The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year A, Church of the Holy Trinity, Nashville

God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

We’re in Epiphany, the season of call, when our readings focus us on the nature of God’s call to us. Our first reading today gives us once again the call of the Servant, chosen to be a light to the nations. “The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me” (Is. 49:1). The Servant is one who is called, from the very beginning, to bring all peoples to worship and obey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That’s his call.

Then in our Gospel we have another story: Jesus’ call of the first disciples. Andrew meets Jesus, and then brings his brother Simon to meet him. Andrew tells him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jo. 1:41). When Jesus meets the brother, he gives Simon a new name, a symbolic name (“Peter”) that signifies that he will be the “rock” among Jesus’ followers. As Jesus’ followers, Peter and the other disciples will answer the call and get moving out into the world.

Our second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, continues the theme of call, as St. Paul writes to the members of the church in Corinth. They too, like the first disciples, are called: “called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), as it says in our reading. That is, they are called to be holy people, and are given gifts that will enable them to serve God. “In every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind… so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Cor. 1:5,7). That’s their call.

We tend to use this word “call” to denote a special call to ordained ministry, but this is not the usage of the New Testament, as we see in the letter.  St. Paul is writing to everybody in the church in Corinth. He’s making them aware that the call is not addressed to “professional” religious folk, but to all God’s People. He knows that a movement like this can’t rely upon a few people but has to rely on all the people, on all the saints. We can’t limit the audience that hears the call.

What if only a few people had shown up to the March on Washington in the summer of 1963? What if Dr. King’s speech that day had only been addressed to the true believers, to the righteous professionals? Well, it wouldn’t have had the same impact, would it? We cannot limit the call. In our reading today, St. Paul is speaking to all of us, to everyone here at Holy Trinity Church.

In the letter, St. Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth what it is they are called to: communion or fellowship, as it says in our reading. “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). The Greek word is koinonia, which refers to a personal relationship. So, Christians are called to close relationship with God. They are called to share in the relationship that Jesus has with his Father. God was faithful in raising Jesus Christ from the dead, and he will be faithful to us. We come to the altar rail to participate in holy communion, the sign of our relationship, our koinonia with God in Christ.

We begin with this personal relationship, but there are added dimensions here in the word “fellowship.” As Christians, we are called not only into personal relationship with God but into community relationship with God in Christ. Each of us is one with Christ, but also (as St. Paul says elsewhere) one with each other (Rom. 12:5). We share holy communion with God and also with each other. Speaking of Dr. King, if you go back and look at the “I have a dream” speech you’ll see again a clear notion of the importance of community that is faithful to the Christian tradition of thinking about these things. We are called to community, both with God, with each other in the church, and with people of good will everywhere.

There are many challenges to community these days; forces that will pull us apart if we let them. If you stay tuned next week, you’ll hear all about it in the continuation of our reading. But no matter what, God is faithful, and his power is stronger. Our call is from God, and we’re called to holiness, to fellowship with God. We come to the altar rail to share in the life of Christ. Truly, “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee