The Sunday Sermon: May 16, 2021 – Seventh Sunday of Easter
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17-20, 13-14
Easter Life: Community
In Jesus Christ the process of making the world a just place has already begun.
How many of you have heard this before? (Oh, come on now … if you’ve been to one or more drive-in services since Easter this year, you’ve heard it!) For how many has it sunk in? (Less hands …) Hmm. Well, I have one more week to get it through to us!
Jesus, himself, disclosed the Kingdom of Heaven. He announced that the ending of the old had already begun and the Kingdom of Heaven was already among us. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, complete, so we are called to participate with God, as Jesus did. So we’re trying. We’ve been traveling across the Roman Empire since April 11th, visiting some of the first communities gathered by Paul in Christ’s name who were trying to figure out the answer to that same question.
We’ve journeyed to the provincial capital of Thessalonica, the province of Galatia, the cities of Philippi and Colossae, and last week to Rome, itself. We’ve discovered that mercy, service, humility, and transformation are key ingredients in the recipe that is “heaven on earth.” Pentecost is next week! The Spirit will arrive. It will fill whatever space we have gathered in. We will “hear the sound of it” and it will blow us forward. But will we follow it? Will we “get with the program” this year? Will Christ come again? Through our lives this time? Into the world through our Love this time?
There’s not much time left. Let’s pray …
This is our last destination. The sixth week, the sixth stop … Corinth. In Paul’s day, Corinth was a large and prospering urban center with an ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse population. His letter is received several years after he first visited and he writes this letter in part to answer a letter he received from the Corinthians, themselves. That letter has not survived, but the writers of it sought Paul’s views about “disputed matters” among them. There are “disorders” in the young community following the Way.
Listen for the Word of God … (Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-21)
These are the verses that are right before the “Words of Institution” that are so familiar to us, spoken as they are before every sharing of the Lord’s Supper. We hear those words month after month and imagine the perfect community gathered around a communion table like ours, patiently and prayerfully awaiting the ritual that reminds them who they are and where they are in God’s story. Such is not the case … As we just heard, there is trouble in Corinth.
The language that Paul uses before our “oh-so familiar” verses is deliberately chosen to shock the community reading and sharing his words. Paul finds nothing at all commendable about their practice. We just assume the words we share are from a community who has it all figured out. But not so in Corinth. They know the traditions of the supper and they are observing it but they come together “not for the better, but for the worse!” theirs “is not the supper of the Lord!”
Now, this is not a Communion Sunday and we don’t have the meal set before us. So we’re not concerned with an actual supper of the Lord. But we are coming back together as a community, physically together, and so we can hear these words as a warning of sorts – not a description of what is, perhaps, but of what could be if we’re not diligent. The “supper of the Lord” that Paul writes of in this letter is for us, this morning, the worship gathering itself – the communion we share when we gather together.
We haven’t done that in this way since March 8, 2020! Fourteen months of Sundays! It started midday through Lent last year – two Easters and Eastertides, one full summer, an Advent and Christmas and back into and through a second Lenten season. Do we remember how to do it? And do we remember each other?! I mean, do we remember the things we used to know about each other? We have work to do to make this happen – work with each other and work within ourselves.
We have gotten very used to having this time sent to us in the comfort of our homes, fed to us through screens, to be engaged when we were ready, on our own time. I so looked so forward to the drive in services in our better weather. We were still listening through radios, but at least we could see each other during our time of worship, and many of you did get out of your cars for fellowship after worship, appropriately distanced and masked. But even that was not … this.
We’ve done all we can, I believe that, to carry on the life of this congregation and the mission. We’ve worshipped in ways just noted. We’ve “zoomed” our Christian education as faithfully as we knew how. We’ve witnessed on our lawn, collected for community needs, and conversed about the roles we’ve played, or haven’t played, in the racial tensions in our country and our cities. We’ve had drive-in movie nights, parent’s nights, and night’s off. We’ve married, buried, and “not tarried” in otherwise caring for members of this church who have experienced the most isolation. But we’ve done all that “together apart.” In fact, that was the title of this year’s annual meeting for 2020. We’ve done all we can, but all that was … not this. The time has come, as we knew it would and as we hoped for, to gather once again for a common hour. Now the time has come to once again become the more genuine Body of Christ, gathered together-together, looking into one another’s eyes, listening more closely to the joys and concerns of those we are with, and picking up the ministries and the mission, and most importantly the relationships that we have had to set aside
If I’m honest, I’m a little bit nervous. How are we going to do with this “community thing” given how long it’s been since we’ve been together as a community? Will it be like riding a bike? I mean, our relationships have taken years to cultivate. And we’ve been away from each other for over a year. Will we come together “as one?” Will divisions remain among us, “factions”, as Paul writes. How long will it take for us to truly feel like a community again?
However long it takes, I guess. But even in my nervousness, I further guess that it won’t take us long. Unlike the community in Corinth at the time of this letter, we will very soon “come together for the better” once again – in old ways and new.
It’s a funny thing: First Corinthians is a study of those who have forgotten the communal nature of gathering together and have pursued their own interests on their own time. As troubling as that is, it’s fascinating to consider that had they not been making such a mess of community, Paul would never have written to them about it and we would not have the warning we have. Come together as One. The Corinthians division smooths the progress of our re-union, a reunion that begins this morning.
“Keep alert,” Paul’s finishes, “stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Welcome back Pewee Valley Pres. Let’s get back to work! Amen.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / May 16, 2021