Doing the Hokey Pokey

Worship on the Lord’s Day
8th Sunday of Pentecost
10:00 am     23 July 2023
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Elder: Darlene Eerkes

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: We look around and see how we have been blessed –
P: Blessed with community, with beauty, with friendship, with faith.
L: That goodness washes over us, and we receive these gifts with thanks.
P: In this time, we thank God for all that we have been given.
L: So let us worship God

Opening praise: Come, now is the time to worship

Prayers of approach and confession

God of light and of love, by the waters you walk with us, inviting us into new adventures.

In the darkness you shine your light, guiding us in your path.

In the shadows of death, you send your comfort to brighten our lives and cast out fears

You let us know that we are not alone. And you surround us with others, who are salt and light in our world like we are in theirs. You fill our lives with great gifts (every minute we share).

You call us here together to be your people and lead us onward and we offer you our praise because we see where your ways lead.

So we come to give you the glory that is only due to you.

And yet, our very merciful God,

We confess that we often turn from who you call us to be to what feels right in the moment.

You call us to follow your way of compassion but often we turn to criticism because as you say in your own word, it’s easier to see the speak in someone else’s eyes than a plank in our own.

You call us to follow your way of peace but often we are the source of division. We judge and condemn and refuse to see things from another’s point of view and then we consider the other divisive.

Even among ourselves, in our own churches we differentiate and evaluate and gossip.

You call us to follow your way of trust but often we take off on our own, leaving your call behind.

Rather than your word, we trust the trapping sof this world.

Forgive us our errors God and our justifications. Unite our will to your will, and help us to cling to your ways and strive for a much higher form of love than we espouse.

Help us to be better… to be the best versions of us that we possibly can. Amen

Response: I waited, I waited on You, Lord

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

God calls us to hear the good news and rejoice…

The good news is this – that in Christ we are forgiven our every mistake. We are made new. And we are considered perfect in his name. Amen.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus loves me (373)

Story: Lynn Vaughan

Okay, so can you see the difference? Do you are these both very nice-looking flowers? OK, I’m going to tell you a secret.

This flower here is called a purple iris. Very beautiful.

This one here is called a deadly nightshade. It’s poisonous. Right? But it’s hard to tell the difference. They kind of look the same.

OK, here’s another example.

Can you know what these are? Any guesses?

So one of them. That wonderful honey bee that we’re all supposed to take care of so we can save the planet.

This one is a killer bee.

Not ideal to have around. Right? They don’t look that much different. It’s hard to tell the difference.

You might recognize this guy. He looks a little sketchy, but that’s okay. And then this gentleman over here. They both look pretty good.

This guy is Bill Gates, a big philanthropist, gives lots of money to charity.

This guy here has killed quite a few people. Looks very charming. But it’s hard to tell the difference.

So that’s sort of what our lesson was going to be about today was about how when we look at things on the outside, when we look at people on the outside, we don’t know what’s in their hearts.

We don’t know the good people from the bad people. And the parable of the wheat and the weeds is about that.

It’s about a farmer that sowed some seeds. And somebody came along in the night and spread some weed seeds in his garden, in his field. So, as they started to grow, when they’re little; the seeds are little, We definitely can’t really tell the difference between what’s a weed and what’s the good plant.

And then as it starts to grow, you can tell the difference. But even as people. We all look the same on the outside. Some people have good in their hearts, some people not so much. But as we get older, the good thing is that we have the grace of God that can help us become better people.

So, you might not start out as the best person with the most pure heart, but God can help change that.

And for those people that don’t get changed, their hearts don’t become pure and loving. By the end of times, God will deal with them.

But that’s not up to us to deal with those people. We need to treat everyone with respect and with God’s love.

And we never know what kind of things we can change in their hearts. So that was our lesson for Sunday school.

So let’s bow together and pray.


Dear God, please help us remember that it’s not up to us to judge the people that we see around us.

It is up to us to give them the same love and grace that you would give them as you try to change their hearts and make them better people.

Please help us remember that you are always with us and that even within ourselves we all start out sort of as weeds and we need to have your love to help us become healthy and loving individuals.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee (410)

Today’s Message

Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Response: Glory to the Father

Message: “Doing the Hokey Pokey”

Corinth was (is) a prominent city-state in the south of Greece. It was also a trade port and had a land bridge that could save trades-dealer’s weeks or even months in shipping times. Julius Caesar had re-established the city from freed slaves and assigned businesspeople and Politician’s. He did this in the year 44AD and by the time Paul sent the letter read from today (possibly as few as just 10 years later), Corinth already had a booming economy and a population over 100,000 people.

But it was also a mess. It had freed men from all over the Roman empire with different rules, morals and traditions all mashed together in a Greek land that told them personal freedom was the highest rule in life. Basically, as long as you paid Caesar his dues… pretty much everything else was legal or at least permissible. And if it wasn’t, that didn’t matter either because the Corinthians were notorious for filing lawsuits against each other. It was even considered patriotic to do so.

Which is why Paul had to write even to the Christians there to say, “All things are permissible, but not all things are advisable”. By the way, this is some of the wisest advice you may ever hear. All things are permissible (we are free from rules in Christ because we are already forgiven). And yet, that doesn’t mean every idea that pops into our heads is good. In fact, most probably are selfish. Just because God isn’t waiting to “spank us” doesn’t mean we should be running around the world stealing cookies! But that’s what I do! How about you?

I do the wrong things, I do the right things, I do the I’m-not-certain things.

I do the hokey pokey. And I get all turned around.

The first letter to the Christian church established in the Greek city of Corinth (called in our Bibles, “1st Corinthians”) is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the congregation he gathered and then left under another trusted disciple and/or “presbyterium” technically meaning “THE OLD ONES” though this implication is more accurately described as “THE WISE ONES” or bishops and ruling elders as we might call them.

The book Paul writes is to the minister he has assigned to the newly established congregation in Corinth. Yet Paul also writes in a slightly round-about-way, to the elders of that same congregation and to those most respected for their wisdom.

Paul has two main sections following the introduction of that letter. Today’s reading is at the outset of the body.

Now here is the deal. It appears the congregation in Corinth send a letter to Paul asking some important questions. We don’t have that letter. But it’s really clear that from Corinthians Chapter 7 until the book’s end, Paul is answering a number of important questions the Corinthian people had asked him (and probably in a letter that the church had sent to him but is long ago lost to time).

It appears the letter to the Corinthian congregation is part of a group of back and forth correspondence. And that’s a whole big fun mess of confusing traps. But this letter read from today is a portion of early communications in the Christian Church.

And yet, while HUGE questions loom over the people Paul spends a larage amount of time not answering the people’s questions. Before he gets to that, Paul spends the first 6 whole chapters addressing things that he has heard by word of mouth from a woman that Paul greatly respects who is named Chloe. And if Chloe says it, that seems to be good enough for Paul. Chloe must have been an amazing woman.

To the Corinthians, Paul writes, “10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.”

It’s an interesting choice of words Paul makes. He says let there be no “divisions” among you (And when he says that he says “no skees-mas” – like schisms). At the time this word skees-mas  was usually reserved for distinguishing between political parties in governments. In other words, Quite literally Paul is saying, let there be no “political factions” or “opposition parties” among you in the church.

Having opposing parties might be fine in the secular realm but not in God’s house. We are to be united.

And that’s exactly where he goes from here. In an interpolation he writes: “12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, “I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ’.”

It’s understandable that they would behave in this way in Corinth. Ingrained in their minds was a kind of caste system that put wealthy and political people on one end and poor or trades people on the other. And one could argue that we have the same kind of thing today… but quite not like this. Corinth had major difficulties with this as we see throughout this book.

For example, we know that when the congregation in Corinth took communion the wealthy people (who to be fair – probably paid for the meal) would come early with their friends and drink all the wine while the rest of the people found no seats and received no food or drink. And for them this wasn’t a problem. This was to be expected. It’s just how it things were. This wouldn’t have seemed odd to them in any way. This was the status quo. But Paul takes great effort to say that the Bride of Christ (the Church) was meant for something so much more that what they world offered.

The French Revolution was tough on nobility as one might expect. “Turn about is fair play” goes the proverb. For years, the people with money and power in France ignored, mistreated, and humiliated the common people, forcing them to suffer and starve while the noblemen lived in luxury with overflowing abundance and extravagance. But with the revolution came payback. In fact, many a wealthy person found themselves at the business end of a farmers implement.

During the revolution, many of the noblemen tried to escape execution by disguising themselves as if they were the common people in order to slip out of the country undetected. Marquis de Condoncet (Con-do-sae) (also called Nicholas) was one of these. Ironically and sadly, Nicholas was a brilliant philosopher still studied even today. He wrote about equal rights for woman and argued for equal treatment for people of all races. Though wealthy he spoke out about corrupt systems. He had different and controversial views about education and social programs. During the revolution, these ideas became very dangerous.

And so, when trouble began to brew Nicholas donned the garb of the poor and hid out for more than 8 months. However, as he worked his way to the boarder of France, Nicholas’s ploy took a turn for the worst. He rarely went out in public but famished from travel could not help but stopped for food this one particular day. At an inn and restaurant, Nicholas sat down and ordered his favorite meal… a 12 egg omelet.

He ordered a 12 egg omelet1

Right away his cover was blown. Dirty though he was, conversing as his accent may be, no peasant would ever spend money so frivolously. Nicholas would die in prison… suspiciously before ever facing a trial. He is believed to have been poisoned by a friend who wished to save him from shame.

Nicholas learned a hard lesson. Old habits die hard. So it was with the Corinthians. And so it is with us.

Too often when we should be speaking out about the things, we believe in we speak out about the things we don’t. Too often when we can reason together and speak with unity of mind, we chose division instead. But God’s plan for us as a church is to be just one church.

I love Shane Claiborne whom I’ve now met a few times. And he has this wonderful saying about unity in the church. I’m sure you will hear me quote it more than once. He says, “Jesus is coming back. And when he comes, he’s coming for a Bride… not a harem.” We pray each Communion Sunday for the Holy Catholic Church and the communion of Saints. Catholic? That seems an odd work choice for a Protestant – someone protesting the Roman Catholic Church – but the word just means “unified.”  I have a Lutheran friend who won’t even say the word. He’s really missing the point.

We pray that we be Catholic because that’s what God means for us. Not to follow blindly one tradition – but to be united.

We say it. But do we mean it? This is what Paul wants for Corinth and between Corinth and other congregations. This is what God wants for us.

As was the norm in Roman society a few wealthy members exercised an influence out of proportion with their numbers. Corinth was known for its large number of “patrons” (“well to do families”) who provided land, jobs, loans and legal protection in exchange for political support which was the backbone of the Roman system of government and was also an almost inescapable trap that kept the rich wealthy and the poor unable to improve their situation. In fact, part of what made the Corinthians suspicious of the Apostle Paul and lead them to challenge his authority as their leader, was that when Paul first arrived he wouldn’t accept money from the Church. He didn’t fit the mold. And it made his look like an amateur; undeserving of pay. But Paul did this in Corinth for a very specific reason.

Have you ever heard of the World Memory Championships? It’s the craziest thing. It’s a set of competitions where people will see who can memorize things the fastest. In one event contestants memorize and entire shuffled deck of cards in order. The fastest last I checked both memorized and recited them, in order, in under 30 seconds. They also compete to see who can memorize the most randomly selected numbers read out loud for one hour straight. They also try to see who can memorize the most digits from a 30-minute presentation of binary code 011100110001001? They also see who can recall the most randomly listed names spoken in order. 197 names were memorized after being called out in order just once. It’s crazy and it’s pretty amazing what these people can do.

But the whole thing is actually based on techniques created by a group of educated Greeks called the Sophists (which arrogantly enough means – “the wise-ist, one who does wisdom).  Anyway, the Sophists were teachers/performers (based out of Corinth and Ephesus) that would recall and recite entire plays or even books for audiences or do hour long recalled speeches. People would pay them for their work as performers and hire them as teachers. They were amazing speakers. It is a rather amazing lost art and second cousin of the modern theatre. In return for their pay, they would teach their students everything that was necessary to be successful in life including rhetoric and public speaking, which were the most useful skills in their world, where being persuasive could lead to political power, security, and wealth. And of course, the Sophists taught their beliefs and tricks – but for a considerable price.

This was not just an accepted but a prized part of Corinthian culture. And so, when Paul showed up in Corinth as this “important speaker” they had heard about, this is pretty much what the people there expected. They expected some great orator to perform for them as a sort of interview for pay and then they would determine after that whether to hire him or not to teach them his knowledge.

Now it bears mentioning that Paul’s friend Apollos might actually have been a Sophist. The Corinthian’s clearly write to Paul to say that Apollos is a talented speaker. And remember this is in an area where some of the world’s best speakers are and are trained. In addition, Luke writes in Acts 18:24-28 that Apollos is an especially a gifted orator, saying that “he vigorously refuted his opponents in public debate” and also “Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus; where was a learned man”… and “spoke with great fervor” and “in eloquence”.

In addition, we know that Apollos preached in Corinth right after Paul left. Moreover, we know that after Apollos left, he was followed by the disciples of the apostle Peter. In short, it’s pretty clear what’s going on here. Paul writes to the church in Corinth… “I have heard from Chloe’s household” One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas (that’s Peter)”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

The people in the church in Corinth have turned the church into to kind of cult of personality where it’s more about the people at the front of the church than the God we’re all supposed to be worshiping. And it’s divided into factions. It’s forming political parties like the senate. They’re focus is on the preacher of the message and not the subject of it – Christ of their salvation. Again… Old Habits die hard. And they still do.

I want to be clear that the following illustration is not intended to be considered historical as the opening words might suggest this is mythos and it is apocryphal to be sure. But it’s also very true in its purpose.

Once upon a time, long ago and far away, Otto the Conqueror reigned over his people. Known for his erratic behavior as well as for his brutality, Otto was so busy conquering new territory for his home country’s expansion that he had no time to find a wife. When his advisors became concerned that Otto had not married—and would therefore produce no heir to the throne—Otto was led into commanding his men to go out and find him a “suitable wife” who was beautiful, intelligent, and a nobleman’s daughter.

And so Sophia was discovered, in a land across the sea. Her father, a convert to Christianity, (and a previously self-described “terrible man”) now very much changed and loved by his family and his people, required but one thing for a man to marry his daughter. The daughter’s royal husband he said, must be a baptized Christian (a faith in the man, he said, who took his former evil behavior away and helped him to become something wholly new). From that he thought, everything else would take care of itself as it appeared to in his life.

After meeting with Sophia’s father Otto was oddly struck by the man’s kindness and gentle heart. And after seeing the amazing heart of Sophia in addition to her father, Otto the Conqueror agreed to become a Christian in order to devote his entire being to this Jesus who can turn men from feared to loved.

And so Otto set out to marry his bride, to profess his faith and to be baptized. He marched and with him he took five hundred of his best warriors. These were the men who served as personal protection at times for him and now for him and his wife.

When they arrived (for the baptism and wedding to immediately follow) in Sophia’s land, Otto was promptly baptized—whereupon his loyal warriors cheered and quickly also demanded that they, too, be baptized. Admittedly born more out of devotion to their king than to Christ, it was a strange yet moving scene. There was only one problem: it was a custom in Sophia’s gentle and peace-loving land that Christian converts could not be professional soldiers. In her land, Christian only served among the ranks meant for defense. At this news, the warriors doubted they could ever follow their king in Christian baptism.

But when the next morning came, the men told Sophia and Otto’s family, that they were all, every last one, ready to convert. As the story goes… The warriors marched out into the water to be baptized. But before they lowered themselves into the water to fulfill the Christian rite, all of them drew their swords, lifting them high into the air. Those who watched were dumbstruck by the strange and previously unseen spectacle of five hundred dry arms attached to bodies rising up high. All the warriors were baptized completely—except for their swords and their fighting arms.

You see, the night before, the soldiers had met and talked and debated and finally had decided… that they like their King could give all of themselves to this Christ they had heard about… all except for their fighting arms and their swords. These they said, would remain the property of the state.

The Corinthians had a similar view. They believed that they could hold on to everything they already believed or wanted to believe, add a new thig and still be unchanged… and yet still be Christians. But you can’t. You can’t be unchanged.

Like the Christians in Corinth, we can disagree about the details of what should change in our traditions our practices, our views even – that’s more than fair… but you can’t be unchanged by Christ. You can’t be a house divided. You can’t hold part of yourself back as a person. You can’t cut yourself down the middle or discount this or that part of life. And you can’t be a church divided anymore than a person divided.

Far too often we want the blessings of God in our lives and to be part of his family forever, the church… But we want it on our terms.

So we come to Christ willingly and lovingly but also we all tend to come to Christ with that one arm up out of the water. That one thing God can’t have.

In our hands, we hold those things we are unwilling to let go of — different for all of us (ME TOO) … our possessions, our time, our money, our friends, our bad habits, (you fill in the blank). We are not that different from the Corinthians because we are human beings just like them. We are divided as individual and as followers of Christ.

But Paul writes in Romans 12:1, “I urge you…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” In short, we are intended to offer to God our whole selves—not just… the parts we’re comfortable with.

In our reading, Paul writes, “One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

I always liked that.

Some person in this church thinks they’re really clever.

They hear, “I follow Paul” and “I follow Peter” and “I follow Apollos” and so they say, “I follow Christ”. And you might be thinking what’s wrong with that? That last person actually has it right. Right? But no. See that last person is also being divisive. That last person doesn’t say, “Come on We ALL Follow Christ.” That last person says [WELL] “I follow Christ” with this sense of self important and superiority as if to arrogantly say, “I’m the real Christian here.” That’s no unity either.

Paul is no fool and he sees right through that arrogance and divisiveness. He replies to that, in verse 13 asking, Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Paul’s point to the church is actually really simple. And it’s completely different from the world around us. The church is not a place for factions. When you walk through those doors you join the family and you also give up certain things up for the good of the congregation to serve Christ and His Bride.

This is not a place to follow schisms or personalities. It’s not a place to come and listen to the “wisest of the ones that do wisdom”. It’s a place to be the Holy Catholic (UNIFIED) Church with a single voice.

And yes old habits do die hard. It was very true for the women and men of Corinth and It’s very true for us too. We tend to go along with the world we know. And so we tend to be divisive even when it’s not intentional. We tend to be selfish even when that’s not our aim. Because just like the Corinthians… like everybody… we tend to hold something back.

Instead of everybody fully, giving our whole selves over to God, (as “living sacrifices” as Paul puts it), unity is sacrificed for self-interest. Because the truth is… we all want to bask in the cool, crisp water of God’s redemption. But we all want to do it… with one arm raised high into the air, desperately trying to hold something back from our God and his Bride.

Two Questions:

1)   What do you hold in your fighting arm, high above the baptismal waters?

2)   What can you change to do away with the things that divide us – so that you can help unite us instead?

In the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit – Amen.

Song: Great is Thy faithfulness 324)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: Dayspring is empowered to carry out our mission of worship, service, and care by generously given volunteer time, talent, and treasure. Many thanks to all who give so generously!

Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves

Lead people in wise decisions, lead people in peace. Help us as a world to find unity.

Lord, we pray for your many blessings for those who are suffering. And Lord, we pray, be with us always.

Let’s pray for our world. Let, we thank you for the world that you give us and we say, help us to treat it better.

We thank you for the people that you give us and we say, help us to treat them better. If we look around our world, our city, our country, and we ask that you lead the leaders – helping us to grow your kingdom here on earth. Amen.

Song: Let all things now living (338)

Sending out with God’s blessing

God of peace, equip us with every good thing for doing Your will. Work in us what is pleasing to You “through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:21).

Response: Go forth into the world

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.