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Sermon for 13th Sunday after Pentecost 2020

Jeremiah 15:15-2 Psalms 26:1-8 Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16: 21-28

Twin boys were celebrating their eighth birthday. One was optimistic and the other pessimistic. The pessimistic boy walked into a room full of balloons and candy and quickly said that the balloons would pop and the candy was sticky and went and sat in the corner. The optimistic twin walked into his room and saw a tremendous pile of manure. He quickly started digging in it, yelling “with all this manure, there has to be a pony in here somewhere.” Living life together is difficult – so many attitudes and so many interests. Paul knew how challenging it could be with Jews and Gentiles growing together in the same church.

Paul had heard of the church in Rome. He had never been there, nor had the church leaders James, Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem and Peter, who helped build the church or any of the other apostles. Evidently, the church had begun by Jews who had come to faith during Pentecost (Acts 2), and by travelers who had heard the Good News in other places and brought it back to Rome, for example, Priscilla and Aquilla (Acts18:2, Romans 18:2). They spread the faith on their return to Rome and the church grew. What a few people can do to grow the church!!

Listen to Romans 12 from a modern translation by Eugene Peterson - The Message - So here is what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yours as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

The apostle Paul was intelligent, articulate, and committed to his calling. Like a skilled lawyer, he presented the case for the gospel clearly in his letter to the believers in Rome. But we know that the gospel had been received more warmly by Gentiles that Jews. God had been revealed in a new way in Christ and salvation was now more broadly defined to include both Jews and Gentiles. Paul found that the Jews were not responding favorably and the Gentiles were.

Although many barriers separated them, Paul felt a bond with these Romans. They were his brothers and sisters in Christ, and he longed to see them face to face. He had never met most of the believers there, yet he loved them. He sent this letter to introduce himself and to make a clear declaration of the faith. Speaking directly to his Jewish brothers and sisters, Paul shares his concern for them and explains how they fit into God’s plan. God has made the way for Jews and Gentiles to be united in the body of Christ – both groups can praise God for God’s wisdom and love.

Throughout Romans, Paul lays out in greatest detail his conviction that righteousness depends on faith as opposed to rigid adherence to law. He believed that the divine purpose was never intended to extend to Jews only, but was always meant to include everyone whom God chose, including Gentiles. But, not all Jews responded, which shows that all along the promise came not through birth, but through faith. Throughout history, God called people to be obedient. The same call now comes anew through Christ – respond to God in faith. The vision of Christian community that Paul urges the church in Rome to consider is rooted in the radical mercy of God and nowhere else.

In a letter that might have been read in a Roman worship service, he speaks from his heart. Paul gives clear, practical guidelines for the believers in Rome. The Roman Church had no New Testament because the Gospels were not yet being circulated in their final written form. This letter may well have been the first piece of Christian literature the Roman believers had seen. Written to both Jewish and Gentile Christians, the letter to the Romans is a systematic presentation of the Christian faith.

We see in Chapter Twelve, that Paul moves from the theological to the practical, giving guidelines for the lived reality of the community of faith. We are to give ourselves to Christ as living sacrifices, obey the government, love our neighbors, and take special care of those who are weak in the faith. In this chapter, we learn how to live our faith each day.

I encourage you to take a copy of Romans 12 that I read from The Message and read it each day for a month. There are handouts in the back of the church. Take it home, read it, pray with it, think of folks in the community for one month and see what God reveals to you.

So here is what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Amazing words for a church in formation – encouraging words for a church continuing to be formed in the image of God – for us. From these words, we learn that the Church is an instrument of God, not of uniformity, but of unity in diversity. The image of Christ’s Body continually calls the church and her members toward transformation. The church’s strength and our unity with one another are not located in sameness but in Jesus Christ alone. Love from the center of who you are…..open your heart so these words may speak newness and wisdom to you. Amen.

Romans 12 from The Message - So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

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