1 Corinthians 15: 44b-53
Will you join me as I offer this prayer written by Walter Brueggemann?
Truth-telling, wind-blowing, life-giving spirit-
We present ourselves now
For your instruction and guidance;
Breathe you truth among us,
Breathe your truth of deep Firday loss,
Your truth of awesome Sunday joy.
Breathe your story of death and life
That our story may be submitted to your will for life.
We pray in the name of Jesus risen to new life-
And him crucified.
Human beings want to belong. We are both unique creatures playing our individual gifts and dreams and we are social beings, meant to belong to something larger than ourselves. From the creation of Adam and Eve so that human became more than one, to efforts today to “fit in,” or “find our tribe,” Human beings need to know how we belong.
NY Times Magazine 9-7-13”You are, to an unprecedented degree, the emperor of a personalized kingdom of popularity, and zillions of bots are working tirelessly to heed your whims and hone your experience. …Once we listened to the same song together, watched the same show together, argued over the same movies together. Now we’re each focused on our own screen, listening to our own playlist…
It sometimes seems like we're in an extended adolescent crisis of Nothingness. How do I know there is anything but me?
A little Church history sets the stage for our fall series, “See How They Love Each Other.”
Nearly 2 centuries after stories about Jesus began to travel with traders around the Roman empire, through Europe and North Africa and east into Asia,
And about 150 years after Paul planted the early Christian Churches of the Jewish Diaspora, as the Roman empire was beginning to break apart...
a famous orator from Carthage, what is now Tunisia, the nearest point on the African Continent to Italy, recorded what the pagans of the day thought of their Christian neighbors.
"See how they love one another." –Tertullian wrote.
We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This strong exertion God delights in. We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final consummation. We assemble to read our sacred writings . . . and with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast; and no less by inculcations of God’s precepts we confirm good habits. ……. The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honour not by purchase but by established character. There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price.
On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary.
These gifts are . . . not spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines or banished to the islands or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God's Church, they become the nurslings of their confession.
But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred. See, they say about us, how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves would sooner kill.
The communities Tuertullian described were started by Paul of Tarsus and his co-workerd, traveling out from Jerusalem to Jewish communities around the Roman empire. It was an age of expansion.
The community from which our text comes this morning, Corinth, was Paul’s third church plant. The city itself had a particular and peculiar reputation. “Wealth without culture, and abuse of the poor by the wealthy.” It was, one travelor wrote, without grace.”
In that culture, everyone belonged to someone else in a way that we find it hard to imagine today. A Lord or a patron connected you to the economic and social web.
Competition within the Corinthian Church was fierce for who would “lord it over,”
be in charge. For who got to say who was in and who was out.
What did it mean to “belong” to the Body of Christ.”
In His letter, Paul urgently reminds them, "we are God’s servants working together."
But evidently too many Members belonged in name only, not in practice.
Oh they’d show up in time for dinner, in time to get a good seat at worship,
But what did it mean to belong first to God.
We experience that belonging through faith community. We experience it from taking our place at the table, not elbowing out the people we'd rather not sit next to.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts,
O God! How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them -- they are more than the sand; I come to the end -
- I am still with you.
****You know me so well that you know where my thoughts veer (19-24)!
 Walter Brueggemann, Prayers for a Privileged People, Abingdon Press, 2008.