Being Godís Temple: Working on a Building
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I Corinthians 3: 10-17
located on the isthmus that connected the Peloponnesus to the rest of
the time of the Roman Empire,
a competitive city Ė a cut-throat city where only the very smart and the
ruthless survived. There were great extremes of wealth and poverty Ė a vast
gulf between the rich and the poor.
planted a church in
The letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that we have in our Bibles as I Corinthians was written four or five years later.
By the time Paul wrote the letter that we call I Corinthians, the church Paul planted had taken on the culture and character of the city in which it was located.
The church had become litigious. Cut-throat. Church members were suing each other in the secular court system. (I Cor. 6: 1-8)
The church had become divided by differing opinions about sexuality. Some members had decided that truly being Christian meant becoming celibate and they had stopped having sex with their spouses. Others had gone the other direction and said there should be no limits at all when it came to sex. (I Cor. 7: 1-40) Paul was apparently especially bothered by one man who had become involved with his step-mother. This was too much for Paul to handle. (I Cor. 5: 1-2)
church had taken on the cityís insensitivity about economic circumstance. At
We need to understand our scripture lesson from I Corinthians within this context. The Corinthian church had become just like the culture around it.†
Now, before we look more closely at what Paul says in todayís scripture lesson, Iíd like to tell you two things about Paul that may help you understand him and his letters better.
First, Paul was an extravert. Weíve been using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator at our Pre-Cana retreat this weekend. And one of the things weíve said that is a difference between extraverts and introverts is that introverts think to speak and extraverts speak to think.
In other words, introverts figure what they think and then articulate it. Extraverts donít know what we think until we hear ourselves say it. We think out loud.
When you read the Apostle Paulís letters you should know that he dictated his letters and that he was an extravert, so his letters are Paul thinking out loud. If you read them as though they were a carefully outlined, ordered reasoned, edited document, Paul will confuse you. He is thinking out loud.
The second thing you need to know about Paul is that he was an intuitive Ö big-time. On the Myers-Briggs sensing-intuitive line, he was a big N, so his writing is not linear. It is flashes of inspiration. One idea about one thing inspires another idea about another thing in a non-sequential way. You will be confused reading Paul if you do not understand that he was an intuitive extravert.
So here is what is happening in the lesson we heard today:
Paul is trying to address the factionalism that has happened to the Corinthian church, and he is trying to help the Corinthians get over their divisiveness based on who their favorite pastor was.
He is using an analogy of building a building to do this. There is only one foundation for a building, he says, and there can be only one foundation, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.
Different builders might use different materials to build on that foundation, some more substantial than others perhaps, but donít confuse the building with the foundation.
What really matters is the foundation, Jesus Christ, and not the building any of your pastors have done. Time will tell whose work is transitory and whose is more substantial, but donít confuse the building with the foundation.
Paul is using this analogy, thinking out loud, when this idea of the church being a building, gives him another intuitive insight, and what he says, thinking out loud, is this: He says to the Corinthian congregation: ďDonít you know you are Godís temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?Ē
And it is this intuitive insight I want us to take home with us when we leave here today.
ďDonít you know you are Godís temple, and the spirit of God dwells in you?Ē
here is plural in the Greek, so he is speaking collectively to the entire
Corinthian congregation. You as a congregation, as a faith community, as a
missional people, as an extended church family, you are the
You are where the holy and mundane meet. You are where the transcendent and the ordinary meet. You are the locus the divine Ė human encounter. You. You in your life together as a congregation are where God and humanity meet each other.
See, I think that it is not a bad thing that a congregation takes on the culture, character and issues of the city in which it is located. I think, in fact, that this is a very good thing.
a church ought to represent its context. I think Foundry ought to be like
I think churches make a mistake when they try to be a place of escape from the culture around them. I think a church ought to represent the culture it is located within. This is a good thing.
But I donít think churches ought to stay like the culture around them.
I think being Godís temple means that the role of the church is to take into itself the culture and characteristics and issues of the mundane culture around it and live them out in an alternative way under the influence of Godís Spirit.
I donít think the temple is where we pretend to be holier than we are. The temple is where the mundane and holy meet, and the mundane is transformed, and we become a role-model for how the larger society around us might live if it were open to the movement of Godís spirit.
I donít think the temple is where we all pretend to agree with one another and (kiss, kiss) ďloveĒ each other by being superficial and avoiding our differences.
The temple is where we bring the differences of the city around us Ė the different interests, the different economic statuses, the different cultural assumptions Ė and we work together at living out our differences in a God-inspired way Ė under the influence of Godís spirit.
If we as a congregation are Godís temple, what we offer the culture is an alternative way of living together, not an escape.
This is surely not easy. But where else is it going to happen? We live in a particularly divisive, partisan time. We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. We live in a city with vast economic extremes.
If the congregations of this city are not the places where diverse cultures, diverse opinions, diverse styles, diverse statuses, diverse agendas, diverse orientations, diverse generations can learn to live together in new and healing and authentic ways than we are only playing church. Then we are merely ghettos.