Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Not in vain"

Message preached February 8, 2004
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Order of Worship

            This was what one church member calls an "amble and ramble" message. The worship itself contained the message for the day, with a significant portion given over to the children, and - in our time of sharing  - to laying hands upon and praying for someone facing cancer. As the service was nearly over, there was little time to go into detail, which I knew might be the case. The following was meant to reinforce, not introduce.

            Taking off from Paul's use of "vain" (eikę and kenon in Greek, see below), this sermon focused upon a single image - a glass container pulled from the church pantry - in reality a simple large vase. After briefly describing it and its purpose, I gradually filled the vase with water from a pitcher as I read vs. 3-5 - a simple confession of faith, what Paul considered "of first importance," the essentials of faith.

            I spoke of how the Corinthian church was very "full" in many ways, a gifted congregation - except, as Paul pointed out in chapters 12 and 13, when it came to love. While saying this, I poured the water back into the pitcher. Paul was writing to help this fellowship to focus upon the primary purpose, to be full of what is essential, to get the message straight. I repeated Paul's confession as I refilled the vase, pausing my pouring after each phrase to briefly comment.

            Noting how when bad things happen, we are tempted to think that what we believe has all been in vain, worthless, just a bunch of empty words, I again emptied the vase and held it upside down. My encouragement, as I refilled the container in closing, was to not fall into that trap, but rather to hold fast to the faith you have received.

Some exegetical notes

15:2 - "if you hold firmly to the message I proclaimed to you - unless you have come to believe in vain (eikę)" 

         eikę - vain, without plan or purpose (for Origin, to "believe in no purpose" is opposite of to "hold firmly," Barrett, 1 Cor., p.337); see also entries in Liddell-Scott Lexicon, or Thayers Greek Lexicon (B.A.G. not online).

15:10 - "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain (kenę)"

15:14 - "if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain, (kenon)
                                                                          and your faith has been in vain

         kenos [root of kenę & kenon] - suggests emptiness (i.e. in nature & content rather than purpose and procedure) Orr/Walther (1 Cor. p. 323) translate it as "worthless" in vs. 14, fruitless, void;  see also  entries in Liddell-Scott Lexicon, or Thayers Lexicon (B.A.G. not online).


online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see 1 Corinthians.

©2004 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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