In the name of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

There are many times I could start a sermon by saying, “This morning we have a reading from one of Paul’s letters that we can’t understand.”

There is nothing like long, confusing syntax to invite scholarship, debate and a variety of opinion.

However, this morning we have a reading from Paul that can’t be misunderstood. Hearing this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians from the version of the Bible we are currently using, helps, but even in a different translation, Paul’s meaning here comes through (despite his best efforts).

“I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.”

Of course, at the time, Paul was talking about the people who believed in Jesus breaking apart into groups, divided by opinion.

This is such a familiar experience to all of us that we have no difficulty drawing immediate parallels to today: most obviously how Christianity has been divided into more denominations than we can count. Surely you don’t have to think very hard to come up with examples of other divisions in your own life. None of us needs help hearing echoes of the news when Paul calls the community to account for fighting among themselves and picking sides. Unfortunately, we know all about it.

Since we are hearing Scripture from The Message, we hear many of the verses from versions of the Bible we’re familiar with worded in new ways. On the one hand it leaves us longing to hear the text for which we have great affection. On the other hand, it offers a chance to engage Holy Scripture in fresh language, with the hope that this will open us to the work of the Holy Spirit as we think on the Word of God.

Some of the verses we heard this morning from the prophet Isaiah have been given a special place in our hearts by the composer George Friedrich Handel who wrote the “Messiah.” Today we heard different wording of Isaiah 9:6 than he used in the libretto we love to hear especially around Christmas:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (traditional translation).

When we hear (or think of hearing) a choir singing this beautiful piece of music, we know that there are different groups of singers within the choir: altos, tenors, basses and sopranos. They are distinct groups all working together for one glorious reason. In this case, diversity of voices is not combative, but harmonious. The more voices there are, the richer the sound.

In the reign of God, which Jesus ushered into the world, where people know themselves to be citizens of the same sacred family, everything is in concert.  People who are hungry have enough to eat. Those who are sick are healed. The lonely have found a home and love is the music that keeps all things connected and focused.

The Gospel story we heard today stopped at verse 23. I think it really adds to our complete understanding of the section to read all of the way to verse 25.  Had we heard all of those verses, we would have heard this:

“From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God’s kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now they were under God’s government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives. Word got around the entire Roman province of Syria. People brought anybody with an ailment, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them, one and all. More and more people came, the momentum gathering. Besides those from Galilee, crowds came from the “Ten Towns” across the lake, others up from Jerusalem and Judea, still others from across the Jordan.”

Everyone gets healed! Everyone. This is not a story of division, rancor, picking sides or fighting amongst yourselves. The kingdom of God is right here among us. Right here!

If a spell could be cast and we could all stand up right now and believe ourselves to be in the choir, ready to sing our hearts out, the kingdom would, in fact, be right here!

Have you ever fallen asleep on an airline flight and been awoken when the wheels of the plane touched down on the runway? It can be a little disorienting and feel like the flight was over in a flash. You might even say out loud, “We’re here?”

Yes! We are here. We are here right now! Right here in God’s choir. The music of love is playing in your hearts. It’s time to start singing!