Sermon Notes 2008 for Epistle for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost (1 Corinthians 1:10-18)
“I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or”I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
What would be the modern Orthodox version of St. Paul’s argument?
Or how about:
I am a follower of Fr. Ephrem. I am of Fr. Seraphim Rose. I am of Fr. Schmemann. I follow Bishop Kallistos. A follow Archbishop Lazar.
I am for Kondratick. I am for Metropolitan Herman. I am for Archbishop Job. I am for OCAnews.org.
The problems of the church are the same for the past 2000 years. They are human problems, resulting from human sin, hubris, desire for power, jealousy, greed, control, lust.
St. Paul disagreed vehemently with St. Peter (Cephas). He disagreed with St. Peter’s understanding of what it meant to follow Christ. He disagreed with Cephas over how to interpret Christ’s teachings. But St. Paul was still clear that each of them belonged to Christ and were trying to follow Christ.
And St. Paul understood that it was not his goal or Peter’s goal to draw people away from Christ to follow them personally or them alone.
St. Paul spoke about being a father to his disciples, and he understood that the followers of Christ would be naturally attracted to those leaders who taught them the faith. And he thought that was natural and good.
But St. Paul would not accept that Christians would make their leaders and teachers into different or divided religions. If someone you want to follow as a Christian is demanding that you follow them alone, and if they say they alone have the only right interpretation of Christ, then be on your guard. St. Paul would warn you away from such people.
For each Christian teacher should be leading you to Christ, uniting you to Christ, keeping you with Christ. But if all they are doing is dividing Christ and pitting Christian against Christian, then they are not doing what St. Paul taught and you should have nothing to do with them.
If any one Orthodox teacher or priest or bishop draws you away from the fellowship of other Orthodox and from the entire Body of Christ, then he or she is doing what St. Paul condemned.
Each of us should be working to unite all others to Christ and to the fullness of Christ’s Church – to the one, universal and catholic church we profess in the Creed. That Church is not limited to Paul or Peter or Constantinople or Moscow or Ephrem or Schmemann or Herman or Job. It is the responsibility of all church leaders and all Christians to unite all to one another and to Christ.
And as can be seen in the life of St. Paul who was willing to argue with his fellow apostles, union in Christ does not always mean compromise or avoidance. Sometimes we need to deal with our disagreements and to argue with one another to discern the truth.