This is the first of five messages which Convention Chaplain, Pastor Michael Eichstadt, presented under the overall theme: “Who Are We?”
“Who are you?” That is probably the number one question of the day. After all, we have assembled here from dozens of different places. Some of us are pastors or teachers; others are lay delegates and interested observers. For some it’s a first-time experience; for others it’s a repeat visit. In any case, if we are to spend this week together carrying out the work before us, it’s helpful to know a little about one another. As we share our experiences, pull out snapshots of children and grandchildren, and especially share our faith, Christian fellowship is strengthened. And so we introduce ourselves and ask one another: “Who are you?”
The same question can be asked of a group like the CLC. Perhaps as you were making arrangements to come here your employer or neighbor asked you what the CLC is all about. What is the CLC’s reason for existence? Who are we? It’s a fair question. In these waning years of the 20th century we are told to change with the times and to question old assumptions which may no longer hold true.
And yet there really is no need for an identity crisis on our part. We can be assured of who we are by looking to the answers the Lord provides in 1 Corinthians. We begin with 1 Corinthians 1:2-3. Paul writes: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
An Incredible Thing!
Who wre these Corinthians whom Paul addressed? Simply put, they were God’s holy people. Paul states it so matter-of-factly that we could easily pass it by without a second thought. But this was an incredible thing! Holy people in Corinth? The city was a wide-open seaport, the fourth largest city in the Roman empire. It was a prosperous urban center populated by Roman colonists, ex-slaves, former soldiers and a smattering of Jews. People from all over the known world passed through it just as in San Francisco, Phoenix, St. Louis, or any other large city in our country. However, the city was also notorious for its tough streets and immorality. “Corinthian” is still an adjective used to describe a dissolute, luxury-loving lifestyle. Corinth was the antithesis of holiness. How could there be hoy people there?
Even the Christians in Corinth could not claim that they were perfect people. Paul provides a sordid list including: “sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexual offenders, thieves, greedy . . . ” (1 Cor. 6:9), and then adds: “that is what some of you were.” Also, the congregation was in danger of self-destructing because of church politics, factions, lawsuits, and squabbling over spiritual gifts. Holy people? Hardly! Don’t picture them as perfect people who spent their time polishing their haloes. They were not. They were fatally flawed by sin.
Isn’t that who we are too? We were born in the same mold. Adam’s sinful nature is just as much a part of us as it was of the Corinthians. Not only that, all too often the ungodly influence of our society rubs off on us. We find it is easier to go along with the crowd rather than be different. We see so much wrong in our lives: problems in our families, difficulties in our congregations, and resentment in our hearts toward God. Is that a description of a holy person? Is it not rather the portrait of a sinner deserving of God’s condemnation? No, it is deserving of God’s condemnation.
A Reality In Christ
How could Paul write to these imperfect Christians as “sanctified” and “called to be holy”? Was he using flattery to gain easier acceptance by them? No, he was telling the truth. These were God’s holy people now, but it had nothing to do with their own goodness or efforts.
The key is in the three little words: “in Christ Jesus.” These Corin- thians were by nature no different than anyone else, but in Christ Jesus their status with God changed completely. Paul says: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11)l. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In Christ Jesus the sinners is pronounced a saint. All the guilt which stains our souls and lives is washed away by the precious blood of Jesus. Through that soul-resuscitating Gospel the Holy Spirit calls doomed sinners out of the world and sets them apart as God’s holy people for His own saving purpose.
Look at who we are in Christ! Miraculously, we are holy people who can call God “Father.” As such, we are the recipients of His grace. From our Baptism day to the day of our death we walk in the warmth and light of His undeserved love. And while we live in troubled, uncertain times, we have the peace which transcends all human understanding–the peace between us and God earned by Jesus on the cross. We don’t have to wonder who we are.
What a difference that makes this week at Convention! Because we are God’s holy people, we are not here to push our own personal agenda or gain some special advantage for our congregation. Our overriding theme is one of gratitude for all the Lord has done. What greater privilege could we receive than to serve our loving Lord in everything we do. That is why we are here. There is a mountain of work ahead of us, the weather may well be hot and sticky, and things are not as comfortable as they are at home. Yet I’m certain that none of us would rather be anywhere else than right here. For it is good to be here as the people God has made us–holy people in Christ Jesus! How amazing! How motivating! Praise God! Amen.