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Sermon for The Second Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
I Corinthians 12:1-11
"Goose Sense"


READING:  I Corinthians 12:1-11
SERMON :  "Goose Sense"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or02se.y-c 404


The title of today's sermon comes from an brief article in the
newsletter of the First Presbyterian Church of Cedartown, Georgia
that I clipped out a few years ago. I am going to share that
article with you later, but first I want to speak to you about
today's epistle reading. 

The passage we heard comes from a letter to a divided community,
the congregation that was founded in Corinth just a few years
after the resurrection of Jesus.

Some of the people there felt very important because they knew
that they were doing important things.

Some were teaching people the gospel of Jesus Christ,
   - others were having visions of what God wants and were able
         to share these visions with the community;
   - and still others were healers and teachers and workers
          of miracles;
and as a result of these activities people's lives were being
changed and the results were both dramatic and good.

Those who were doing these wonderful things in the church in
     Corinth felt important because other people had told them
         just how important their ministry was to them - 
      or because they themselves believed that their
          activities were more important than the things
          that others did in the name of Christ.

It is all kind of like 
    how many people today feel that doctors are more important
          and somehow better than people who make cars at a factory,
    or how some farmers feel that they are more important
          than the merchants who transport and sell what farmers
          grow.

Doctors and farmers do good things, important things,
but are they more important than merchants and factory workers?

Other people in the church at Corinth felt very unimportant. 
They felt that what they were doing did not matter very much -
that somehow, it was not as good as what others were doing.

They took no pride in their activities on behalf of Jesus Christ 
and the church which he founded,
    in part because they believed, for some reason that there
         activities were not as needed in the church,
    and in part because people around them gave greater glory
          and encouragement to those who were doing what seemed to
          be more "SPIRITUAL" things.

It was like how some today feel that because they only have a
grade ten education that they are not as good as those who have
gone to university,
         or how some who cook and clean at home do not feel as needed
         or as important as those who have a career outside the home.

It is a sad situation when this happens, and it was a sad
situation in the church at Corinth when Paul wrote them.

With all those different feelings about what was good to do,
     and who was important
     and who was less important of because of what they did,
well - the unity that the church once had - vanished.

The church in Corinth began to have troubles,
     it divided into factions, and groups and parties,
          each trying to say that they were the best,
             the most faithful of the lot,
                 and that others should listen to them; 
     and while this went on those who believed themselves inferior
         simply tried to survive, and to hope against hope that they
         mattered to someone somewhere.

People left the church in Corinth and others refused to come,
    and those who remained were unhappy and less and less
    effective in showing the love of Christ to the world.

That is how it is in some churches today.

What was true of Corinth is true in many places,
     not only, my friends, in churches, 
          but in every kind of group known to humankind...

I have seen the problem in
    - in AA groups and self help agencies,
    - in lodges and in service clubs,
    - in factories and in schools
    - and even in homes and in families.

But I shall speak of the church and allow you to apply what I am
saying to the other places where people live or work together,
         those sad places where you do not feel that simple care and
         respect are shown -- let alone Christian love.

Divisions in churches happen in many ways,
but most often they arise because of how people are treated,
how people act towards each other and think about each other,
and not because of doctrine or belief.

The great variety of denominations has risen, not so much because
people have disagreed about what one should believe or not
believe,
   but because people have - somewhere along the line - treated
   those who disagree with them, those who are different than
   them, 
       as less important,  
       as mistaken or ignorant
       as worthy of being put down and ignored.

More churches have split up and form two or three new churches,
    and more churches have had their members drop out,
         because of egotism and pride and pure thoughtlessness,
             than because of disputes about the trinity or how many
angels you can get on the head of a pin.
 
Doctrine is but the excuse that is used - lack of vision and of
love is almost always the real problem.

The fact is the more we insist that what we are doing is the
right thing, or the best thing that anyone can do,
       the more wrong we are likely to be in how we actually act,
             - the worse we become as human beings
             - and the less effective we are in promoting Christian unity,
         Christian love and Christian ministry in the world;

Likewise, the more we feel that we are not as important as
someone else, 
    the more we put ourselves down or allow others to put us down
    the more we damage ourselves and the whole church.
          - not only do we contradict the view that God has of us - the
         view that we are all precious and valuable to him and so cut
         ourselves off from the fullness of joy that God wants us
         to have - we end up confirming in the minds of others that
         there are degrees of value and worth in the church.  And that
         is not good for the church - and it is not good for
         individuals.

Wherever there are attitudes of superiority and inferiority
wherever people and their gifts are measured against one another,
there is pain and sorrow and anger
and the work of God through us, 
is hampered and hindered.

Think you are more special than you are,
    and kiss the work of healing goodbye,
think you are less important than you are,
    or that others are less important,
and kiss the work of bringing wholeness to others goodbye.

Who is going to believe that God is real,
and that faith in God makes a difference, a positive difference,
when the people who worship God,
are constantly criticizing others 
or criticizing themselves.

What salvation is there in being made to feel like a piece of a
barnyard dropping? 
         - and what good news is announced when one person is busy
         preening their own feathers, 
              and another envies him or her for it or acts as if they had
         no plumage of their own to make them glad.

If the church is to work as God intended it to work, then the
people of the church must develop a sense    of proportion and a
godly vision about themselves and their brothers and sisters.

Indeed, wherever a sense of proportion exists,
wherever people see each other as God sees them,
the church works and works very well.
         
There may be disagreements,
         - but there will not be divisions
    there may be arguments,
         - but there will not be resentments,
    and there may be more attention paid here one time, and
    there another time,
         - but there will not be envy, or pride, or self-degradation
         because of it.

There will be love, and thus their will be Christian unity.

How pleasant it is, my friends, when people live in unity.
It is like the precious oil that anoints the beard of Aaron,
It is like the dew on Mount Hermon,
the rain that falls on dry land,
the tears of joy upon a bride's face,
or the fine wine made by Jesus at the wedding in Cana.

A sense of proportion is needed in every human venture,
and with it, for full blessing, a godly vision of who you are,
and who others are. 

Our vision needs to be focussed on what is God wants us to see
about ourselves and about others, 
         our attention needs to be upon what it is God wants for the
         whole church - and for the whole world.

What is it that we are about?
and who is it that makes it possible for us be about it in the
first place?

Who gifts us?
and who is able to question the giver and know why he gives as he
does?

We are called individually to faith in Jesus,
     but we are called into a community, a church,
          so that we might have all the blessings that God wants us
          to have and so that we might be able to give all the
          blessings that God wants us to give.

We are a people who are called to feed one another and support
one another - and to witness to the world that God's love is a
transforming love - so transforming that it is able to tear down
all barriers, remove all walls, and make people who once were
many - as one.

Paul wrote the Corinthians about these matters,
he wrote and he reminded them
         - of who they were and whose they were,
         - of what they should be doing and who they should be doing
         it for,
         - of where their abilities came from and where those
         abilities were meant to be applied.

Chapter twelve of his first letter to the Corinthians contains
what so many people need to hear about these things:...

Listen to verses 4 through 6 again.  Paul writes:

          There are different kinds of gifts,, but the same
          spirit..  There are different kinds of service,, 
          but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of
          working, but the same God works through all of them
          in all people."

And verse 7

          "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is
          given for the common good."

One God, one Spirit, one Lord - and a variety of gifts,
all meant to be used for one purpose - to bring salvation and
wholeness to the world.

Each gift, and each person is important,
   no gift and no person is more worthy than another,
          and of course no philosophy and no theology, is worth more
          than a used kleenex in comparison to the love that we are
          called to bear towards each other.

It is all goose sense really - the sense that geese have and
which we too can have, if we try just a bit harder to see each
other and ourselves as God wants us to.

Why do I call it "goose sense"?  Well, now, as promised the
article from the newsletter of the First Presbyterian Church of
Cedartown, Georgia.  It says:

         We will never become a church that effectively reaches out
         to those who are missing if we shoot our wounded and
         emphasize our minuses.  Instead of becoming fishers of
         people, as Christ calls us to be, we will be keepers of an
         ever-shrinking aquarium.

         The next time you see geese heading south for the winter
         flying in a "V" formation, you might be interested in
         knowing what science has discovered about why they fly
         that way.

         It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it
         creates an uplift for the bird immediately following it. 
         By flying in a "V" formation the whole flock adds at least
         71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its
         own.

         Christians who share a common direction and a sense of
         community can get where they are travelling on the thrust
         and uplift of one another.

         Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels
         the draft and resistance of trying to go it alone and
         quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the
         uplifting power of the bird immediately in front.

         If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in
         formation with those who are headed the same way we are
         going.

         When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates to the back of
         the formation and another goose flies point.  It pays to
         take turns doing hard jobs with people at church, or with
         geese flying south.

         The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to
         keep up their speed.  What do we say when we honk from
         behind...

         Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded and falls
         out of formation, two other geese fall out of formation
         and follow it down to help and protect it.  They stay with
         the wounded goose until it is able to fly again, and then
         they launch out on their own or with another formation, to
         catch up with their original group.  If people knew we
         would stand by them like that in the church, they would
         push down the walls to get in.

         You see, all we have to do in order to attract those who
         are missing, is to demonstrate to the world that we have
         as much sense as a goose.  The seems little enough price
         to pay to win the lost and minister to one another. 
         Enough geese have enough sense to know that it works every
         time.

May every one of us have the sense of a goose.
And May God's name be blessed, day by day.  Amen


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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