A Picture of Partnership - thrive UMC Official Blog

A Picture of Partnership

            Today we’re starting off a new series called Securely Us: Unwrap the Secret Gift of Being You. And before we jump right into things, I need to let you know that this series is going to feel very different to most of you.  Typically, I tend to stay pretty close to the story in the scriptures, and I spend a lot of time unpacking the background and context of what’s going on. From there, I’ll often close with an invitation to action. We’re going to do less of that in this series.  We’re still going to focus on the scriptures, but we’re also going to introduce a spiritual tool called the Enneagram. And we’re going to invest a significant amount of time learning about that tool.  Moreover, there will still be a call to action, but that call to action will more often be a call to inward action, rather than outward action.  And I am aware that some of us are not used to that.

            So this series might feel different to you. But on top of that, it will also probably sound different.  In church, we use a lot of traditional theological words.  Words like ‘sin,’ and ‘repentance,’ and ‘atonement.’   In this new series we’re starting, we’re going to use those words less and talk more about ‘insecurity,’ ‘ a growing awareness,’ and ‘wholeness’ instead.  And the reason I’m doing that is because I want to be very intentional about drawing a bridge between who we are and what we do here in the church, and how we live out in what we often call the secular world.  Because if we can’t talk about what we do in here, without using our special church words –words that a lot of the people out there either don’t know or completely  misunderstand- then we can’t share our faith. 

            So again, this series will probably feel different to many of you –but the whole purpose behind everything we’re going to talk about and share over the course of this series is to help equip you –each and every one of you- to share your faith with confidence and power.  But right now, I already know that most of us aren’t ready to do that.  And the reason we’re not ready to share our faith is because we suffer from a mortal insecurity.  Thus, to help us overcome our insecurity so that we can confidently go out and share our faith, we are going to focus on equipping all of you with tools to help you grow in your compassion.  The more compassion you have for yourself and the more compassion you have for your neighbor, the more secure you will feel in your relationship to God. And if we are all more secure in our relationship to God, and to ourselves, and to our neighbors, then the world will be a little bit closer to being saved.  Can I get an amen?

            That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.  So let’s get ready to turn our attention to our reading.  For the whole year thus far, we’ve been following the Holy-Spirit inspired work of Christ on earth.  It started with one man: Jesus of Nazareth, and then he passed it on to the apostles.  And the apostles laid their hands on new leaders, and the power of the Holy Spirit grew and grew.  And our last series closed with a Holy-Spirit-inspired man named Stephen being stoned to death.  And in the very last line from last week’s reading it said a man names ‘Saul’ approved of Stephen’s murder.

            But it turns out, as some of you may know, this guy Saul had a change of heart.  And he became a powerful instrument of the Holy Spirit, and he travelled the world sharing the Good News.  Our reading for today comes from the man who had approved of Stephen’s death.  He is the man who became Paul.  And he writes to a church in Corinth.  This is the opening of his first letter.  Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.  It opens this way:

   From Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Sosthenes our brother.

To God’s church that is in Corinth:

To those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus, who are called to be God’s people.

Together with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place—he’s their Lord and ours!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving for the Corinthians

I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus. That is, you were made rich through him in everything: in all your communication and every kind of knowledge, in the same way that the testimony about Christ was confirmed with you.The result is that you aren’t missing any spiritual gift while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also confirm your testimony about Christ until the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and you were called by him to partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


            As Paul opens this letter to the ancient church in Corinth, his greeting reminds the community of who they are.  He is not just talking to a social club, or to a group of people who are gathered to practice a hobby.  He is talking to God’s people.  They are the Church –the assembly of those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus.  They are a particular group of people, with a unique bond, who have been called to a specific and very important mission.  But he also explicitly reminds them that they are also a part of something much bigger than themselves and their own community.  They are connected with all of the other people who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in all other places around the globe.  They do what they do in connection with the other believers. 

            And that announcement goes for us too, church!  We’re here, together, as God’s people.  And I want to ask you all this morning: did you remember that you have been made holy?  When you got out of bed this morning and slipped on your shirt –did you do it with the awareness that you were dressing a holy person?  When you ate your breakfast –and you all ate breakfast, right?  Because holy people need fuel to do their holy things.  When you at your breakfast, did you eat with a reverence befitting a holy person?  Then when you got to church, and you came in through the doors and saw all of the other people here –did you greet them with the warmness and honor that’s due to holy people? 

            Do you remember who we are?  (Did you remember that we are God’s holy people?)

            Paul then goes on by sharing his gratitude for the people –Paul spent about 18 months in Corinth. He lived with them, and worked with them for a year and a half.  He knows the people there.  He loves them. He is grateful that God brought them together.  Each and every person who is a part of the community is a living sign of God’s grace.  And then he makes the turn.  Right after he gets through the formal greeting, he throws in a little surprise; he says, “That is, you were made rich through him in everything: in all your communication and every kind of knowledge…”   

            I think these are such important words for us to hear today that I’m going to say them again: “You were made rich through him in everything.”  In other words, what Paul is saying, is that you aren’t lacking a thing.  You have everything you need and more.  You were made rich through Jesus Christ in everything. “The result is,” says Paul, “the result is that you aren’t missing any spiritual gift while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” 

            Last week, we introduced our focal concern for this upcoming series: insecurity.  Today we live in a world absolutely overrun with insecurity.  We feel insecure about our future. We’re insecure about all these new people coming into our country.  We’re insecure in our relationship with those on the other side of the political aisle.  We’re insecure about our identity as a church.  Our spirits are haunted by ghosts in our head that constantly nag us about whether we have enough and whether we are enough.  And our insecurity drives us to do all kinds of crazy, foolish things.  Turn on the news on any given day and you’re bound to hear about what some insecure person has done in our country with a gun.

            But it is no longer just a problem for people out there –people who are outside the faith.  We are insecure in here in the church too.  But instead of getting guns, or yelling at people to try and make ourselves feel bigger and stronger, when insecurity takes the wheel at church, it leads us start a new stewardship campaign and take up a sudden and fleeting interest in evangelism.  In every single congregation that I’ve been a part of since I graduated High School, the same thing happens over and over again.  Someone will voice a worry about the recent trends in worship attendance, and by the end of the conversation, by golly, there are plans in place to throw an event for young people to get them in back in the church!  Because those new people (and their bank accounts) will surely be the needed cure to our insecurity!  Right?

            Wrong!  Evangelism –or at least effective evangelism- can never come out of an insecure spirit.  Because there is already more than enough insecurity in circulation in the world –people don’t need one more place to come and feel insecure!  Instead, if we’re going to do evangelism –if we’re going to share our good news with our community, (which by the way is absolutely essential to our purpose), it has to arise from our confident, and secure faith.  If we are secure in who we are and what we do –it will be contagious. But if not, then it won’t be.  That’s why the Jesus movement grew in the story of Acts.  And that’s also why the temple –and its whole system collapsed.  Because the Jesus movement was fueled by a powerful and secure faith; and the default-setting of the temple system was to react out of its sense of insecurity.

            Therefore, we need to hear and deeply receive what Paul has to say to us.  Because it is still true: “We have been made rich through him in everything.”

            If there are two or three of us together, and we have God and a little faith.  That’s it.  That’s enough.  That is absolutely all we need.  That is a sufficient foundation for our security. 

            We have been made rich through Christ, in everything. 

            Let’s say that together. “We have been made rich through Christ, in everything.” We have enough –because God provided.  And we are enough, because God created us.  All of our security comes from our awareness of God’s imminent abundance and generosity.  We are secure because God has already given us more than we need.

            And the result of the richness that God has passed on to us, we should not be missing any spiritual gift. 

            So today I’m going to introduce all of you to a spiritual tool called the Enneagram.  Now, most of us are already familiar with the word ‘diagram’ right?  A diagram is a two-dimensional picture. In Greek ‘dia’ means two, and ‘gram’ means picture.  The Enneagram is a nine-dimensional picture ‘ennea’ just means nine.  And what it is is a picture of personal wholeness.  It’s a tool that helps us see, and grow in our awareness, of the grace that God has already given us. It is a picture of our richness.

            So we have a slide that shows us a visual representation of the enneagram –and in that picture we can see a circle. That circle represents the richness of the human personality.  And it has three aspects: intellect, emotion, and instinct. This, by the way, reflects the triune nature of God –Father, Spirit, Son.   Then if you look at the picture, around the circle are the numbers 1-9 (don’t worry about the stuff in the middle for now).  These numbers represent the nine different human personality types.  Each and every one of you here is one of those nine types. And each of those nine types offers a special gift that they have to share with the rest of the community.  But the nine-gram also reminds us that none of us are personally whole alone.  We need the gifts and perspectives of the other personalities if our community hopes to be healthy and whole. 

            So I want to encourage you to think of the Enneagram as a kind of picture for the body of Christ. Meaning it is a picture of us –each of us is a part of it, and each part has a unique and irreplaceable gift to offer.  But without all of the other parts, Christ’s body is not complete.  And the Apostle Paul is going to help us along in this journey too.

            Thus, in the weeks ahead, while we read through Corinthians, we’re going to explore each of those nine types.  And as we explore them, you are encouraged to try to find yourself on the chart.  Because the hope here is that this tool will help us identify and grow into our own giftedness as a unique child of God.  And once we can recognize our own giftedness, we will then be secure enough to help those around us see and grow in their giftedness as well.  And in this way, the whole world can find release from the choking grip of our own insecurity. 

            Let’s pray.