Trinity 11 2022
1 Corinthians 15:1-10
August 28, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
One of the greatest compliments I have ever received as a Pastor came from a young man years ago. The irony is that he didn’t mean it as a compliment at all, but as a complaint. It was after Easter, I asked how he was since I hadn’t seen him in a while. He commented with the obligatory “Eh, I’m good.” I said it was good to see him and that I hoped to see him a little more often. He looked at me, and said, “Why? Every time I come it’s always about the same thing.” What do you mean?” I asked. We had just celebrated Easter, after all, and we had extra music, a little more pomp and circumstance than normal. And he said, “You just talk about Jesus, how He died and rose from the dead.” To which I promptly say, “Thank you! Praise God!”
In the Christian faith, there is nothing more important than the Gospel – which is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead for the forgiveness of your sins. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. You are justified, declared righteous, by God Himself for the sake of Jesus. To make good news even better, this is a gift, given to you freely because the love that God has for you, a gift to be received by faith in Christ.
If this message, implicitly and explicitly, is not at the very heart of the Church, of this congregation, of our ministries such as our school, our daycare, quilters, LWML, then what are we doing here? Really? You can visit with your friends at any time. You can volunteer at other places, go to other schools, help your neighbor in a lot of different ways, you can be “a good person” in the eyes of the world, and in your own eyes, without the Church and without Christ crucified. This was the attitude of the Pharisee in today’s parable from the Gospel reading.
We are tempted in this way all the time. We can get caught up in the same thing, to think that church is a social club, maybe an instrument for social justice, or even a political platform at times; to believe that a sermon should be like a 12 step program to better life. It’s easy to be tempted to say, “now that I know the Gospel, I know that Jesus died for me, can we move on to the practical applications, the real stuff, the day to day living.” Not that these are bad, but there is no moving on from the Gospel, nothing greater than the Gospel, no more important message than the Gospel. The heart of the Gospel is the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. This is not something we ever move beyond.
“Now I would remind you brothers of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed it in vain.” St. Paul writes these words to the Corinthians, who had such zeal and desire for knowledge that they neglected what was most important. But he warned them of misplaced priorities, of overlooking the most important thing. Paul had much to teach the Corinthians, yet nothing was more important than the Gospel. In the first two chapters, he states, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seeks wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God... For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:22-24; 2:2).
All that Paul writes to them draws them back to Jesus. And it’s the same for you. When we come here on Sunday mornings, or throughout the week, or participate in various ministries and services, all these things are meant to direct our faith, our attention, and our witness to Jesus. The Gospel is why we have a big cross at the front of the church, to direct your attention to Jesus. The Gospel is why there is symbols and meaning throughout the building, so that when the sermon goes on too long and is too boring your attention can still be brought to Jesus. The Gospel is why we use the liturgy, a historical form of worship with roots going all the way back into the Old Testament comprised of almost entirely Scripture spoken and sung back and forth to one another and to God.
The Gospel is the main and most important aspect of our school – that Christ and His Gospel and His Word. Every morning our children begin by hearing the Word of God, pray throughout the day, leave each afternoon in the assurance that Christ crucified is for them, for their families, for their friends, for the world. How many of you can say the same in a different school? Or in your job? Or even in your home? All these things are meant to keep you anchored in the most important thing, that Jesus Christ died for your sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He has appeared and is coming again in glory.
Wow, and that sounds a lot like the Creeds, right? These words are at the heart of the Creeds. We confess one of the creeds every week, typically the Nicene Creed, which is meant for use in public worship when the Sacrament of the Altar is offered. But also the Apostles’ Creed, the Christian’s baptismal declaration of faith, is meant for daily devotional use, to remind you and others to keep the first thing first. Use this gift, confess it often, morning and night, for that is your right.
Hold fast to that word of the cross, St. Paul says. The term “hold fast” has great meaning. Restrain, to hold it back from going away or leaving. To adhere firmly to traditions, convictions, or beliefs. To keep in your memory, to guard, and keep in possession. Paul urges Christians to never let go of the Word of God preached, the Gospel which you have received. To guard it jealously, so that nothing can steal it away.
So hold fast to these things, the things of first importance, the Gospel itself. Don’t let it go, don’t comprise the faith. In everything that you do as a Church, as God’s people, those who have received the preaching of the Gospel, in which you stand and by which you are being saved, in everything you do. Keep the main thing the main thing. “Your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:5
Hold fast to the word of God. Just as we are saved by the Gospel, so we stand firm and live by the Gospel and the Gospel alone. It is by the word of the cross, which is the Gospel, that you owe you present status as Christians. And it is by the same Gospel that your present and future salvation is being secured.