Sermon, St Peter & St Paul
Sunday June 30, 2013, St Petri
All things are Ours
I Corinthians 3:16-23 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”[b] 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas[c] or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
Friends, it is good for us to remember and re-claim our beginnings and our solid ground as Christians. It is very helpful to do this in these changing times, in which is it not that difficult to forget who we are and where we have come from.
It is good to remember that you cannot really know where you are going if you have forgotten where you have come from and upon what and who you are founded. As we all ask where the Holy Spirit is specifically leading us in our mission at St Petri, we keep our foundations in view.
Today we remember Saints’ Paul and Peter and their witness to Jesus, our cornerstone and foundation.
Peter and Paul really would have to be considered the two big guns of the New Testament church. St Luke’s whole account of how the Lord built his church by the power of the Holy Spirit in Acts is built first around Peter, as Apostle to the Jews, and then around that other towering figure of Saul of Tarsus, who came to be named Paul, Apostles to the Gentiles.
As a young Christian I remember being pretty fired up about St Paul. In Lutheran circles, it was OK to be fired up about St Paul, unlike St Peter, who we all know was a bit too heavily associated with the Pope and Roman Catholicism!
These two fellows could not have been more different. Peter was a local small-town guy up North in Galilee. He was your average Jewish man in the street and ran a small fishing operation with his brother and few other family friends. He would not have been extensively educated, although he would be the guy you would like to be with in a storm or go fishing with!
Paul, was a very educated Jewish man who grew up in a large town by the sea which would have had much Roman and Greek cultural influence. He had one foot in the strict Judaism as he studied under the famous rabbi, Gamaliel, and one foot in the popular philosophies and culture of the Roman empire – indeed, he was a Roman citizen.
So, a student lawyer, who was also an arch conservative of the Jewish faith and worldly wise man, as well as a small–town fisherman were commissioned by the risen Jesus as his “sent ones”, for that’s what the word, “apostollos”, means in Greek. Both had their place in God’s mission.
They were given a life-long calling that pretty much altered the whole course of human history – bringing the life-changing reality of the grace and love of God into the hearts of billions – not bad work if you can get it – although it does cost you! They were both martyred, probably under that crazy Caesar, Nero, between AD 64-68.
What drove them? What was their heart for the church and the world? What gave them unstoppable courage?
They were convinced of one thing….
They knew in their hearts and minds that Jesus was the Son of God sent to bring hope, peace and full life to people who could not gain these things by keeping rules, appeasing God, pretending to be something they were not. Jesus was alive and he was life in all the darkness of the world. Jesus was present and his promises were hope. Jesus was faithful and the truth for the decisions, the work, the families, the places we live in.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, as one’s “abnormally born” and fully acknowledging their sin – even calling themselves “the chief of sinners”, they were both enabled to make that great confession of all Christians. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and Peter nailed it for all time – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. This was truly a Holy Spirit inspired confession of faith – it still is for all of us when we say the same thing.
We have said the same thing this morning and we are living in the faith of these and the other Apostles in our time now.
Friends, as we think of ourselves and our task to share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone and sometimes feel guilty that we are not doing enough or that we have made too many mistakes or that we are getting too old as a congregation and etc, etc, etc, hear today from Peter and Paul that we have all we need to be church.
Believing that we have not got enough to fulfil our mission task and be a church that is relevant and growing and vibrant in the gospel in this town is really self-deception.
This kind of doubt tends to believe that the church is merely a human organisation.
This kind of doubt believes that we have to have a Paul, or an Apollos, or a Peter to make our congregation faithful and fit for the Lord’s work.
Believing that we have not got what it takes is in one way spot on. We have not. But with Christ we have got all that it takes. And we have Christ.
When we believe that we need a guru to fix our problems as a church or need to rely on better marketing, better buildings, better music, better whatever to fulfil our call to be salt and light in this community, we are deceiving ourselves.
Peter and Paul say that we have everything we need to be the holy, faithful community of God in this place. We have Christ. We have the Holy Spirit who dwells with us.
Let’s not boast in each other or any one person – but only Jesus. Let’s follow his lead. Let’s follow him.
Let’s not trust in buildings or advertising techniques and etc for the ways and means by which our congregation will be renewed in faith in the gospel but trust Jesus and his ways of love for enemies, welcome for strangers, protection for the innocent and the guilty, affirmation of the gifted and not so gifted, inner strength in our inner weaknesses, forgiveness for wrongs done, his Word for cynical and doubting people.
All things are ours. He is ours. Let’s boast in him and his wisdom and count our own wisdom as foolishness in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified.
He is our hope and that gospel message is what we are called to bring to a troubled marriage, family, school, peer group, local town.
Paul sums it up for himself and Peter…..
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness that comes from the law, but a righteousness that through Christ, and is by faith… (Phil 3:9)
Yes, “all things are yours”, he says.
Friends, all things are yours from Jesus – his life, his name, his power, his gifts, his call, for we are all his “sent ones”. He calls us to follow who he has made us to be – sent ones following his lead.
Yes, the inner and outer battle is on, but yes, “all things are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God”
Remember St Peter and St Paul and take their direction to trust that you have Christ and he is enough for all of your life and all of our hopes and dreams for our church. Receive their words in the Word and make them your yardstick and encouragement for your own life as a “sent One” of Jesus in your family and in your world.
Friends, we are convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38).
Sent people of Christ, all is yours.
• How did you respond to remembering St Paul and St Peter on Sunday?
• What sort of encouragement did you receive from pondering Peter and Paul’s great zeal, faith and hard work in the gospel and their “considering everything else as “rubbish” compared to knowing the love of Jesus Christ?
• What is your experience of the saying that “you won’t know where you are going unless you know where you have come from?”
• Paul was a very educated worldly wise man steeped in religious tradition and Peter was “the man in the street”. Yet, Jesus called them both and they were both able to arrive at the same great confession of faith in Jesus as the Saviour of the world, and their own Saviour. Share how you own story matches theirs.
• “When we believe that we need a guru to fix our problems as a church or need to rely on better marketing, better buildings, better music, better whatever to fulfil our call to be salt and light in this community, we are deceiving ourselves”.
• What do you think are kind of “self-deceptions” we have sometimes fall prey to at St Petri?
• Why do you think we find it hard to trust that we really do “have what it takes”, and that “all things are ours” as we strive to be a healthy local church community fully engaged in the mission to which Jesus calls us?
• Pray for the Lord’s guidance on what he is specifically calling us to do in mission these next three to five years.