The Rhythm of God’s Grace (Sermon)

This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany. It was also the celebration of the Holy Baptism of two infants, Riley and Aiden Miller. The text I preached on was the second reading, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9.

You can watch a video of this sermon here.

Good morning, Aiden. Good morning, Riley. I’m so glad that you’re both here today. I’m so glad that your parents have brought you here. I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to pour water on your heads this morning, and to proclaim that you are baptized. I’m so glad that you are receiving that amazing gift of God today.

Now, Riley and Aiden, you’re eight months old. So you’re probably a little confused by what’s happening here. What’s all this singing about? All these people talking? All these strange words and banners? Well, keep coming to worship, kids. Over time, you’ll get used to it. Over time, you may find such meaning and depth in these ancient rituals, these ancient rhythms of worship that were created by people who came before us, and which we have also added our own particular cadence to.

Anyway, this is the part of the service called naptime. No, I’m teasing. This is called the sermon. It comes after the readings from the Bible, and I talk about one or more of the readings, and try to connect them with our lives today. Try to make those readings come alive in our hearts.

Today, I’m looking at the second reading from First Corinthians, and in particular one verse. Verse 6 reads: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

So Riley, Aiden, I need to give you a little background so you can understand that verse. Paul was a great teacher and preacher, and he started a lot of churches. One of the churches he started was in the city of Corinth. Paul left there to go start another church somewhere else, and eventually another teacher name Apollos arrived, and he helped the church in Corinth for a while. Then he left. Well, years later, Paul heard that the church at Corinth was having a problem. The problem was that some people said, “Well, I was taught by Paul.” And others said, “Well, I was taught by Apollos.” And some people were saying, “This is Paul’s church.” And others were saying, “This is Apollos’ church.” And things like that. They were dividing up into groups, and each group thought it was better than the other. It would be like if some people in your family said, “Well I like Aiden better,” and the others said, “Well I like Riley better.” That wouldn’t be good for your family. And it wasn’t good for the church at Corinth either.

So Paul wrote a letter to them, to remind them that they were all one church, and to remind them that neither he nor Apollos were really what the church was about. They did important work, but the one who was really important, the one who would hold them all together as one church, was God. That’s why he wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” And I think that’s a really important sentence. I want you to learn that, Riley and Aiden. Maybe if everybody says it with me, you’ll learn it better. Can everybody say it with me?

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave…the growth.

There’s a rhythm to those words, isn’t there? And I think there is a rhythm in what those words mean. Aiden, Riley, let me give you some examples of how this rhythm works.

This church, this group of people that you are becoming part of today. We are here because of that rhythm. A little over fifty years ago, some people worked really hard to get this church started. And then some other people did some work to keep it going. And right now the people in this room are working hard to keep it going for the next generation. And God has been there through the whole process, guiding and leading us, challenging and comforting us.

Everybody together:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave…the growth.

Here’s another example of that rhythm. Our church has an Endowment Fund, which is kind of like a pot of money. But this money gets used in a very special way. When people donate to the Endowment Fund, we don’t use that money right away. We save it, and over time it grows even bigger, and we use a portion of that money each year to do some very important things. Our Endowment Fund began a few decades ago with one big gift, and just last year some of our leaders made some changes to make it have even more of an impact. And every time someone donates to it, it grows, making even more ministries possible. And all through that, God has been giving us faith to make these donations, faith that the church of the future would use them well.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave…the growth.

Enough about Prince of Peace. How about you, Riley and Aiden. You know where you came from? Your parents. In a way, they made you. And your grandparents made them. And their parents made them. And their parents made them. And so on and so forth. And through all of the generations, God was breathing life into each one, and now into the two of you.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave…the growth.

Or how about this one. Your future. Your parents brought you here today to be baptized. And I know that bet your parents do a whole lot of other things for you as well. And as you get older, other people will do things for you as well. Teachers, doctors, friends, perhaps coaches, mentors. So many people will help you grow and learn and thrive. And through all of it, God will be with you.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave…the growth.

This rhythm is everywhere, Aiden and Riley. Heck, even this sermon is an example of the rhythm. About two thousand years ago, Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians. Hundreds of years later, someone translated that letter into English. Some people wrote commentaries about it. I read those commentaries, and then I created this sermon. And all along the way every one of us were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave…the growth.

This is the rhythm of God, and the whole world is built on this rhythm, and the rhythm goes something like this: someone plants, someone else waters, and God gives the growth. And that means a couple important things for us.

  • It means that we all have a role to play, every one of us, including you. You are going to have the chance to plant, and you are going to have the chance to water. And God is going to call you to do just that.
  • And it also means that you’re never alone in this, because God is the one who does the growing. God is the one who breathes life in to everything we do, who shines light into every confusing and painful moment, who gives us hope even when things look bleak.
  • And it means that life a dance, and the Holy Spirit of God sets the rhythm. The rest of your life will be lived to that rhythm, Riley and Aiden, and today God starts the beat.

You know how some songs start with a count off? The singer, or maybe the drummer, counts “1, 2, 3, 4,” and then they start? I think maybe baptism is kind of like that. Baptism is the count off to a life of faith. But it’s more of a waltz, because the count goes, “1, 2, 3.” Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

One, two, three.

When you are baptized in just a few minutes, that’s God saying, “1, 2, 3,” and then the song will begin. And that song that will last your entire life.

It’s a song that we are all caught up in. The song we’re all dancing to. The song that will never, ever end. I’m so glad you’re joining the song today.

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

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