It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Longtime tenants finally move out of prime real estate. Jackpot!
It is the natural moment for transition and possibility. What comes next?
Prospects can be the most exciting moment for any organization or institution.
And the most telling.
One group posits the smartest financial investment would be a luxury hotel with its proximity to tourist destinations. Fund available for endless possible missional and charitable causes.
The other group posits a home for those temporarily homeless. No source of income or sustainable funding stream evident.
After the nuns who had cared for single mothers just off St. Peter’s square in Rome relocated, the Vatican found itself with a vacant four-storied space for which it must determine a purpose. The possibilities were endless, and two clearly defined and beneficial options were before them.
In November of 2019, Palazzo Migliori opened a palace — for “nobles of the streets,” those who ” Pope Francis says society treats as rejects, victims of today’s throwaway culture.”
Rome’s municipal- and church-run shelters for the city’s thousands of homeless people tend to be spartan in appearance and feel, this building’s carved wooden ceilings, frescoed walls, and tiled floors are evidence of its aristocratic origins. Up to 50 men and women can spend the night and enjoy two hot meals a day. Hot showers and dignity, alongside medical assistance and therapeutic counseling. There is no deadline for guests.(1)
I wonder who had to shift their initial proposal to help make the palazzo a reality that both sides supported. No additional insight into how various perspectives aligned on the palace for the nobles of the street was in the five news sources that I checked after verifying this story, but there are other luxury hotels available around St. Peter’s square if you are looking.
May the same mind and purpose be in you as in Christ.
When Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus gathering in worship in Corinth, he knew already about their conflicts and division. He knew that they had different passions and commitments, not conflict on major theological issues, but the midlevel and small stuff. Paul was the church planter; after all – he knew the people. He sat with them over coffee and tea. He knew their kids. The issue is that the church has begun to reflect the larger society around it. Rather than living as an example of what community is supposed to be, they had shifted into the same line drawing and team choosing like the rest of culture likes. “Now I appeal to you,” Paul pleads, stop it! Stop being a mirror and start being a lighthouse. Stop trying to blend in and start standing out, standing apart.
May the same mind and purpose be in you as in Christ.
Have you heard about the man they discovered all by himself on a desert island a few years ago? He had been living there successfully for years, all by himself. No one else there on the island. When they found him, they also discovered three buildings on the island, right behind him. So, they asked, “What’s this building?” “Why,” he said, “that’s my home, my house. That’s where I live.” “Oh, that’s good,” they said, “and what’s this second structure?” “Well,” the man replied, “that’s my church. That’s where I go to church.” “Excellent,” the crowd said. “How beautiful!” “And what’s this third building on the island?” “Oh,” the man said, “that’s where I used to go to church.”
No matter where we are, it seems, we can find a reason to leave one church and to form another one. I belong here, someone says. But I belong over here, someone else says. Are you looking for the perfect or just-right church? Aside from a location in Atlanta, Georgia, literally named “The Perfect Church,” there is not one. This one comes close for one major reason: because I am assuming for most of us that we have never been inside it!
If we were actually to experience it, if we knew who went to church there, if we knew the senior pastor, if we knew its ministries and its victories and its failures, it would not be perfect at all. The very instant we were to become involved there, it would not be perfect. Not only would we see, firsthand, its imperfections–but more seriously, we would each bring our imperfections into it!
That’s what Chloe’s people needed Paul to know! Those traveling, possibly household slaves from Chloe’s place, told Paul all about how it is really going. Some scholars believe they visited the apostle while they were trading. What unites us, they want to know when we are caught in endless divisions?
We rarely notice alignment, until we are out of it. We pay little attention to our backs until we urgently need them to be re-aligned. Our car’s alignment is of little concern to us until suspension needs assistance, and the vehicle obviously pulls left or right. Until then, it is subtle.
Corinth church was proud of its connection with its previous leaders – didn’t you hear it? I came to Corinth Fellowship because of Paul; I belong to him. I came because of Apollos; I belong to him. I came because of Cephas; I belong to him. I came because of Christ; I belong to him. What’s wrong with this? Pastor Wendy baptized my children; I belong to her. Pastor B.K. was with me in the hospital when I was sick; I belong to him. Rev. Harris buried my family; I belong to him. Rev. Mel Leaman invited me and walked with me through thick and thin; I belong to him.
What does Paul need us to hear? It comes down to the pronoun. I belong to Christ. Paul is about the community about being a body. His “yous” are almost always “all y’alls.” There is deep value in our stories and diversities, and yet, our common alignment with Christ makes us more. Alignment is about our decision making.
On this Scout Sunday, our scouts bring us insight. This year has seen multiple scout projects at the highest levels – Eagle Scouts among our boy scouts and Bronze and Silver awards among our girl scouts (Perhaps, another year, we will celebrate the gold awards, too!). Each of these projects begins the same way. There are many, many ideas for what the project could be. Possibilities and opportunities for the scout and the community. The first hurdle is to choose and focus on your project. The scout is often faced with multiple great ideas but must lead others on just one specific and clarified project. Whether it is community garden beds or a trash corral, cleaning up gravesites or picnic tables, our scouts learn leadership and alignment of purpose in their project awards. I am so proud of them!
Alignment requires humility. Some in the division need to be willing to release their dedication to a specific idea, in favor of a commitment to a larger vision. Paul models this as he even diminishes his actions with his “senior moment” of whom he has baptized. It’s not about me, he declares to them. It’s about him, the Christ who calls Paul and who calls the community of faith in Corinth.
To align, there are times that each of us defers our preferences, to align with the body. We cannot always agree on sports teams or favorite foods. There will always be those who will choose mac and cheese over pizza and Eagles over the Steelers. We cannot always come together on a political party or affinity likes. Pennsylvania is composed of 4.1 million registered Democrats, and 3.2 million registered Republicans. Those who love tenting need not convince those who prefer a fully heated and cooled cabin with hot water of camping’s modes and virtues.
Paul is not calling the church at Corinth or the church today to uniformity, rather alignment on the major purpose. You belong to Christ, but this is more than your words, what you do matters, how you live. Align yourselves not only in vision with one another but in allegiance to Jesus the Christ and follow him. The cross is foolishness to the world, Paul declares. Foolish in its shame. Who would claim the cross as a symbol of anything, let alone victory? The cross is not just am inhumane way to die; it is the lowest form of execution, reserved for non-citizens, who are to be made an example. The cross is the empire’s means of reinforcing their power over the Empire. For us, however, the cross reminds us that we can see the power of God at work. We’re in this together and best, of all God, invited us to it! Let’s not be choosing sides; let’s not be building barriers, creating an us and a them. Let’s make a we.
May the same mind and purpose be in you as in Christ. May the mind of Christ be focused on love – love God, love yourself, and love people. And your purpose be service of God’s kingdom here on earth. Let us align ourselves to Christ.
This is the Gospel, the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
New Testament Lesson: Philippians 2:5-8
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
New Testament Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, February 9 ~ Saturday, February 15, 2020
Sunday: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5. Jesus was a teacher and a healer, fully divine and fully human. Pray for the mind of Jesus to guide you.
Monday: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” Philippians 2:6. Consider the presence of God in your life. God’s presence changes everything. Pray for your humility, and then the humility of others.
Tuesday: “but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 7-8. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but of yourself less. Pray for others awhile today. Listen to their heart for Jesus.
Wednesday: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1: 10. Unity among the wideness of God’s people is abstract. Pray for same purpose for all God’s people.
Thursday: “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.” 1 Corinthians 1: 11. Pray for the West Grove UMC church for the alignment of the church around one purpose and mind, the mind of Christ.
Friday: “Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1: 13. While we have many distinctives, we are unified through our calling in Christ. Consider that you share a common calling with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and then pray for them.
Saturday: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 17-18. God’s own power works through us as we share the witness of God. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel.