1 Cor. 1:4-9 (ESV)
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,  that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—  even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—  so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I give thanks to my God always for you because the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus. I don’t know why, but last week when I saw this text come up preparing the bulletins, I thought this might be a good one to preach. Events on Friday confirmed it. Nothing to make you think over those things you are thankful for than walking away from a rollover on I-70 with a few stitches on your left pinky and road rash on your noggin.
Paul is always thankful for the saints. Always thankful. Even when he is noticeably upset, he is thankful. I think pastors could learn from that.
We get discouraged at times. And sometimes, like a family that discouragement comes out at those we love. I realized after a recent sermon, when someone said something to the effect of take it easy on the one’s that are here pastor, that perhaps I had come off a little stronger than I intended. Towards the end of summer low attendance can grate.
Truth is I love you guys. Nothing makes me happier than to see you. I think it has to be discouraging to all of us. We live in an area where it is hard to be Lutheran. Some of you may not even know any different. Man, does my upbringing cloud my judgment at times. I grew up amidst Lutheranism, where it was just latent in society. A place where you could have a town of on thousand, and you would have two Lutheran churches, a catholic church, a Methodist church and a Baptist church, but both Lutheran churches would have a member ship roster that equaled the population of the town. Go figure that one. The other day I added up the membership of the Lutheran churches in Utah. We are around 2,200, baptized membership around 3,000. That is one parish in most other states. Of course, that would have been unheard of in Paul’s day. In Paul’s day we would have been considered a mega church. It was hard for them to be Christian too. Discouraging. It had to be discouraging for them, to be so small in number, to see their kids maligned, to watch as they were tempted to join the others in false worship, pulled away from the church by infatuation for another. Paul was thankful for them. Yes, he wrote some hard letters dealing with problems in the church. 1 Cor. Is anything but pc. He uses terms that if translated directly would be harsh even to my ears. And yet, he does so full of love. And to all these sinners, guilty of the sins he addresses, he calls them saints and tells them that he is thankful for them, loves them. Only when they know his thankfulness and love could he write the way he does to them.
And what he writes to them, applies to you in no small measure. Paul is thankful for you, So am I. and just as he points out that the Corinthians lacked not spiritual gift for the work, so it is true of you. And you guys prove it over and over again.
I thank God for you because of the Grace of God given to you in Jesus Christ. I mean, I suppose Paul might not only be thanking God that he has the Corinthians, but also for the forgiveness of sins he had given them, the forgiveness of sins he gives you. Without it we would be nothing. All spiritual gifts flow from the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins, the grace of God, that keeps us in fellowship together, the fellowship that we maintain together when we meet regularly despite our sinful inclinations and commune together at this altar. And here begins and ends all the work that God has set out before us. Because here is the grace of God we are called to share. The grace of God that he equips us to share.
Yes, we have our faults. Like the Corinthians we are guilty of sexual sins, of crude talk, of gossip, sometimes we get cliquish, we are guilty of drunkenness, of greed, of quick tempers. Wear the shoe that fits, but I’m sure I could find away to make all of them fit on you personally when it comes to the fact that we sin in thought word and deed. I know they all fit me.
But you know. Today, I’m thankful for the grace of God that has brought us all together, that binds us together in fellowship. This is what brings us together. That we are forgiven that we have forgiveness. And to tell you the truth, I marvel at this community. I marvel at what you guys manage to accomplish here by the grace of God that motivates you. That you keep a congregation like this going, that you maintain the gospel proclamation here, that there is here an oasis of the gospel pouring out the waters of regeneration in baptism over the heads of so many who otherwise would never hear, that here the forgiveness of sins is delivered in the body and blood of our Lord and savior week after week, is nothing short of miraculous and points directly to the grace of God that holds us together. What you do, what God accomplishes through you, brothers and sisters, is nothing short of miraculous. I want you to know that. It makes me proud to be with you, to work with you, I find it an honor to commune with you. Utah Lutherans, I mean you guys are amazing. Don’t be discouraged, God is accomplishing his work through you. He is doing it. You might not always see it. But it is happening. God is working through you, his saints in Tooele.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.