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1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 February 19, 2017

Plaque Like Me

Whats in a name? Specifically, whats in a church name?

This church is named Trinity United Methodist Church and there are many other
churches that have copied our name! Of course, when we say Trinity, we are referring to the
traditional way of describing God in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But why did this church choose this name? Most Christians have a really hard time
understanding the Trinity. Most pastors find Trinity Sunday one of their least favorite days of
the church year. Were people smarter then? There sure are a lot of Trinity churches out there!
Of course, some names are obvious: First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First Lutheran. I
know that we were the first Methodist Church in town. Why didnt we choose that name?
A few churches go with street names. Main Street UCC. Or city or village names. It may
not stand for much, but it helps you find the place!
The real problem with names isnt found on the cornerstones of our church buildings but
in the ways in which individual members can take the focus off of Christ and place it onto
themselves. The very first church in which I served had a church parlor that was named after a
prominent family in the church (who had contributed money and furnishings to the room to seal
the deal). You learned quickly not to call it the church parlor, but to call it by its proper name.
Any activity that was deemed too risky for the nice sofas and chairs was declared off limits.
Because, after all, if the furniture was damaged, this family might not replace it.
Let me say that I believe that the problem with the parlor was not really due to the family
who donated the furniture (by all estimations they were nice people and meant well) but by a
congregation that was so careful about not offending the givers that they ended up hindering
the ministry of the church that could have taken place in that room.
The early Christian church in the city of Corinth was a happening place, growing in
numbers and in ministry in the heart of a cosmopolitan setting. The church had many gifted
leaders and much to be proud about. But the church in Corinth was not a building, but a
gathered community that met in a variety of homes and was taught by a variety of teachers.
Paul offers thanksgiving for what the church has done, but is concerned because there
are so many divisions in the community. What he is attempting to do in todays Bible passage
is to bring everyone back, pressing the reset button to Jesus Christ.
Pauls ministry was focused on planting new churches and then moving on to launch
other communities. His time was short and challenged at every turn by the Roman
government. He could work very hard to lay down the foundation of faith as a master builder
and no one knew Jesus better than Paul but he had to trust others to build upon his work.
Paul could not stick around and do the work of any one church without sacrificing the greater
good of sharing the Gospel with the world; he had to trust others to build upon that foundation
to share the love of God in Christ. Paul was wise enough to know that the only place to go to
receive the love of Christ was Christ! Every member of the church that was called to do
ministry in Jesus name needed the gifts of the Holy Spirit to not only grow in love but also to
work together.
I am so thankful that our churchs mission statement is To Know Christ and to Make
Christ Known, but I would like to challenge all of us to live into that statement a bit more
intentionally, without distractions.
In our little town of Port Clinton, we have a ministerial association in which I am a
member. We are very intentional about working together in shared ministry in Jesus name.
This means that while we recognize some differences in theology and worship styles, we know
that the important task at hand is to work together to reach out to the community with Christ-
like love. You could call it a united front of sorts.
That same spirit permeates other aspects of our community. Everyone cooperates to
ring the bell at Salvation Army kettles. Service clubs joined together with community groups to
build an accessible play place last year. Volunteers worked faithfully to restore the Port Clinton
lighthouse and then to patiently work to find a permanent location for this landmark. Recent
concerns over the heroin and opiate epidemic is drawing us together again to educate each
other and seek ways to contain and control this deadly scourge.
We could do most of these good things without Jesus. In fact, most of the good that is
done in our community can be motivated by good old self-interest and name recognition.
What difference does Jesus make?
Well, what difference does Jesus make to you?
This is something that the majority of persons doing good things for others does not
need to worry about, but you should. As followers of Jesus gathered as part of a church
community, this should make a difference.
What difference does Jesus make?
William Barclay in his commentary on 1 Corinthians shares these three basic things that
we receive through our faith in Jesus Christ:
1. Forgiveness for our past. Whatever we might have done in our past that could
separate us from the love of God is reconciled and set aside by Christs love. We might have
feared Gods judgement in the past; now we know God as a friend and ally. The church should
be a place where forgiveness is offered.
2. Strength for the present. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We not
only offer up prayer for Gods help and believe that our prayers are heard, but we receive
Gods strength to help us care for the world. The church, at its best, is a place where we also
look out for one another and then reach beyond ourselves.
3. Hope for the future. We believe that God is in control and that all things work
together of good. We also believe that our lives will not end at the moment of our death, but
lead on to eternal glory.
All of this is ours when our faith is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Nothing else
saves us. Nothing else strengthens us. Nothing else brings us hope for the future.
Walk into one of our older churches and you will often find beautiful stained glass
windows with the names of church members inscribed on the actual window. After about three
generations or so, most of these people will have been forgotten, but the beauty of the window
will live on.
Thats how I want my life to be. If the love of Jesus is with you, you will make a
difference in the lives of others whether or not people remember your name.
Wouldnt it be something if a visitor came to town and pointing to this church building
asked a townsperson if they knew the churchs name. And wouldnt it be something if the
townsperson replied: I dont know what the name of that church is, but I do know that a lot of
good things happen there and a lot of kind people come from there and they sure seem to love
Wouldnt that be something if, instead of making a name for ourselves, we did good for
the world for the glorious name of Jesus? Wouldnt that be something?