Psalm 138; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Sermon Resurrection Life
Good morning! I have often said that the single best part of this job, of being a pastor, is that I get to baptize babies. Celebrating the sacrament of baptism is the most joyful part of this calling. Ministry has its highs and its lows, but even in those times when I’m tired or frustrated, I remember that I am charged with this wonderful task; I remember that part of my call to ministry is to welcome our children into the faith.
First of all, I get to share in the joy of the parents. And let me tell you, even when that baby is a couple’s third child, like Adelyn Claire Plahutnik, or Aiden John Cavaliere, the parents are joyful, excited, and happy. I love the chance to connect with the family and build a relationship.
But it’s not just the baby’s family! Everyone in the congregation is full of joy when we celebrate a baptism. The joy is infectious. It’s a reminder that this community is alive, that there are new people coming in, and we have a duty to raise that child in the faith, support the parents, and conserve the resources we have, so that we may continue to thrive as a congregation.
Simply put: when we celebrate a baptism, it’s a day of joy and hope for everyone. No one complains about anything when we celebrate this sacrament. I don’t hear any complaints about the sermon or the hymns. No one is upset if we run longer than an hour. When we celebrate a baptism, we celebrate what unites us; we celebrate what we hold in common.
Our reading this morning comes from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the congregation in Corinth. The Corinthian congregation was anything BUT united. This was a big problem and it seems that many people in the congregation didn’t want to listen to Paul.
You have to understand. Paul was one of the people who founded the congregation! He was there at the beginning, yet some rejected him. While I think many of you are familiar with the story of the Apostle Paul, some historical context might be helpful.
Paul was originally named Saul. He was born Jewish, he was trained in the law, and he was from a city called Tarsus, which is located in present-day Turkey.
Jesus was crucified and resurrected in the year 30 CE, most likely. Almost immediately after the resurrection, the first Christian community is formed in Jerusalem, but nobody is using the name “Christian.” The followers of Jesus all think of themselves as faithful Jews. At first.
This brought them into conflict with the Jewish religious authorities. There were many clashes between these authorities and the early Jewish-Christian communities. In fact, one of the chief persecutors was Saul of Tarsus. And he was quite good at it. Until one day, while he was on the road to Damascus, Saul was struck by a blinding flash of light. He saw a vision of the resurrected Jesus, who said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
After seeing this vision and being struck blind, Saul had a change of heart. When he regained his sight, he was born anew and renamed Paul. He took his charge directly from Jesus; he was called to be an apostle. That is, Paul was called to spread the word of the risen Christ. This was probably somewhere between the years 31 and 36 CE.
Eventually, Paul goes to Jerusalem. The early church spread rapidly among Jewish communities across the Roman Empire. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem decided that they also needed to undertake a mission to Gentile communities and establish new congregations there, too. Paul was one of the leaders of that mission.
Paul spends the rest of the 30s and all of the 40s establishing these communities. He likely visited Corinth, which is not far from the