The Captain and the Crew on the Mother Ship-1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Kathleen Norris tells about a monastery in her book Cloister Walk, where she spent time retreating.  We would think a monastery is a place where all the brothers were of singular devotion to Christ’s unity, ‘same mind and same purpose‘, as Paul put it.  Monks are people too.  One monk said, “There are people who meditate all day and others who can’t sit still for five minutes; monks who are scholars and those who are semi-literate; there are those who are chatter-boxes and those who say few words.  Our biggest problem is each one had a mother who fried potatoes differently.”

Our homes are no different.  We say we love each other in the family room, but our kitchens and bathrooms can become battlegrounds, where little things become big things.  Marriages can be divided over how our mothers basted a turkey.  Churches have similar struggles.  We join a family of faith, answering the same ritualistic questions; trusting the people with whom we associate are our sisters and brothers in the faith.  When we get to the classroom or committee room we discover we fuss over little matters; treating others as if they really don’t belong in the family of faith.

The church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a site; dating to the 4th century when Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena built the church on a spot where she also is said to have found the actual cross, which Jesus was crucified.  It is purported to be the gravesite of Jesus, though most Protestants point to the garden tomb toward the Mount of Olives.  The church accommodates Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and Syrian Christian services.  Each group battles with the others for supremacy and its rights of ownership.  So, for 800 years, since Christian groups cannot get along, a Muslim family has held the keys to the door of the church.  The doorkeeper today is one Wajeeb Nuseibeh.

On the mother ship, we get stuck over matters; having to do with who controls the keys.  We have names for each other: old timer and newcomer, conservative and liberal, hymn people and praise song persons.  We fuss over these little things and more, though there’s no quarrel whether Jesus is the Christ.    The captain and the crew on the mother ship are primarily responsible in holding high the cross, so the passengers are or the same mind and the same purpose, as Paul said.

People lament “If only we could be like the New Testament church.”  I always want to know, “which one?”  I don’t want to be like the church at Corinth, who Paul says, “I hear there are quarrels among you.”  The Corinthians were divided based on whether a group was following the wisdom of their teacher Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Christ himself.

We have had quarrels in the church since the beginning; reflecting we’re imperfect humans, not in heaven yet.  At times, divisions are part of the human predicament; circumstances that making getting along hard.  Other times, they happen because of our unwillingness to get along with others.  Paul’s commends the captain, crew, and passengers, “to be of one mind and purpose” so we may navigate the seas God calls us to sail together.

Captain and the crew know that “being of one mind and purpose” cannot be achieved in uniformity of thought.  People wonder about their pastor’s position on, (fill in the blank).  If you ask, you will get an honest answer; trusting you want to dialogue about a matter meaningful to you.  But, belief is individual, so I say this is what I believe; then I acknowledge others can decide their own position about the same belief.  That’s the rub; people will incite political coercion if we don’t have uniformity of thought, we can’t have unity of mind and purpose.  The captain and crew refuse to insist on unity of mind and purpose by uniformity of thought. 

The captain and crew tolerate tension as the passengers seek to be of the same mind and purpose.  We are not like your grandmother, uncle, or sisters, who pretend to get along even if they don’t; making, just be nice their mantra.  People will insist on niceness because someone means so much; after all we are civil folk.  It does no good to act as everything is fine, when it is not.  The captain and crew are not just nice people; they directly encounter issues in love, working hard for the sake of all the passengers on the Mother Ship.  There are times when being clear is needed more than being nice.  Not having the stomach for addressing disagreements; can be a sign of disrespect, an indication the other person doesn’t matter enough to work with them.  The captain and crew refuse to ignore or patronize, but lead by contending for relationships that work at staying connected.

Paul took his own advice.  Paul and Peter squared off at the Jerusalem Conference and went their separate ways; accepting their differences.  Paul and Barnabas split over a disagreement, concerning John Mark as a missionary; multiplying the missionary effort.  Paul too had to figure out how to share the same mind and the purpose with those he partnered.

Paul confronts the Corinthian church because he loves and respects them; they mattered and he wouldn’t let things be.  So he directly challenges their integrity in Christ.  He appeals to them to come together around their common baptism in Christ.  This might not sound like much since some churches take the position the only authentic baptism is one they administer; suggesting we’re baptized into some name other than Christ.  Unity in baptism in Paul’s mind identifies with the death of Christ.

Baptism is about dying to our ways and committing to Christ life-giving ways.  Dying to Christ means we take people serious enough that we don’t demean them with our niceness.  We engage our baptized sisters and brothers on the ship in respectful relationships and holy conversations in order to stay connected; refusing to use politeness as a pretense for agreement.  So, dying to Christ means letting go of our wisdom of how to make things work.  Dying to Christ means giving up political power mongering that intimidates other passengers to adopt our point of view or be excluded.  Dying to Christ means we reject aggressive ways by making ourselves vulnerable, even at the risk of self sacrifice. 

Jesus prayed for unity in his last will and testament.  He would demonstrate what he prayed through the foolishness of the cross.  He suffered there out of genuine love to be in relationship to all of God’s children.  The Jesus way of unity doesn’t insist everyone agree on every point with everyone else.  Christian unity accepts disagreement in some things as we work hard to maintain agreement in spirit.  In that spirit of agreement, we rally around Christ and affirm love for one another as members of the same body.

God blesses people carrying out the purposes of God when they are together.  One of the major responsibilities of the captain the crew is not to get all the passengers to agree on every point.  We are to point you to Christ, reminding you of your baptism, so each one of us are mindful enough to show respect to each other.  The captain and the crew are to create spaces where we can speak our differences in love while working together for the broader purpose of reaching out to those edge.  Captain and the crew hold high the cross; knowing the power to work all things out for the sake of Christ and the church can be found if we will kneel at the foot of that cross, which levels the ground of all differences.

A Benedictine monk says this about his community, “The basis of community is not that we have all our personal needs met here, or that we find our best friends in the monastery.  What we struggle to preserve is a shared vision of the why we live together.  The reason we live together is we share a vision of the coming reign of God.”  In order to live the words of the Lord’s Prayer, that God’s kingdom be known on both earth and heaven for all members on the Mother Ship, FUMC, captain, crew and passengers be of the same mind and purpose in Christ. 

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Published in: on September 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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