“Christ, Our One Foundation” sermon from 3/21/10
I Corinthians 3:5-15
So, if you have been involved in the events of this weekend you’ve probably been aware or have noticed a theme. That theme came from the search committee and more specifically was termed “Planting New Seeds.” Much of this came from the fact that this weekend is the first weekend of spring and spring is often perceived as a time of newness; a time of renewal, restoration, new beginnings, and things springing to life, especially with the trees budding, grass greening, and flowers and plants breaking through the ground. Also, considering the events of this weekend (us coming to you as quite possibly new members of your community and your next Pastor), much newness could be ahead of us as we embark upon what God has for us moving into the future. Spring, newness, beginning, I want to focus on that for just a bit. Something I thought would be nice to include this morning is a poem on such matters. Listen to this as I read it (you can also find it in your bulletins)…
Spring – By Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds , in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Now what does this poem say in regards to spring, newness, beginning, etc? Well, without picking each line apart and spending a lot of time, it simply says, “Nothing is so beautiful as spring” and lists reasons why. It speaks of weeds, plants, and trees growing, flowing, and blooming; of blue skies rushing in all around us; of wetness dissipating, and animals frolicking and playing. It says, “What is all this juice and all this joy?” Well, “A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning.” Before things were tainted, dirtied, polluted, or spoiled. Oh, yes, we long for such days and times, don’t we? This is true just in life in general, but especially after fall and winter, after we’ve watched everything lose its color, decay, whither, dry up; become cold, darkened, and covered with snow. Each year when March rolls around we are ready for spring; for the warmth, and the sun, and light of day & blue skies; for people coming and playing outside; The ability to drive with the top down or windows wide open; the chance to break out our bikes or motorcycles (for those of into that sort of thing); for the green grass, and flowers, and trees; for baseball, and golf, and oh (say each with increasing excitement)! You’ll have to excuse me, I just got a little excited.
Ok, so where I am going with all of this this morning? Well, I imagine there is much excitement here this morning. Spring has sprung, and a new season is upon us (although over the last day or two it seems to have almost reverted back), and because of the events of this weekend us (meaning me and my family) and you (Wellsburg Reformed Church) could be looking at the beginning of a new season of worship and ministry together. But now that I have set that stage, and without losing the excitement of it, I want to move onto where my heart went to next as I meditated and prayed over such things over the last few weeks. Let’s first look at the Scripture passage God has for us this morning. Pray with me before we enter in…
If you want o follow along, our Scripture is from I Corinthians 3:5-15 and it reads like this…
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Well, to begin the message then, I can’t help but joke for a second. As I began preparing for this message I mentioned this Scripture passage I wanted to use to a few people and I didn’t get the greatest response initially. Why, you might ask? Well, if you’re following along in your Bibles you’ll notice that the subject heading often associated with this passage is “Divisions in the Church.” To say the least, that subject in itself probably isn’t the best of things I could talk about on an occasion such as this. Actually, I don’t know too much about you as a church body yet and it’s not really my place to say anything since I am a new person coming in. But I am using this passage for slightly different reasons. There are certain things in it that I thought are important for this morning and our subject of “Planting New Seeds” and moving into a new season of ministry together. What specifically are those things?
Not Meant to be a New Sensation:
Well, in looking into the passage a little more, Paul does write this with the view of possible divisions or at least of holding certain people too highly (even including himself) in the church. The people in a sense were putting each other in different camps; those who were followers of Apollos, Paul, Peter, etc. Why I bring this passage up at a time when we are talking about “Planting New Seeds” and a new beginning is because I believe it speaks to proper expectations and how we should be looking to continue to be a part of God’s work among us in the time ahead. You see, I don’t know if I am weird (it’s a possibility), but almost instantly when I hear talk of new things, or being associated with the new as a Pastor, my mind easily jumps to connotations of the “next best thing” or something “flashy” and/or riveting. I don’t know if it’s just my generation or if this goes across those lines, but nowadays it often seems like these sort of things are all that we are looking for and if something doesn’t quite fit that bill we easily throw it out altogether and/or look to change course. Look at TV shows such as American Idol or music videos of today; everyone is out to top everyone else and their means of doing so consist of doing things up bigger, using shock value, pushing the envelope, etc. The judges on these reality shows encourage such antics; that which will achieve the most buzz and get people’s attention. This feeds a certain mindset of today; a sort of instant gratification; in looking for what feels/looks right and good for this moment with not necessarily any recognition of what was before or thought of others. It puts a lot of pressure on outdoing each other in order to be the newest sensation and own the spotlight. This sort of thing has become our goal in many ways. We seek to be the newest sensation, hold the spotlight, have our 15 minutes of fame; how can we break into the mainstream, even if just for a little bit? This is not what I believe is shown in the Bible, however. In fact, I think you could say that the Bible teaches the exact opposite of such things and I think that can be seen in this passage from Paul to the Corinthians.
No Talent Show, But a Gospel Show – Competitors vs. Complementers:
What we have here is Paul talking of at least two fellow workers of God among the “field/building,” the church. Himself and Apollos, and actually he brings up Peter (Cephas) too if you keep reading. What he says is, “What is Apollos or Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe.” Paul puts himself and Apollos in their proper place. None should think too highly of a certain person or even necessarily worry about such things. We shouldn’t put ourselves in camps. Our focus and goal shouldn’t be the game of “one-up-manship,” or seeking center stage, or doing the next big thing, or esteeming another. Actually, I hear you ALL learned what your focus should be last week (move arms in “safe at home base” motion). We ALL are to give our ALL to God; love the Lord our God with ALL your heart, ALL your mind, ALL your soul, and ALL your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. In this we don’t compete with one another, but complement one another in the Lord. This should be our goal as the church; to complement one another in the Lord, each doing our part and holding each other up, so it is He that receives ALL the glory, and the honor, and the praise, and ultimate worship. This is where what’s lasting will be found and carried out by both us and others. The church is not meant to be a talent show. It’s a Gospel show; and there is no better full expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ than the body of Christ (the people of God) working complementarily to/with one another in the labor of the Lord. This, in many ways, is why the church is referred to as the “body” in the Bible. Each of us have an important role to play and are an important part of the whole.
Now I bring this up this morning to show you where my heart is at in regards to possibly becoming your next Pastor. I by no means am looking to be the next best thing or be flashy or out-do anyone. If that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for than I am probably not your guy. No, my purpose and goal would be to complement you all and even your previous ministers in the Lord. This should be our goal; to come together, work together, as one; to plant and water (and even harvest) together as the Lord leads and produces the actual growth. My purpose as your new Pastor would be to lead (and I don’t mean to demean that) and work alongside of you (to build and hold each other up). In this we there will be new things we would look to plant, and we’ll have to use prayer and discernment to decide what that may be. But there are also things from before that are good and honorable and God ordained that should continue to be watered, and at the proper time, harvested, that should be part of our future as well. I believe it’s this sort of complementary work that has helped you all continue as a church for the many years (112 to be exact) that you have and will help you/us continue on into the future. Even Jesus took this sort of complementary stance in the way he walked, led, and taught on this earth. Jesus told those listening to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Ok, now that we’ve set that part straight, let’s move on to the next part of our Scripture passage for this morning and talk a little bit about building and foundations. Paul says, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.” Now, I want to stop there for just a second. Paul doesn’t bring this up with any sort of resentment/anger/envy behind it. He’s simply stating that he had a job to do and he fulfilled it and now another has taken over. Next then, he gives an honest and humble instruction that each one should be careful how he builds. Again, Paul is saying that his purpose is really no different than anyone else’s. He, and each one of us, needs to be careful of how we live out our purpose, which is to complementarily give our ALL to God. For, “no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Let’s talk about foundations here for a sec. What’s the big deal about foundations? Well, really, something that grows ultimately comes from/out of something else. Those things that have no bearings or come out of nowhere really don’t stand the test of time when compared to their counterparts. Spring ultimately springs up from something. It comes upon us from the season before, and that which grows, grows out of what they’re rooted in, the ground (their foundation). Those things that will stand and live the longest and flourish are those that extend their roots further, wider, and deeper into that foundation they’re rooted in. Also, the better the source of the foundation the more likely that which is planted in it will prosper and flourish. This very concept is a Biblical foundation and we see it in what is said in Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” As another example, this sort of thing relates quite well to me to something I see in sports. What’s more important in sports or athletes; what’s new or flashy or whatever? Or, that which is considered the basics or fundamentals? One of my favorite movies (among others), being that we are in the middle of March Madness, Hoosiers points this out. What did the coach have to do in that movie to make his basketball team successful? He taught them the fundamentals and focused on disciplining them in the game, not necessarily on scoring more points or looking good doing it. He built on many of the things that have been passed on through the generations. The teams and athletes that are most successful are those grounded in such things.
Jesus Christ and Him Crucified:
Paul says in another place in I Corinthians that while he was among them he made his focus and goal solely and simply, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). Now Paul didn’t do this just because it seemed to him to be a good idea, or to bring something new, flashy, etc to see if it would get better results or put him above the rest. He did this with the conviction that it is the way things need to be done and where the church’s focus/foundation should be; on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. You see, Paul understood something. He understood that Jesus Christ is the sole purpose and foundation for everything, and most definitely should be for the Church! The Bible tells us that through Him (Christ) all things were made (John 1:3). From the Bible we find out that Jesus is what all this life is about and ultimately points to. That’s how God purposed and built it; with His Son, Jesus at the center of it all. So then, what ultimately are those things that will last, endure, and flourish? Only those which are grounded and deeply rooted in the foundation already laid by God himself; Jesus Christ. There are really only two foundations for this life and world, and they are one in the same; Jesus and God’s Word. We must get this right as the Church, or, as the rest of our passage for this morning says, we will inevitably go up in flames. We still will be saved, however we may not have all that much to show for it in the end. For as the Bible says in another place, “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house” (Luke 6:47-49)
Now I didn’t come here this morning meaning to squelch and wipe out the joy and excitement of this occasion. There’s nothing wrong with being joyful and excited, and this is a good occasion to have such emotions. I only wanted to properly place that joy, excitement, and all that we really are and seek to be in the foundation that is Jesus Christ, for that is where it is most lasting and most full, and where it has the ability to flourish into all it can be.