February 2, 2020  [Epiphany 4]  1 Corinthians 1:26-31  J.D.Roekle

26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” 

 

Rejoice In Your Calling As A Christian

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          We are getting used to having call meetings around here, aren’t we?  Over the last year in particular, we have had a number of call meetings for teachers because of all the turnover.  In December, we placed yet another call for a Dean of Students, and in the last couple weeks, we found out that the gentleman we called is coming.  On Tuesday, we will be calling for a principal, since our current principal has taken a call.  And some of you were there on Tuesday when it was decided to call a second pastor.  Now when we place a call of this kind, it is called a divine call.  We say that because we believe that the Holy Spirit works through the congregation during the call process in order to choose a candidate to serve as a pastor or teacher on behalf of the congregation. 

          There are only certain individuals who have or receive a divine call, but each one of us gathered here has something even more important.  Each of us has a calling.  We have been called to faith.  We have a calling as a Christian.  Is that something to boast about?     

          A couple years ago, a British newspaper published an article which addressed how certain companies are flaunting their generosity.  The CEO of Starbucks wrote an open letter to staff in which he committed to hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Trump’s immigration ban.  Then there is the CEO of Airbnb who tweeted that the company was providing free accommodation to anyone not allowed in the U.S.  Uber said that they created a $3 million fund to help drivers affected by the immigration ban.  Other companies have since attempted to outdo each other with major acts of generosity, but the article concludes that there is a catch:  They’ll do good as long as they can make sure their customers know about it.  Isn’t this simply a former of boasting that is self-serving? 

          That is something that we want to be wary of as Christians: that we don’t boast that we are Christians in order to simply draw attention to ourselves. “Look at what a good Christian I am.”  After all, consider what Paul says: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” 

          The question Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to consider is why they were Christians in the first place; why they were a part of the family of God.  Was it something special that God saw in them?  Their intellect or their influence on society or their royal status?  Were they celebrities?  Paul essentially says ‘no’, it wasn’t any of those things. 

          Why are you called into the body of Christ?  Are you a Christian because you are such a hard worker?  Is it because God saw some special quality in you?  No.  It wasn’t any of those things.  In fact, it had nothing to do with who you are or what you’ve done. 

          No matter how famous a person might be, or how intelligent, or how influential, or how talented…it has no bearing on you being a Christian today.   That is because you were dead in sin. That means that by nature you were dead before God.  There was no reason for God to choose you.  In fact, there was every reason for God to simply cast you away from his presence forever. 

          “But” Paul said, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

          Think about who Jesus surrounded himself by during his ministry.  Was it the wise and influential?  The Scribes and teachers of the law, the Pharisees and Sadducees?  Not at all.  He was actually at odds with them.  Jesus was a puzzle to them.

          That’s because of who Jesus called to follow him.  Think about those who were closest to Jesus, his disciples.  Some were simple fishermen.  There was a despised tax collector in the bunch.  Think of others Jesus chose to associate with: prostitutes and ‘sinners.’  Not exactly a ‘who’s who’ of Israel. 

          Why would Jesus do that?  Often times the wise and powerful didn’t want anything to do with him.  They trusted in their riches or their intellect.  They boasted in themselves and so they had no room for Jesus. 

          But Jesus knew precisely who needed him.  He knew it was the neglected who needed him.  The weak and vulnerable who needed him.  He knew that it was those who felt the crushing guilt of their sin who needed him.

          After all, they could relate to a Savior who looked to be far from royalty.  A Savior who looked just as common as they did.  A Savior who himself became weak and vulnerable, and a Savior who would eventually take all sin on his shoulders as he met his own demise on the cross.  

          They could relate to a Savior like this, and so can you, right?!  After all, this seemingly weak and powerless Savior showed his ultimate power by breaking the shackles of death and bursting out of his 3 day prison. 

          God showed power through that which looked weak:  through his Son, Jesus Christ.  And so also, through you too, he also displays his power.  You who were once dead have been made alive in him.  Even though you are weak, in him you are made strong. 

          To the world, you do look weak.  In fact, the world says that religion is a crutch for the weak.  That means to them, the fact that you come to church means that you can’t go it alone.  How true that is!  You are a testimony to the world of God’s strength.  He gives you the means with which to grow stronger in the faith: the Word and the Lord’s Supper.  And those means work just like food.  If you eat regularly, you’ll be fine.  But, what if you don’t eat anything for a couple weeks or several months?  How long can you survive without food?  How long can your faith survive without God coming to you through these means?  Remember that the strength isn’t in you, but it comes to you from God!  

          So, is being called to be a Christian something to boast about?  Not if we think we have something to do with it.  The hymnwriter expresses it well:

Not the labors of my hands  Can fulfill thy law’s demands. 

Could my zeal no respite know,  Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;  Thou must save and thou alone. 

But it is something to boast about when the boasting is in the right place.  All our boasting is to be in God.  All our boasting is to be directed to the cross: 

          Nothing in my hand I bring,  Simply to thy cross I cling;

          Naked, come to thee for dress,  Helpless, look to thee for grace.

          Foul, I to the fountain fly--  Wash me, Savior, or I die! 

          And so, dear Christian friends, rejoice!  Rejoice in your calling as a Christian.  God has made you who you are.  God has maintained your status before him.  God has ensured your eternity with him.  Boast in that!  Amen.