First Lesson: Isaiah 9: 1-4
Responsive Reading: Psalm 27: 1, 4-9
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1: 10-18
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 4: 12-23
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When I was visiting Grandma on New Year’s Eve, we were playing cards when we come across two ladies that I’ll call Phyllis and Eunice. 7 O Clock at night in the nursing home, Phyllis wants to go to bed. Eunice was going to stay awake for a while, so she has the lights on in her side of the room. Phyllis was going to have none of this. So Phyllis storms out of the room in a tizzy, complaining to the nurses about how she can’t live with Eunice because of how inconsiderate that she is. Phyllis goes back to bed and turns off all the lights. Grandma and I keep playing cards.
7:30 comes around Eunice wheels into the room once again, turning the lights back on. Phyllis is really mad at this point since the nurses aren’t going to listen to her. She decides that Grandma and I would be a captive audience to her problems. Now Grandma is no stranger to roommate problems at the nursing home. The nursing home has since decided that Grandma is better off with a private room. Grandma has one way to resolve conflict: yell then yell some more, then hope the other person gives in.
So when Phyllis is complaining about Eunice, Grandma declares that she is going to fix everything between Phyllis and Eunice. My hand is on my head, dreading what I’m going to see next. Grandma rides her scooter into Eunice’s room and tells her it’s time for bed.
Eunice just ignores Grandma’s demands that she goes to bed. Grandma then decides that things need to get physical. So Grandma proceeds to push Eunice’s wheelchair towards the bed. Grandma though quickly gets tired, and Eunice’s wheelchair probably moves one foot forward at her efforts. Now did Grandma accomplish anything mediating Phyllis and Eunice’s conflict? Not really. Did the Nurses find a way to bring Phyllis and Eunice together? No, based on what I saw I doubt Eunice could hear either Grandma or Phyllis’s yelling.
But our question for this morning is this: Do we have similar cycles of seemingly continual conflict in our life? That as in the case of Phyllis and Eunice these conflicts are not easy to resolve.
Today’s lesson comes to us from 1st Corinthians 1. Corinthians tells the tale of a church in conflict. The Corinthian Church is founded by the Apostle Paul, people in the Corinthian Church were always going to have a special place for Paul because of this history. Paul was a good organizer, but he had his weaknesses. Paul was self-admittedly not a very dynamic speaker. Paul wasn’t a rah-rah people person. Paul wasn’t all that much to see. I picture him as an older gentleman with a bit of a pot belly. Paul eventually moves on, and the Corinthians get a new preacher named Apollos. Apollos seemingly had it all. Apollos was probably tall, muscular with long, wavy hair. Apollos was energetic. Apollos made people laugh during his sermons. People would hang on every word during Apollos’ preaching. People were flocking to the Corinthian church seemingly because of Apollos.
Everyone should have been happy except they weren’t. Some of the original members of the Corinthian Church were seeing things change way too fast before their very eyes. Some of the people joining the Corinthian Church would seem more acceptable at a Monster Truck Rally rather than a Church. People often lash out at change, so Paul’s followers (The Church’s founders) began lashing out at Apollos. They accused Apollos of being “soft on sin.” They started clamoring for Paul to come back to fix their church. What was going on in Corinth can apply to all sorts of conflict, Insiders vs. outsiders, change vs. stability, with all sorts of dueling personality types in the mix.
So what does Paul say to his former followers?
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”-1st Corinthians 1:10.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus on a much more important question than who was a better preacher between Paul and Apollos but rather why does the Corinthian Church exist? Paul wanted the Corinthians to unite around a common purpose within this relationship. Now here’s the thing about Paul. Paul knew that sometimes finding common purposes can be hard.
I have a friend that I’ll call Heather. Heather’s a good employee responding to work requests nearly 24/7. Heather’s department recently came up for contract negotiations. Heather had been long time friends with her manager. They would frequently get together socially. Heather considered her manager a good friend. The problem with contract negotiations or wills or many other things in life is there a fixed amount of money to spend. So Heather was feeling disrespected by the contract offers. The manager recently invited Heather to a Christmas party at her house. Heather didn’t want to go because her feelings were hurt. So Heather asked me what she should do?
I said to Heather it depends on our goal for the relationship? Do you want to throw away the friendship? What in your mind is the best scenario for this relationship? Three months from now, Three years from now, or thirty years from now.
People can certainly tell of their seemingly former friends or feuding families members, but probably in all likelihood, the short term feeling of satisfaction can distract from one’s ultimate long term goals.
I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley where he said: “Conflict might take years to sort out, but harsh judgment will inevitability boomerang.”
So where do we find common purpose with those with whom we are in conflict? Back to Paul and Apollos.
Here’s what Paul proclaims to his followers in the Corinthian church.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God-1st Corinthians 1:18.
The Corinthian Church exists to save sinners. It exists to proclaim the Cross of Christ to broken people. The important thing is not Paul or Apollos, but rather why do they gather as Church.
We must never lose sight of our long-term purpose in the midst of any divided household. Let me tell you a story about another family member in my dad.
Dad grew up in Lindstrom, and other than his four years at the University of Minnesota has lived there all of his sixty-seven years. Dad since 1982 has been either on the City Council or serving as mayor for every year but two. About a decade ago, Dad faced a political controversy that could have brought him down.
Lindstrom had been having traffic problems for years. The traffic problems were two-fold. 1. The sheer volume of traffic passing through town from the Twin Cities to Wisconsin over 20,000 cars a day was more than the town could handle. There were weekend days when it would take 30-45 minutes to pass through a 2 mile stretch of town on Highway 8. 2. Highway 8 also had the nickname of being “The Highway of Death” due to the sheer number of pedestrian and traffic fatalities that had taken place in the last twenty years. A big part of the problem was a lack of stoplights and pedestrian crossings.
So the Minnesota Department of Transportation proposes a seemingly radical solution to Lindstrom’s City Council to divide the town in two. The proposal was for split pairs lanes to go through Lindstrom making Lindstrom a four-lane with the former main street as the divider. Residents were up in arms; I sat in public hearings where people would accuse Dad of trying to destroy the only town he had ever known.
Now, this issue was complicated on all sides as conflict often is. This project would require a good period of construction, along with the risk that businesses wouldn’t see as much traffic. Now my Dad can also have a quick fuse, like Grandma. But at every one of these hearings, he restrained himself and listened to person after person tell him how wrong that he was. What Dad did during the Highway 8 standoff was some of the most impressive leadership that I’ve ever witnessed precisely because his actions were so contrary to his nature. Dad ultimately voted what he thought would be best for the town. Years later, Dad has former opponents come up to him, commending him on how his convictions were what was best for Lindstrom.
Dad could have very easily done nothing. The Highway was the town’s difficult situation.
As pointed out again by Andy Stanley “Love will constantly require you to deal with difficult situations in life.”
Love will require as in the case of Heather and the contract negotiations ask what do want in the long run? Love will require as in the case of the members of the Corinthian Church often cause you to admit all sorts of people with different sins than you into your previously small, little church.
You see the simplest advice that Paul could have given the Corinthian Church is to start your own church, where you get to call all the shots. Paul believed that fighting to preserve one’s relationships is the most important struggle that we often endure as Christian people.
Now some of you might be, hearing all this and say this might sound good, but you don’t know my family. I’ve had people more than once say that their family is the most messed up family ever. They might yell no different than Grandma in the nursing home and make as much headway as pushing the wheelchair six inches towards the bed. We must never lose sight of God’s reasons for putting people in our lives.
Let me close with a story told in the book Crucial Conversations how even in the most heated of relationships in life there is hope.
Bobby was about to be deployed to serve in Iraq. Bobby was nervous about what he was about to see at war. Bobby’s father was against this idea. Bobby’s dad lets him know this and Bobby blew up. Pretty soon everyone in the family had taken sides: siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandchildren. Further communication between Bobby and his dad only led to more brokenness. They didn’t talk to each other for five years. Bobby’s dad wasn’t around for the birth of two of Bobby’s children. Finally, Bobby decided that the past was the past and wanted to attempt to rebuild the relationship he once had with his father. Both men agree to meet; the initial conversation was difficult threatening to boil over several times. Bobby and his dad never lost sight of their purpose: being in a relationship with each other even in the midst of their disagreements. Bobby like all people in the relationship came to see how much his brokenness had contributed to their prior split. Bobby’s mom had previously been so hurt by Bobby’s behavior that she wanted nothing to do with him, yet Bobby’s dad vouched that their relationship was worth saving. Slowly but slowly, Bobby’s family began to piece itself back together.
My point for this morning is this: We often need to ask ourselves what’s really important in this world? Do we believe that our God possesses the ability to raise even the most broken of relationships from the dead? Do we believe that God might possess plans for our church, our town, our life that go even beyond our imagination?
The great struggle that we face as Christian people is the finding the right balance between truth and grace in this world. Bobby could have let the truth of his politics destroy his relationship with his family, but he came to see the need for grace to sustain all human relationships. The Corinthians had all sorts of truth regarding how the church should look, but they lacked the grace to see that God might have different plans. We need to continually struggle with the question as Christian people in what do we really believe: “Do we believe in hope?” “Do we believe in healing?” “Do we believe in resurrection even from the most broken of relationships?” Amen
 Lesson is 1st Corinthians 1:10-18. The subplot between Paul and Apollos along with conflict within the Corinthian Church is the theme of the book.
 2 Corinthians 10:10.
 2 Corinthians 10:10.
 The inspiration for this week’s sermon comes from Carey Nieuwhof’s article titled “5 Stupid Things The Church Needs to Stop Doing to Make Progress.” Published on his blog on July 13, 2015.
 Stanley, Andy. “The N Commandments: Judge Not”. North Point Church. Atlanta. May.9.2015. Web. 16.Jan.2017.
 1st Corinthians 1:18.
 Stanley, Andy. “The N Commandments: Judge Not”.
 Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler. Crucial Conversations. McGraw Hill Publishing. New York. 2012. Print. P.29-30.
 The continual struggle between grace and truth can be found in Stanley’s book: Deep &Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.on pages 72-83. Nieuwhof’s article also touches on this theme.