First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- February 16, 2020

02-16-20 Bulletin PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. “In addition to, not either/or. Jesus’ 3rd way”
      1. Almost “Why aren’t there more eye-patch Christians?”
    3. Baby Christians and “you’ve heard it said”
      1. Experiencing the complexities of epiphanies –
        1. Can be interpreted in different ways
      2. Paul – babies in Christ – in terms of our reasoning
        1. Again, looking at the finger, not the moon
        2. Servants who played a role – not the whole thing
  • We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.”
    1. Don’t confuse the part for the whole
  1. Paul, talking about Apollos and himself and how they both serve God, good reminder for church in a time of transition between pastors
  2. How far Jesus has moved us in one talk
    1. We are on our third week of sermon on the mount
    2. Beatitudes then Salt and Light
  • Now this week’s scripture
  1. Cautions on Cherry Picking and Literalism
    1. “it’s in the Bible” misses many important distinctions
      1. Descriptive vs. proscriptive – what is, vs. what should be
    2. Hermeneutics time!
      1. Study of general principals of Biblical interpretations
      2. Many, MANY hermeneutics,
        1. Quadriga – (four horses) Literal, allegorical, moral and mystical
      3. Wesleyan quadrilateral
        1. Bible, tradition, reason, experience
      4. covenant
      5. Greater Message vs. one verse
    3. Jesus’ own supposed contrariness – the Antithesies
      1. You’ve heard it said…., well, I say…….
        1. In tension with “Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them.”
          1. Just ten verses, or a couple of minutes before
        2. Haven’t found any modern scholar that’s a fan of antitheses, but it’s stuck
        3. Syntheses
          1. Hegel – Thesis, antithesis, synthesis
          2. Refining of thoughts – so we will call them syntheses
        4. Adding on and re-forming, not replacing
      2. 4 of 6 Antitheses
        1. Murder -> anger
        2. Adultery -> desires not just acts
        3. Divorce-> still responsible for one another
        4. Vows -> internal vs. external
        5. Next week, retaliation and love
      3. But, which hermeneutic to use?
        1. Should consider them all
        2. Literal
          1. Funny, no one chooses the literal for the adultery one….
        3. Allegorical – usually chosen when interpreter doesn’t like the literal translation
          1. Wesleyan quadrilateral – Bible, Tradition, reason, experience
        4. Moral – literal or not, these passages underline the seriousness that Jesus has in how we covenant with one another. He’s not being hysterical –
        5. Mystical – the world that is to come. What does it say about the promise of God’s commonwealth?
        6. Creates new hermeneutic – Covenental
          1. what we owe God, and one another
        7. Balance of Grace and Severity
          1. Whether or not Jesus was literal about cutting off a hand, or taking out an eye if they sinned (and for the record, I don’t think he was)
          2. He clearly takes these topics seriously
          3. Don’t forget grace –
        8. Jesus’ Third Way – covenantal – commonwealth
          1. Not either \ or, but both and
          2. A way where there is no way
          3. Hegel’s synthesis, but more than a thought experiment
          4. Jesus doesn’t believe in a zero sum game.
            1. You can care for others and yourself
            2. Indeed, your caring for yourself includes caring for others, and vice versa
          5. covenant
        9. Syntheses over antitheses
          1. Anger is not just dangerous when it is used for violence
            1. Seeking to resolve animosity is as important to god as religious rituals
          2. Adultery \ lustfulness
            1. Seeing people as possessions, not people.
            2. Can’t ignore the original sexism in the text
              1. Nor can we ignore how Jesus
  • The responsibility for temperament is within the person, not the other person
    1. No such thing as “she was asking for it” or look at how she was dressed
  1. Divorce – relationship
    1. Can’t just casually discard relationships and people – still responsible
    2. My argument for a pre-nuptual agreement – it isn’t about the other person, it’s about one’s self. Decide, while you still love them and hopefully find the idea impossible, how you’ll promise to care for them
  • Too often, the desire is to expand adultery to unfaithfulness, as a loophole to get out responsibility
    1. Ancient understanding – breaking of honor
    2. Current understanding – symptom, not root, of problem
  1. Vows
    1. Expands marriage vows
    2. Not performative – but binding – covenantal.
  • Interesting interpretation of this – wouldn’t it be more authentic to not swear on the Bible, but just to promise?
    1. There aren’t levels of promises
  • God’s Commonwealth
    1. Synthesis of kingdom and lawlessness
    2. Assumption of equality of relationships
      1. Anger and reconciliation – between siblings, not master\slave
      2. Adultery – a relationship of equals, not owners and property
  • Divorce – same
  1. Vows – no difference between big and small, promises to powerful vs. weak
    1. Anything more comes from the evil one – any sense of difference comes from evil one
  2. Worry about being “stuck”
    1. What if your angry sibling and you can’t reconcile?
    2. This is Paul’s letter to Corinthians –
      1. Take the focus of our selves- put it on God’s commonwealth
  • External turmoil and inner peace
    1. Are you at peace, true peace?
    2. If so, so what about the conflict? Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake!
  1. Again, not them or me. this isn’t a zero-sum game
  1. Synthesis – Jesus’ third way
    1. Holding the truths of both sides, and finding more than a compromise, but a higher solution
  2. Shift in perspective – common wealth
    1. Onerous only if you are the one having to do the work
    2. See yourself as the other person as well
  • Planting and watering new seeds
    1. These are the seeds of Jesus’ ministry
    2. We are called to water them, so that they have the best chance to grow.
    3. I cor. 3:5-9
    4. Seeds of covenant, of commonwealth, of a third way


1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Common English Bible (CEB) Pg.  ____________

Today’s passage is described as “Wisdom applied to divisions in the church”

3 Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? When someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and someone else says, “I belong to Apollos,” aren’t you acting like people without the Spirit? After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor. We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.

 Matthew 5:21-37 Common English Bible (CEB)  Pg.  ____________

This gospel passage continues Jesus’ teachings from his Sermon on the Mount. Today’s readings show’s Jesus’ reinterpretation of commonly held beliefs.

Law of murder

21 “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. 23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. 25 Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.

Law of adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery. 28 But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell.

Law of divorce

31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Law of solemn pledges

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago: Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord. 34 But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. 35 You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. 36 And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.

The word of God

For the people of God

Thanks be to God