Before I begin with the Sermon in Redux I want to just point out how these things come about. I preach in series because it makes things 1) easier for me because it requires planning up front, 2) It often allows me to touch on a topic in far more detail than one sermon and 3) It also keeps me off a particular soap box if I am preaching through a book because then the text dictates the topic. I had been thinking on 1st Corinthians since January and wrestling with it but in the end I felt the book would cover a lot of different topics seeing that Paul covers a lot of different topics. It is however going to make for a long series if I do it right. My projections have me finishing in September.
Corinth is one of those towns on a crossroads. Several early church leaders went through Corinth probably because of this and a church was established. Corinth could be gently described as a town where lonely sailors and lonely traders could find some pleasant company. It was a key town on an isthmus where ships would unload on one side of the isthmus and trek the few short miles to the other side and load back up on another ship. It saved time going around the whole of the Greek peninsula. There was also of course a trade route running north and south as well as Corinth was the only way to get to the southern part of the Greek peninsula by land. On top of that its patron deity was Aphrodite, the goddess of love, sex and beauty. It was a town filled with sailors, traders and those that serviced them namely temple prostitutes. The towns morality was so bad even the open-minded Athenians had an slur expression for a truly amoral person – a Corinthian. In the midst of all this is the fledgling Corinthian church which has developed problems and Paul is writing to correct them.
Whenever I start a new sermon series I always try to give the title some hook that will get people’s attention. When I printed this title in the bulletin under Next Week’s Sermon on Easter Sunday, it was a cause to give me feedback all week long. I never knew there were so many ‘right’ ways to eat Oreo Cookies. What was even more fun was how serious people are about the way they eat their Oreos. As I got this feedback, I was smiling all the while because this is exactly what I was looking forward to making the correlation in the sermon.
Paul’s first topic is divisions that had risen in the church. In particular, the church had divided itself into groups based on who they liked best as far as ministers. The Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ camps were at odds with each other. Paul is as frustrated with them as some get with people who are dogmatic about how to eat Oreos. His point is very poignant. “Is Christ divided?” “Was Paul crucified for you?” “Were you Baptized in the name of Paul?” All of these questions trying to point back to one thing – Christ. Paul then thanks God he hadn’t baptized too many people or they would have made a big deal about that.
The biggest thing about my proposition of Oreo cookies that correlated was the use of milk. I even had one person inform me that a Oreo cookie is not properly eaten unless it is completely baptized in milk. Some just dunk their cookie briefly, others hold their cookie in the milk until it really repents. Sounds familiar? It is probably a sad tragedy that baptism became a point of contention in Corinth but the same became true for arguments today. The problem is that arguments about which church preacher is better or the proper way to baptize people have the same equivalency to the right way to eat Oreo cookies and how to baptize them in milk.
The ultimate point here that both Paul and I were trying to make is that much of what people fight over in church has the same equivalency of fighting over the proper way to eat Oreos. I eat mine plain and don’t twist them open. That makes me a heretic in some Oreo cookie circles but shouldn’t it simple be great that we all agree that Oreos are good cookies. In the same fashion what flavor of Christian should be subordinated to the simple fact that we are all following Christ. In the passage it should be considered that Paul looks at baptism this way and the various ministers people were following. Such issues continue to even today and it should be noted that Paul felt Christ was more important than both of them.
The choice for your Life at the Crossroads his week is simple. Are you going to be the type of Christian that argues over issues that are equivalent to arguing over the best ways to eat Oreos or are you going to be of the same mind and passion as your fellow believers because Christ is the center of your Christianity? Are you an advocate for eating Oreos a certain way or do you recognize that it is simply wonderful that everyone is passionate about Oreos? The choice of which road to follow is yours.