today’s portion he states “You don’t belong to me. You don’t belong to Apollos. You belong to God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

“We are God’s servants working together; you are God’s field; you are God’s building.”

But I got to tell you: methinks Paul doth protest too much. Did you notice that in just 9 verses Paul refers to himself twice by name, twice he refers to himself indirectly as the planter, and he used the word “I” three times?

If Paul was really being sincere, he could have simply said “It doesn’t matter who your past or present pastor is, you belong to God and Jesus Christ is your foundation.”

Instead Paul is like:

“You are babies. I fed you with mother’s milk. But you argue: I belong to Paul; I belong to Apollos.”

But who is Paul? I am just a man. It is because of I that you came to believe in Jesus.

I simply started the church. But really I, Paul, who planted this congregation, am nothing. God caused it to grow.

“Really, I only started the church; later I will receive my award for that. Really, I am only a simple servant.”

I love this! I think consciously or unconsciously Paul really does want the accolades, he wants the recognition. And the more he brushes them away, the more he brings attention to himself.

And you know what? That’s OK. Because Paul is, after all, only human. He is just as much a spiritual baby as he claims the congregants to be.

Paul is still flawed, still learning, still growing, still on his own personal journey that will take him across the continents, sharing the Good News about Christ.

Here’s what’s cool about Paul’s “don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain” spiel: he really does bring home the point that ultimately as followers of Christ it is God we belong to.

Paul’s very human letter to a very human congregation reminds us 2,000 years later that as Christians our ultimate allegiance does not belong to country, does not belong to state, does not belong to political party.

As Christians our ultimate allegiance does not belong to just one denomination, one congregation or to just one pastor.

Our ultimate allegiance is to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, who ate with us at table, died for us on the cross and rose 3 days later.

Paul’s letter is a timeless reminder that we are more than just American, we are more than UCCers, we are more than Emmanuelites, and we are more than parishioners of Bill, Bob, Barbara or George, that we are Christians.

We belong to God.

We are servants of God. We are God’s field; we are God’s flowers. We are God’s building. Christ is our foundation.

We are children of God. To be nourished, protected, fed so that we can mature, so that we can freely receive the gifts of grace and in return share ours gifts with others and do what God wants.

What does God want? As Isaiah 58 stated, to worship in ways that are pleasing to God by loosening the bonds of injustice, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and helping the homeless.

Who do we belong to? Not to pyramids or market squares or silver planes or to parrots named Moses.

We belong to God. We are God’s field. We are God’s building. And Christ is our foundation.

Amen and amen.

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