Rachel Schade is a rising freshman at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky, and a member of Gethsemane Lutheran Church. The congregation holds a contemporary evening service once a month, and Rachel was invited to preach in June 2017. Rachel chose to preach on the subject of “redemption” based on poetry she had written for a school project.
She also happens to be the daughter of this proud blogging-mom! As I watched her preach this sermon, I was reminded of the first time I stepped into a pulpit around her age. I am grateful that my home congregation encouraged young people to try their hand at preaching on Youth Sundays as I was growing up. And I am glad we have found a congregation that encourages the same kind of ministry with their young people.
The biblical text for her sermon is 1 Corinthians 1:30 – 2:4:
God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ 2:1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. (NRSV)
To watch the video, click this link. The full text for her sermon follows.
Last semester, my 8th grade English teacher, Ms. Shaw, led the class on a poetry unit. Can anyone who has ever written poetry please raise their hands? Good. And how many of you actually enjoyed writing poetry?
I myself found it rather enjoyable. The teacher decided to end the unit with a certain project — a poetry chapbook.
A chapbook is a short collection or book of poems. Ms. Shaw said that our chapbooks each had to have a theme, and believe me, with all possible things I could write about, the choice was not easy.
I decided to trace my ideas back to my faith. There’s no better place to start. I asked myself, what comes to mind when I think of faith? The first thing that popped into my brain was “redemption.”
In our text from First Corinthians today, the main idea is focused on redemption.
Take the first section of the passage; “God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
Redemption, by definition, means being saved from sin, error, or evil. As I thought about what redemption meant for me, this is a poem that I wrote:
Saved from anger,
Saved from harm
From destruction, malice and death
I know today
I’ll be forgiven tomorrow
Until my final breath
And for all the times
I’ve tripped and fallen
Which hasn’t been a few
Throughout the days
Which blur in a haze
Redemption remakes my world anew
Wisdom, sanctification, righteousness, and redemption
In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that wisdom, sanctification, righteousness, and redemption come to us from Christ Jesus. Jesus continuously redeems us out of the grace of God for the good of all people. This is something that no one deserves, but is a gift of love from God, so that we may be made new, or “redeemed.”
Let’s look at verses 3 and 4 of the passage. It says; “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit in power.”
Paul is admitting that it’s only through the power of the Spirit that he was able to minister to the church in Corinth. He couldn’t do it on his own.
We don’t do it on our own
Last week, when I celebrated my Affirmation of Baptism, I looked back over the two years I was in the Confirmation program and realized I couldn’t have done it on my own either. In fact, I’ve come to realize how the power of the Spirit has worked throughout my own life. Here is another poem from my chapbook that describes this realization:
At the end of the day
I walk home
Tired, worn and exhausted
The sixth day of the week
Time’s patterns are old
Fraying at the ends
But tomorrow I will wake up
To the sound of church bells ringing
Down the street I hear them
I start my journey
As I walk
The steeple will reveal itself
I walk in the door
And warm smiles will greet me
White robes sweep past the aisle
They stand so tall together
The stress of the week
Will vanish into the mist
At the end of the day
A feeling of bliss
Redemption, peace, and serenity
Finding the Holy Spirit
Perhaps this is what Paul experienced in some way as well – coming to God’s people in the church with fear and trembling, and being surprised to find the Holy Spirit in that place. In the same way, we come to church every Sunday for the forgiveness of our sin, finding the Holy Spirit in this place.
And we are not redeemed with “plausible words of wisdom” when we do this, but with the power of the Holy Spirit. We should not base ourselves on the words of others that may deceive us and cloud our judgement, but trust in the Word of God.
Also, we are not only given redemption by God, we show it to each other.
How many times can you recall when someone else has lifted you up in this church in a time of trouble? I don’t know about you, but I have experienced this several times, and I’ve only been a part of this church for less than a year.
For example, during Lent when we gathered for the soup suppers, I always felt encouraged by the conversations around the table. I looked forward to the midweek suppers and worship services every week.
And there are times when we lift up others. When the Grace Notes Children’s Choir went to the retirement home down the street from our church to sing, the residents were so grateful that children had come to make their day a little bit brighter. I still remember the expressions of joy and smiles on their faces, and I’ll never forget that.
Throughout our lives, we must continue to proceed down the path of righteousness to be fulfilled by God’s redeeming promise.
As I looked back at my chapbook only a few days ago, I realized something.
Had it not been for my faith in God, I never would have had the capacity to write any of these poems in the first place. I realized how much God has an impact on not just my life, but everyone’s lives.
During this Pentecost season, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples after Jesus’s ascension. In a way, we are celebrating being redeemed from our sins. As we move through Pentecost, I would like you to keep this in mind – that God has plans for the redemption of this world – and we as a church are part of that plan.
To rephrase a line from my first poem:
Throughout the days
Which blur in a haze
Redemption remakes our world anew.
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).
Leah will be presenting at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Spring, NC, July 14 and 15. Her session info is available here: http://wildgoosefestival.org/sessions17-24/. Enter the special code BEMYGUEST for a 25% discount on tickets.