Sermon: “Called to Unity”
Lectionary Series A; Third Sunday after the Epiphany; Stewardship Series (United in Christ)
Sunday, January 26, 2020; National Lutheran Schools Week Service
Epistle Reading: 1st Corinthians 1:10-18
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1st Corinthians 1:10).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God calls us through the apostle Paul to be in unity with one another. He calls us to say the same thing, to be on the same page, to be pulling in the same direction, to have the same slogans.
If you walk in the door by the office, and take a right toward the gymnasium and look up to your left, there on the wall are the four pillars of the covenant of our ministry together. Those four pillars are Unity, Integrity, Excellence, and Service.
We are called to be in unity with one another. Under that heading of Unity, our covenant states that we are: “Baptized in the name of the one true God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) we are joined together in a common faith, common worship, and a common purpose to serve the Lord and all people while using our individual and collective gifts.”
A common purpose. What is our common purpose here together? Indeed our mission statement at Zion is Sharing Hope Teaching Christ through Word and Sacrament liturgical living. That is certainly what we are all about here at Zion. And the submission of our school states that we are Christ-Centered, Academically Strong, and Respectfully Operated. This is also what we are all about here at Zion.
But, when we think about our kids, what is our common purpose that we have for ourselves with regard to our children? For that, we need to dig a little deeper, deeper into the Word of God. Proverbs 22:6 would seem to say it best: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not turn from it.
Our common purpose here that we are called to join in unity with one another is to train up our children in the way of the Lord so that when they get old, they will still be confessing the faith that they were given in their baptism by the Triune God. Isn’t that our hope? Isn’t that our purpose? Isn’t that our common goal?
Pastor LaPlant and I could tell you that one of the greatest joys that we have is when we see that goal come to fruition. Sitting at the bedside of someone nearing their last breath. Hearing them confess the faith they were given in their baptism as they look forward to beholding Jesus with their own eyes in heaven is one of the greatest things we are privileged to be a part of. Again, I ask, is that not our common goal for both ourselves and our kids?
Our theme verse for this year really sets forth that goal. Psalm 23:6, which we spoke earlier in the Psalmody says: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Goodness and mercy. It is the goodness and mercy that God gives in His Word and the Holy Supper that will strengthen us to make the journey to our final day where we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. But we can’t do it on our own.
God invites us to look long term here. Think of it as a marathon, and not a sprint. What is it that God gives us to make the journey to heaven? He gives us Himself in His Word and Sacrament. This is the food that we need in order to endure to life everlasting.
Any of us who have kids in our house understand that. How often do our kids need to be fed? If we asked them, it would probably be every twenty minutes. Certainly if we have teenagers. So it is with all of us. We need what God gives in order to continue on in our life of faith.
This is why God’s Word calls us to be in worship, to not neglect meeting together as it says in the book of Hebrews. It is in God’s house where we are united with Him through His Word and Sacrament, and where are we are united with each other as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. To abandon this practice of joining in the house of the Lord will only be detrimental to our life of faith before God and our life of faith lived out with others.
St. Paul says what will also be detrimental to us is if there are divisions among us. Again he says, I appeal to you…that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united.
Unfortunately, the devil enters in and drives division among us…in our churches, in our school, in our homes, in our workplaces, and everywhere really.
I hate to break it to you, but even though we are Christians in a Christian school, we are still sinners. And sinners sin. Sinners cause separation. Sinners cause division. It’s what we do best…unfortunately.
St. Paul’s admonition to have no divisions among us is a call to repentance. If we are fostering division in any way, we are sinning. We are separating ourselves from God. We are placing ourselves on a slippery slope that leads away from Jesus. The wages of sin is death. Jesus doesn’t want us to die eternally. So through Paul, he calls us to unity with one another. To be on the same page. And that all starts with Jesus and His cross. He bids us all to come and die. To confess our divisiveness, and be forgiven.
What does this call to unity call upon us to confess? Let’s ask ourselves as students and parents, faculty and staff? Have we been unkind to each other? Have we formed cliques and excluded others? Have we said things that have only cut others down and hurt their reputation? Have we chosen to talk behind someone’s back rather than go and address the issue directly with the person we are talking about? Have we hurt someone?
If we take time to truly assess our thoughts, words, and deeds in light of these questions, there is not-a-one of us here who is innocent. There is not-a-one of us who could have not have handled something differently or said something in a different way. We have all in some way fostered division among us, and we have all been hurt by divisions in our lives. We are all in need of repentance and healing, and we are all in need of change in our sinful ways. So, let us confess, and be forgiven in the name of Jesus.
That is honestly one of the greatest joys of serving at Zion Lutheran School. We are privileged to be able to address the divisiveness of sin head on with the Law and the Gospel of God’s Word.
Our students are taught that the law shows their sins and their need for a Savior. Teachers are then able to show the student the error of their ways. And then, upon the student’s confession, the teacher has the joy of speaking the Gospel that shows their Savior as they share the absolving forgiveness given in Jesus.
That is true for our students, and that is true for all of us as Christians. We each are sinners. There is no way around that fact. Just like there is no way around the fact that we have all been the cause of division in our life. But all hope is not lost…and that’s because of Jesus.
Jesus entered into the great divide that existed between God and us because of our sin. He willingly came down from heaven to earth to take our sins upon Himself and to suffer all upon the cross of Calvary. There, He endured the division from His Father as He called out to Him, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
There as He bled and died our death, the division from God as well as our death were done for once and for all. Now are sins are forgiven, healing from division is given, and our salvation is secured. We have been joined to Jesus.
This is what we had opportunity to rejoice in here today as we were all blessed to witness Kim, Sydney, and River be baptized in the name of the Triune God and welcomed into His family. No longer are they separated from God, but through water and the Word, God has worked faith in them to believe in Jesus as their Savior and now they are children of the heavenly Father.
We join in rejoicing in this reality for them, just as we join in rejoicing as a body of believers in Christ. We have been called to unity with one another with a common purpose. We have been joined together to come alongside of each other to help raise these students in the one true faith to life everlasting.
Parents and students, faculty and staff, all in a partnership together. Now that is certainly something to rejoice about. It is just as our theme verses for this National Lutheran Schools Week states: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1st Thessalonians 5:16-18).
As you walk down that same hallway that I told you before as you are headed toward the gym, there is a bulletin board that has this on full display. Check it out if you are here for lunch tomorrow, because I can honestly say, that is the unity I am blessed to behold day in and day out in our school, and no doubt you see it too as we all seek to train up our children in the way they should go.
For those of you that won’t see it, let me describe it for you. It just happens to be located under those four pillars of our covenant of Unity, Integrity, Excellence, and Service. There are five words on the bulletin board and underneath there is a picture of our students. Those five words are Joyful, Thankful, Peaceful, Faithful, and Hopeful. And in the pictures, you will see our students rejoicing together, praying together, pledging allegiance to the United States flag and the Christian flag together, singing together, and the last one shows them gathered together at the foot of the cross.
And it’s that last one that really hits home the nature of what it means to be called to unity. We all come as sinners, but thanks to the division Christ endured on that cross, we have been united…united to Christ, and united to each other. Thanks be to God! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.