1 Corinthians 1:1–9 (NIV)
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now, let me read that again from my personal perspective: I, John, called to be a pastor of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and the meeting of St Matthew which took place on the 14th November, 2010 here at St Matthew …
2 To the church of God in Hamilton, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere … who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God for you here at St Matthew because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift needed for what is ahead in 2020 as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
You have everything you need to be faithful witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ, each other and the wider community.
But, have you ever lost something? When I was a child my mum had knitted me a lovely dark green jersey. I loved that jersey – it was warm and made of fine New Zealand wool.
One day we were on a family trip and we'd stopped to have a cuppa at one of those roadside picnic areas, Silverhope, just South of Hunterville on State Highway One.
It was unusually warm on the edge of the native bush surrounding the picnic area that day, so I took off my jersey and put it aside on top of the family station wagon.
We'd been admiring the scenery when we realised we needed to get a move on home before it got too late. So, packing up the family, the picnic set and thermos, off we go in the station wagon. But I had forgotten to move my green jersey into the car from on top of the car.
When Dad drove off the jersey was still on the roof. It was later that night, at home, I realised I no longer had my nice green jersey. It had been blown off the roof by the slipstream as we drove down the road.
From time to time we all tend to lose things: jersey’s (just look at the lost property at any school), money, keys, friends, phones, faith, …
We sometimes put things aside and forget to go back to them – they become lost.
Our God has lost something too. Only God's loss is greater than a jersey. God's lost many people - people He loves. The problem is that people put God aside when life gets too hot for them. But God doesn’t forget or misplace people. He doesn’t forget where these lost people are.
God lost these people because they ran away from Him – a bit like a toddler let run free in the supermarket - and they’re off, wandering on their own, ignoring the responsibility of being free by keeping an eye on Mum and/or Dad, only to find themselves in trouble - upsetting the displays or balling because they’re lost and alone.
It was a problem when I lost my jersey – Mum and Dad were cross, I was upset and feeling really guilty. But a jersey can be replaced.
People, on the other hand, are unique - God loves each individual person - each person is individually created, chosen and loved by God for life with Him.
Both God and I have ways to avoid losing things. If only my jersey had a paper label pinned to it with my name, address and phone number. I could've labelled it by writing these details onto a piece of paper and pinning it to the jersey. When I lost it, anyone finding it would be able to find me - they'll know it’s mine.
But the paper label, pinned to the jersey, could easily come off if it rained, got caught on something or if someone stole it. If the paper came off then no would know the jersey belonged to me.
A better way might've been to write my name, address and phone number on a piece of cloth and sewn it into the jersey. Then my name and phone number would be part of the jersey - it couldn't be torn or pulled off.
God's way of keeping from losing you and me was to send us His Son to be our Saviour. The Advent story, recently worked through before Christmas, was about how God thinks each person is so valuable that He wants to save each person. The Advent story is the beginning of how God promises to save you and me from being lost: from having no purpose, from having no hope and from being alone.
We see how God kept that promise at Christmas when He sent the Baby, Jesus. Now in the post Epiphany season we see and hear how God reveals Himself to you, me and all the other lost sinners, and brings Himself to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord.
The message that Jesus Christ brings to us is that God loves us so much that He was prepared to go to hell for us and is willing to bring us back to God so that we're no longer lost.
God loves you and me, and every other one of His human creations, so much that He went to the extreme measure of becoming like us to show and share His love through the punishment He received on our behalf in His passion and cross.
And then, in our Baptism, He washed you and me clean with water and His Word and made His sign, the sign of the cross, upon us.
St Paul tells us that the message of Christ has been so firmly fixed on us that we've not failed to receive a single blessing. When Jesus came to the earth He didn't just drop in to say, 'Hi' and then 'Bye'. His wasn't a short visit.
If Jesus had only made a brief stop-over His message would've been like a name on a piece of paper pinned to my jersey. His message wouldn't have lasted.
Jesus Word and message to us is permenant. As someone said yesterday, “The message (Jesus) has been with us for some 2000 years”.
The good news message of Jesus has become "firmly fixed" in you and me, and many like us, like a cloth name tag sewn into a jersey. Everything Jesus did on earth - including His death - firmly fixes Jesus in our lives. Because He was born, suffered and died and then rose from the dead and sent His Holy Spirit to us He's part of the world - part of history and part of our lives now.
We spend time preparing for Christmas during the season of Advent so that the message of Christmas becomes more firmly fixed in our own lives. Christmas isn't a temporary blessing - Christmas isn't a bit of paper pinned on a jersey to temporarily label it as one special day in the year.
Christmas tells the world that God became part of our human lives and stays with us (Immanuel). The label of "Christ" is taken from Christmas to be the name we here at St Matthew carry with us 365 and 1/4 days of each year. It's the label you were permanently given when you were baptised Christian.
This is worth celebrating. God has prepared you and me to wear His jersey. He's given us His label. His label isn't only to be worn on the inside either.
Like the jersey of a sports team the label is to be worn proudly over the heart - like the team crest. God has given you and me the necessary skills and abilities to wear the jersey in His service to bring honour and glory to Him.
It's like the football star who wears the jersey of his team proudly on and off the field. We're not just to wear our label on Sundays or at Christmas and Easter. Like the footballer, we must wear our label on the outside of our jersey.
When we see or hear of one of our fellow team members taking off their team jersey we actively seek to help them keep the jersey on and playing for the team. It’s not just the coaches responsibility.
Jesus calls any of us with the spiritual gifts He’s given each of us to use them in building the team – the body of Christ, the church. This means we fill in for, encourage and assist team members who are struggling.
To accomplish the task God sets before us, our jersey may get somewhat grubby in the process as we mix it with the world. At the end of the game of life though, we'll still be able to be identified as Christians wearing the jersey emblazoned with His name - the name of Jesus Christ.
And what’s more, you and I won’t be missing, like my green jersey when I got home. We can all be at the eternal after game party.