Sermon: In the Flesh… AND the Spirit

4991036_origSixth Sunday after Epiphany /
Sexto domingo de Epifanía

Sunday, February 12, 2017 /
Domingo, 12 febrero, 2017
First Lutheran Church in Logan Square

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Augustana Chapel,
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (16-17) / 1 Corintios 3:1-9 (16-17)

For better sound quality:

(Manuscript follows below)

Good morning! I’m delighted to get to be here with all of you today. I didn’t think I was going to get the chance to preach in chapel after I had to cancel last week. Many of you know that I have been struggling with some ongoing health issues for the past several weeks – I’ve been battling an infection in my leg, which, thankfully, is almost completely cleared up. And during this time, I have been very grateful for your prayers and words of support.

It’s been hard to be cooped up for most of the last month. I’ve had to miss classes and opportunities to preach, and I’ve missed getting to see friends and other people. At times, it’s almost felt like my whole life has been shrunk down to this experience of illness and isolation and anxiety. I have felt like this illness I experience, invading my flesh has become the whole of who I am.

That’s why the text of our second reading – from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians – really grabbed my attention this week. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are getting too caught up in the things of the flesh. He reminds them in this passage that they are more than just flesh. They are the field in which God has sown the Word of life. They are the building which God has built, a holy temple, the dwelling place of God. God has created them to be people of flesh and Spirit.

I needed this reminder too – that I am both flesh and Spirit. After spending so much time stuck at home trying to get better, feeling weighed down by the limitations of my flesh, I needed to be reminded of the fullness of who I am.

¡Buenos Días! Es un gran placer estar aquí con ustedes. Después de cancelar en la semana pasada, no pensaba que tendría el chance de predicar aquí. Algunos de ustedes saben que he sufrido con una infección de la pierna por unas cuantas semanas. Ya, gracias a Dios, me estoy sanando; y doy gracias por sus oraciónes y su apoyo.

Ha sido difícil estar encerrada todo el tiempo durante el mes pasado para sanarme. He faltado en clases y en la iglesia, y me ha hecho falta ver a mis amigos y a otra gente. Por un rato, mi vida se redujo a la enfermedad y la ansiedad y el aislamiento. La experiencia de la enfermedad invadiendo mi carne consumía todo mi ser.

Por lo tanto, me llamó la atención la segunda lectura, de la carta de San Pablo a los Corintios. Pablo les dice a los Corintios que se preocupan demasiado por las cosas carnales. En este texto, les recuerda que son algo más que carne. Son el campo en que Dios ha sembrado la Palabra de la vida. Son el edificio que Dios ha construido, un templo sagrado, la morada de Dios. Dios los ha creado como gente de carne y de Espíritu.

Yo también necesitaba este recuerdo – de que soy carne y también Espíritu. Después de pasar tanto tiempo encerrada y enferma, necesitaba recordarme de la plenitud de quien soy.

I think that these verses from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians are actually good news for all of us today. I see a lot of similarities between the world we live in and the community Paul was writing to in Corinth. The city of Corinth was a very diverse and very wealthy place, situated in the middle of major trade routes. And the Christian community there reflected this diversity. There were Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Greeks and who knows who else. There were some people wealthy enough to own their own homes, but a large part of the group was made up of the poor, of working people and women and many slaves.

All of these different people had very different ways of interpreting the things that Paul and the other apostles had taught them! Paul calls them out for fighting with one another and for being jealous of one another, and for bragging about being baptized by certain apostles. Instead of building each other up, and focusing on their unity in the Spirit, the Corinthians were letting their divisions and disagreements tear them apart.

I can’t help but see our community, our country and our world reflected in that situation. We too are divided by quarreling and jealousy and boasting. We’re divided by the kind of competitiveness that made coming up with a sermon for this service so needlessly difficult for me. And we’re divided by even uglier things like racism and xenophobia, by misunderstandings and hostility between urban people and rural people, by sexism, greed, and above all, by fear. There is a level of prejudice and distrust and division in our society that affects us all, no matter what side of the issues we stand on. These things are like a disease infecting the body of Christ, every bit as real as the infection my body has been battling. This sickness makes us focus on the fleeting things of this world and forget that we are vessels of the living and eternal Spirit of God. It tears us apart and makes us forget who we are.

Creo que estos versículos de la carta de Pablo a los corintios, son las buenas nuevas para todos nosotros hoy. Noto varias similtudes entre la comunidad de los corintios y el mundo nuestro. La ciudad de Corinto era muy diversa y bien rica, ubicada en el medio de varias rutas comerciales. Y esa diversidad se reflejaba en la comunidad cristiana. Habían judíos y gentiles, griegos y romanos, y otras personas demás. Habían personas ricas que tuvieron casas propias, pero una gran parte del grupo se formaba de gente pobre, trabajadores, mujeres, y hasta esclavos.

Estas varias personas interpretaban las enseñanzas de Pablo y los demás apóstoles, de maneras muy diferentes! Pablo los regaña por pelear entre si y por sus actitudes de celos y jactancia. En vez de apoyarse los unos a los otros, y reconocer su unidad en el Espíritu, los corintios permitían que sus desacuerdos y sus rencores los dividieran.

Veo una reflección de nuestra comunidad, nuestro pais, y nuestro mundo en esa situación. Igual nosotros somos divididos por peleas y celos y jactancia. Somos divididos por la competencia que me hizo tan difícil inventar un sermón para esta ocasión. Y hay cosas aún más feas que nos dividen: el racismo, la xenofobia, el malentendimiento y hostilidad que existe entre los urbanos y los rurales, el sexismo, el avaricio, y sobre todo, el miedo. Hay un nivel de prejuicio, desconfianza, y división en nuestra sociedad que nos afecta a todos, sin importar nuestras creencias personales. Estas cosas son como una enfermedad que infecta el cuerpo de Cristo, tan real como la infección en el cuerpo mío. Esta enfermedad nos hace enfocarnos en las cosas fugazes de este mundo y olvidar que somos vasos del Espíritu vivo y eterno de Dios. Nos hace olvidar quienes somos.1-corinthians-3-16-collage

Paul clearly thought that the Corinthians needed to be reminded of who they were. After the reading assigned for today, he goes on to write: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that one. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” YOU are that temple! All of you!

All of us together are God’s temple, the body of Christ. And we know very well what the things are that seek to destroy us: prejudices based on race or gender or background that dehumanize others, skyrocketing economic inequality, politics that put power and party before people. Divisions abound. We are caught up in an entire system that seems determined to tear us down, to destroy the temple that God has built. But Paul’s words are comforting and clear: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that one.” We can rest assured that God will destroy these diseases, God will heal our world from its sickness of hatred and fear. God will continue to build us up as the body of Christ, to make us holy, and to equip us for the work of healing.

So I invite you to take Paul’s words with you into this week, and let them remind you of who you are – who we all are together: “You are God’s temple, and God’s Spirit dwells in you. God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

Pablo recordó a los corintios de su verdadera identidad. Después del texto que nos toca hoy, Pablo sigue diciendo, “¿No saben que ustedes son el templo de Dios y que el Espíritu de Dios habita en ustedes? Si alguno destruye el templo de Dios, él mismo será destruido por Dios; porque el templo de Dios es sagrado, y ustedes son ese templo.” USTEDES son ese templo! Toditos!

Todos nosotros juntos somos el templo de Dios, el cuerpo de Cristo. Y sabemos bien cuales son las cosas que nos quieren destruir: el prejuicio, el odio, la desigualdad económica, y una política nacional que da más importancia al poder que a la gente. Los sistemas en que vivimos a veces parecen diseñados para derribarnos, para destruir el templo que Dios construyó. Pero las palabras de Pablo nos alientan: “Si alguno destruye el templo de Dios, él mismo será destruido por Dios.” Podemos confiar en que Dios destruirá las enfermedades de odio y miedo que nos hacen sufrir, y sanará nuestro mundo. Dios seguirá sanctificándonos y alentándonos como el cuerpo de Cristo.

Así que les invito a llevar las palabras de Pablo consigo durante esta semana, para que les recuerden de quienes son – y de quienes somos juntos. “Son ustedes el templo de Dios, y el Espíritu de Dios habita en ustedes. El templo de Dios es sagrado, y ustedes son ese templo.”

 

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About Day Hefner

Day Hefner is a seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC), going through the candidacy process to become an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Before moving to Chicago for seminary, she worked teaching English and job skills to refugees and immigrants in her native state of Nebraska, and also spent a year on staff at the Nebraska Synod office. Prior to that, she served for four years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Currently, she works part-time as an itinerant preacher. Her interests include Latinx ministry and immigration activism, as well as interfaith and development/redevelopment ministry. She also has a degree in music, loves cats, and is an avid crafter.
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