See His Work
Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 Corinthians 1:18–1:31
The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
February 1-2, 2020
“Being SJLC 2020: See His Work”
It’s the first Sunday in February, which means Super Bowl Sunday is upon us. And because we are here and not in Miami, that means we didn’t get score tickets to the big game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. In a bit of research, I found that the lowest priced tickets for the Super Bowl on Stub Hub were $3655 – ouch! (https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2873008-super-bowl-2020-date-location-ticket-price-costs-for-49ers-vs-chiefs) For some of us, it’s all about the thrill of the game and who wins. For others, it’s all about getting together with friends to watch the game and enjoy the Super Bowl commercials. For others, it’s all about the food and snacks for game day. For others, you just don’t really give a hoot one way or the other. And what happens on the day after Super Bowl Sunday, the first Monday in February? That’s the day with the biggest employee absenteeism of the entire year – just sayin’… (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/02/01/super-bowl-monday-million-are-expected-call-sick/). No matter where you’re at with 49ers vs. Chiefs, we’ll be watching to see the work of each team’s quarterback who leads the team: 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. We will see the work of each team revealed in the Super Bowl. With all of this before us, we’re also called to see His work – not the quarterbacks of the Super Bowl teams, but the work of God in the world and in our lives. The Scripture verse that is before us comes from the Epistle lesson as Paul the apostle writes: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to 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” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). The theme for this message, based on this passage from Scripture, is “See His Work.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
During this Epiphany season, the time after Christmas and before the 40 days of Lent, for some years now our congregation has focused on outreach themes of how we are called to live out the good news of Jesus in our daily lives; how Jesus calls us to share his love with others through our words and actions. We have called this emphasis, Serving Jesus – Living in Community. Abbreviated, this emphasis is SJLC, which can also stand for the name of our congregation: St. John’s Lutheran Church. This year, our 4-week series of Serving Jesus – Living in Community 2020 focuses on a review of the principles of Joining Jesus on His Mission, from our friend Pastor Greg Finke. Today, we focus on that question mission practice of Seeking the Kingdom and its attending question, “How did you see God at work this week?” For many of us, we are so busy running here, there, and everywhere; we’re just trying to keep up with the demands of daily life that we aren’t really looking to see where God is at work in the world or in our lives. So this becomes an opportunity to slow it down a bit and refocus on the bigger picture in life. The truth is that we have an awesome God who has brought all of creation into existence, including each one of us. We have value and untold worth in the eyes of our God, so much so that He sent forth his only begotten Son into the world to rescue and redeem us. Rescue and redeem us from what? From a meaningless existence where we just stumble through life without direction or purpose; from a life where we think everything is about us; from going our own way without regard to the lives of others. This is what Scripture, the Word of God, calls sin – life apart from God. And because we have a God who is genuinely concerned about each one of us and our well-being, He did not abandon us to a futile existence. God put a rescue plan into place, and it centered on the life of his own Son, Jesus, who came to live a life of perfect obedience to the Father’s will and purpose. Through his life of ministry, through his suffering and death upon the cross, through his glorious resurrection, Jesus has set us free from a futile and self-centered existence. Jesus has come to realign our lives so that we would know identity, purpose, and meaning according to God’s plan and purpose. All of this centers at the cross – Christ crucified, the power of God and the wisdom of God.
We can see all of this – Christ crucified for us and for our salvation – either as a stumbling block over which we will trip and fall, or as the cornerstone of our lives. That is the filter through which we will see life. God did not intend that we stumble and fall over his beloved Son; that we be driven farther away from God because of Jesus. Just the opposite! That we would come to know God more and more as the loving and gracious Father that He is through Jesus. At first glance, Christ crucified looks like anything but power and wisdom. The death of Jesus upon the cross looks like powerlessness and failure. But we do not always see things as they truly are, do we? “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). All of this has been done for us, not by us. And so because of what God in Christ has done for us, we begin to see the world and our lives through new eyes. We begin to see God at work in the world and in our lives, not because of anything we have done, but because of God’s amazing grace: undeserved love and forgiveness. That word for “power” here in the text comes from a Greek word (δύναμις), where we get our word “dynamite.” That Word of God through which God works is powerful – explosive, even! It can blast through the hardened stone-like crust of our hearts and minds that seeks to shut him out, transforming stony hearts into fertile fields where Gospel seeds of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love in Jesus can take root. From this, we begin to see the power of God and the wisdom of God at work in the world and in our live, sometimes in very surprising ways.
How did you see God at work in your life this week? Instead of looking for big, flashy and dramatic things, we should be looking for smaller more ordinary things that in truth are not small or ordinary at all. As the prophet Micah in today’s Old Testament lesson reveals, God calls us to live out his grace and mercy in our lives in this way: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with the Lord your God?” (Micah 6:8). In response to all that God in Christ has done for us, this is where we will see God at work: through acts of justice, through living out God’s loving kindness, and in humility walking day by day with the Lord. Sometimes – oftentimes – it takes others to point these truths out to us. It takes others to show us, to remind us, of how the Lord God is at work each day in the world and in our lives for good and not for ill; for blessing, and not for cursing. As God is toward us, so we are to be toward one another: seeking what is good and not what is ill, seeking how to bless, rather than curse, one another. If there is to be healing and hope for this fractured and polarized society of ours, it must come from the Lord. And it must come about through each one of us as we live out the good news of Jesus, serving as his hands and feet and mouth in the world.
See His work? His work is all around us. You are His work! Now go forth to live as His work that God may be glorified and that your neighbor may be blessed. Amen.