The Mind of Christ – Feb. 9, 2020
The Mind of Christ
A Sermon by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
I Corinthians 2:1-16
February 9, 2020
Main Idea – The mind of Christ empowers us.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The church in Corinth was an exciting community. From Paul’s letters and the book of Acts, we know more about this congregation than any other of the early churches. It was Paul’s first church and the work of the Spirit was evident among its members. Paul said that “in every way they had been enriched in [Christ Jesus], in speech and knowledge of every kind” so that they were “not lacking in any spiritual gift.” They were very blessed and they knew it. In spite of these blessings, or maybe because of them, when Paul left Corinth after 18 months, the church began to divide into factions. They were divided by background, some Jewish and some Gentile. They were divided by social status. They were divided by spiritual gifts. They were divided by different leaders. Some thought that they, themselves, were very wise, perfect even, and they looked down on others within the church that they considered less mature in the faith. They were a community with many gifts and many challenges, not unlike the church today! Paul’s letter to their community is a letter to us as well.
This morning’s text follows directly after what we read and considered last week when Paul called us to embrace God’s Foolishness which is wiser than human wisdom. God’s Foolishness is the power of self-giving love made known to us through Jesus our Christ. Today’s text explores how we live out that love as we are empowered and challenged by the mind of Christ.
Paul begins today’s text by addressing a community that put ultimate value on wisdom and declares that he knows nothing! “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.”(2:1) He says that he decided to know nothing at all, except Jesus and the revelation of his crucifixion and resurrection. To a community who prized great speakers, he claims “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” The Corinthians valued their own power and wisdom, they thought that they had achieved perfection. Paul’s simple words, not lofty or even plausible words of wisdom, cut through their pretensions to point beyond them to the mystery of God made known through Christ.
Paul points out that those who speak of wisdom, must not mean the wisdom of this age, the wisdom of rulers and empires. As we discovered last week, God’s wisdom is the reverse of this which is doomed to perish as it is ultimately self-defeating. There will always been someone bigger, stronger, or richer. God’s wisdom is hidden from those who seek to control and dominate. What the empire values is not what God values. The Corinthians, and we, need to be reminded of this. What the empire values is not what God values.
But, Paul says, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God….Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God”(2:10,12) We do not need to search for wisdom because God has given us the Holy Spirit who knows the heart of God. The Spirit we receive is God’s own Spirit – the depths of God are within us. This gift of the Spirit calls us and empowers us to live with the Mind of Christ, living as Jesus lived, with God as a powerful presence and guide in every moment.
What this meant for the Corinthians and means for us is that God has called each one of us here. There is no hierarchy of the perfect and not so perfect. There is no inner circle of God’s favorites. All of us are gifted. All of us are empowered. For all of us have the Mind of Christ within us and the world’s wisdom has nothing to do with it.
The Mind of Christ is not some secret database (God’s Google) or another personality lurking within us. It is a gift by which we can choose to be empowered or choose to ignore. The Mind of Christ leads us away from self-centered concerns and ambitions. “The actions of those with the mind of Christ will be characterized by self-giving love. The leaders will act as servants (3:5). The strong will refrain from exercising their freedom at the expense of the weak (cf. 1 Corinthians 8-10). Love will prove greater than prophecy, tongues, and knowledge (13:8). To have the mind of Christ is to be able to imagine [God’s] new creation and participate in it before it has come into focus for others. And as God’s Spirit calls and equips the church for that imagining and participating, the new creation actually comes into focus for the world.” Mary Hinkle Shore, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3141
I want you to take a look around at the people sitting near you, those in front, those behind, look at those over on the other side of the church, and those sitting in the comfy seats in the Narthex. All of us were called here today. There are others who aren’t here today for one reason or another but who also have been called to be in community with us. God’s Spirit has called each one of us and led us to be part of this community. Why? Why has this constellation of people been gathered together? For what purpose have we been called?
First, we have been called together to witness to the love and power of God. As each of us has been given the mind of Christ, our acts of service, generosity, and welcome are not just nice things we do but “are in fact the appearance of Christ’s own love bubbling up in the lives of people in whom his Spirit dwells.” (P. Mark Achtemeier, FOTW, Year A Vol. 1 p. 330). Having received God’s love, we can’t help but share it. With every act we are literally sharing Christ with the world. We sometimes forget this. The gifts that God has given to each one of us are gifts to further God’s love in the world. The ministries of this community are the ministry of Christ.
Today after worship will be our first Unified Governing Board meeting. Our new model of governance invites all of us to claim the gifts God has given us and to share those gifts through participation in our Ministry Teams and on the Governing Board if so called. All of us have gifts to share. The purpose of our governance is the ministry to which we all are called. All that we do witnesses to the love and power of God.
Second, we have been called together to model for the world how to live together. Our call is not just a gift but also a responsibility to participate together; to speak, to listen, to work together, to care for each other. We come from different backgrounds and stages of life, we have different interests and different political leanings but our calling brings us together and empowers us to listen to each other and support each other. This is a rare talent these days. The church is one of the few places in our society where this is so.
This calling is so important. In our nation, division is deepening. The past few years have been tough as political divides have widened into parallel universes with little common understanding. What we have experienced thus far is nothing compared to what this coming year will be like. Just in the past week we have seen breathtaking acts of pettiness and revenge, while suffering in the world is ignored. From every corner, we will be pushed and pulled to demonize and denigrate those who think differently than we. But God calls us to a different way. God calls us to come together. God calls us to listen to each other and lift up community, respect, and care for the vulnerable. This spring we will focus on strengthening our community bonds, with events such as Jazz Sunday, the Hot Potato Lunch, and another Cellphone-a-thon to reach out to all in our congregation. When we fellowship together and invite others to our fellowship we counter society’s divisiveness and we witness to the love and power of God.
Friends, may the Mind of Christ empower and guide us, today and everyday. May we see beyond any divisions to the unity and diversity of the many gifts that make up our community. May all that we are and all that we have be used to further God’s work in the world.
Let us pray, God of all, we thank you for calling us together and empowering us to share your love in the world. Encourage us, enliven us, and strengthen us to live boldly in your grace. Amen.