division, baptism, unity — or, who we are

Let me begin this morning by reading again just a few words from 1 Corinthians chapter 1. For me these particular words are more than a little odd – they almost stick out like a sore thumb – and for that reason I want to start with them. Paul writes these words to the church in Corinth: “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” Aren’t these curious words? “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.”

These words become astonishing when we realize that Paul is the one who founded the church in Corinth. These words come from the apostle who went to that city and who debated in its marketplace and synagogue, with the result that women and men came to faith and were baptized. These words come from the pen of someone who lived with the Corinthian church for 18 months – leading them and caring for them and teaching about their new life in Christ.

To this church, to this group of people with whom he has had such a significant and personal relationship, Paul writes: “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” Strong and strange words. Continue reading

as surely as…

This morning we want to start out by saying a bit more about the city of Philippi. We’ve talked a little bit about the experiences of Paul – we’ve talked a little bit about Christian community in Philippi and about their experiences – but we want to say a little more about the city of Philippi itself.

The city of Philippi was founded about 400 years before Christ, and the city got its name from the king who founded it. His name was Philippos – he was king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia, there on the northern shore of the Agean Sea. Philippos founded this particular city for the typical kinds of reasons – there were gold mines in the area, and he wanted to control the gold mines – there was a well-travelled road passing through the region – and he wanted to control the road, too.

Now king Philippos was a relatively successful and powerful king within the wider context of Ancient Greece – and he had grand plans to expand his rule and his kingdom. It so happened, however, that Philippos was assassinated before he could implement his plans. But his son Alexander became king after Phillipos and pursued his father’s expansionist plans. The son of Philippos turns out to have been none other than Alexander the Great, who established one of the largest empires in the ancient world – from Greece in the West – to India and the Himalayas in the East. Continue reading