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Being Right and Being Right

Romans 14:7-16

Jesus as Lord and the Love that Shapes Life (7-9)
Paul wants the Romans to see the nature of a community that includes people not only diverse in background but in spiritual growth and understanding. He’s used issues of food and of special days, both with long histories and deep emotions, to highlight fundamentals. Everything flows from the heart of the Gospel: Jesus’ life, death, resurrection that puts him at the heart of human existence as Lord – the Lord who conquers death and creates life. Jesus’ cross opens a relationship deeper and more defining than any human structure. Human power stratifications are rendered obsolete by the one relationship of every person in life and death to Jesus/God as loving and saving Lord. That new, direct tie has deep power to shape life because it embodies God’s love for us in our weakness and hostility. Each individual has a distinct relation to Christ, as a loved creature for whom Christ died. Each is called into “a walk” according to that Love seen in Jesus, empowered by God’s Spirit.

Community of Many Minds

Romans 14:1-9

Welcoming When It Matters

Paul is helping the Romans see a basic vision for the new communities that include Jew, Gentile, Roman, foreigner, slave, free, prosperous, poor. At the same time they transform the life and actions of all by the renewing of mind. The center is what happened in Jesus – living in a world created and sustained by the one God seen in Jesus’ self-giving love. This creates a living body with a great diversity of body parts: gifts, cultures, weaknesses. Welcome/accept/take to yourself is the basic theme, tested when serious differences arise. We sense distance: “weak in faith”– eating vegetables? Faith to eat everything? To us “weak in faith” means doubt. We might reverse the terms. For Paul “stronger faith” is seeing the meaning of Jesus’ story to define a relationship to God by real transformation by Grace, Faith, and Love, rather than various religious practices. But Paul knows those practices carry great weight and are a powerful language for both Jews and Gentiles.

The Harvest of the Wicked Wounded

John 4:27-28

A Small Text to Radically Reorient Our Worlds

This text falls in an awkward place in the middle of one of the most famous narratives from the Gospel of John. We have before us a side conversation, and a cryptic one at that, as John is often want to do. Here Jesus offers John’s version of a most elemental metaphor for Christian faith and witness: the harvest. But as is often the case in the fourth Gospel, Jesus is here not just to communicate but to disrupt our assumptions, to jar our categories, and to enable us to reconsider God’s work in the world and our place in it. In other words, Jesus is concerned with nothing more than the revelation of the very nature of God in himself and his encounters with people, particularly those who are seeking some answers, some hope, something that doesn’t perish, spoil, or fade. 

Jesus in this engagement with his disciples is concerned that they have a change of vision, a change of priorities, a transformation on the way in which they engage with and perceive the needs of the people around them. 

But when you and I approach this text we do not come to it blindly, as if we are hearing for the first time. Neither do we come to it in a vacuum, as if what is really going on here has no bearing on this response that Jesus has to those closest to him. And what I want to explore are a number of ways that we have been misshaped to read this text, and the larger story that it is a part of, and more importantly how we have thought about our place in the world as the redemptive presence of God in a deeply wounded world.

The Dawning Light of the Future

Romans 13:8-14

Unfolding the Renewed Life

This is the final section of Paul’s foundational call to a life transformed by renewing the mind, before he begins applying it to problems in the community in Rome. He began by calling them to give themselves – “bodies as a living sacrifice” – not formed by this age but thinking soberly and with faith. Each person is different – parts of one body in Christ. Each has distinct gifts of grace to be used diligently: prophecy, encouraging, mercy...

He unfolds the character of a community shaped by Jesus’ teaching: a peaceable kingdom. Genuine love, honoring others, celebrating in hope, persevering in suffering, serving. Blessing even persecutors. Focusing on the event of Jesus, his humility, self-giving love. Never taking revenge. Living with beauty, excellence, peace. Conquering evil with good. They live under overarching authorities, seeing them as servants responsible to God. Expect them to do their job. Act for the good of others. Deal honestly with imposed obligations.

Living within a Society

Romans 12:17 - 13:10

Looking At Authority from Below and Above

Rom 13:1-7 are verses that have been used and misused in many different ways across the centuries. After Constantine, the church was attracted to the power of the state to enforce conformity (unity). Luther, Zwingli, Calvin all wanted civil authorities to enforce doctrine. King James I of England (KJV) believed in the divine right of kings and made sure the KJV translation supported his view: ‘He is the minister of God’/‘It is a servant responsible to God.’

Paul writes from Corinth to Rome in the time of Nero. Jews had been expelled from Rome. Paul has suffered Roman imprisonment and beatings (Act 16). The emperor cult was flourishing. Paul looks at Roman authority as a citizen/Jew/Christian and as a victim of Roman hostility. Rome’s overarching authority is real and dangerous but Paul knows that it is not ultimate. Paul is reflecting on the worlds the believers live in. The challenge not to let this age mold the believer but to experience the renewal of the mind to live embodying God’s rule in Christ. Peaceable Kingdom and Avenging Authority

A Peaceable Kingdom

Romans 12:9-21

Renewing the Mind in a World of Conquering Evil

Paul writes to a highly diverse church (Jew, Roman, Greek, Slave, Free, etc.) in the imperial capital. People from different worlds of thought. All challenged by Jesus. In eight years many would die under Nero’s persecution. Should they arm themselves? Form a militia? Split up.

Renewing the mind: How to be a community really shaped by Jesus. Learning to think in a new way, with a shared focus (16). Not conquered by evil calling us into its way (21) The danger is not suffering/persecution, but being shaped by the lure or threat of the world’s ways .

Paul starts looking at the diversity of people, of gifts of grace, of ministry (4-8). That sets the challenge of a community that can embody and experience God’s kingdom coming “on earth as in heaven.” He calls them to that reality (9-16), always aware of how things can go wrong. He helps them to think about a hostile world around them (17-20) to resist the strong urge to respond with defensive exclusion and hostility even when it seems justified.

Living Sacrifice – Gift of Life

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Romans 12:1-13

A Living Sacrifice in a World of Sacrifices

Think of Paul implementing Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in the Greco-Roman world. The world around is very religious – sacrifices continually in temples – trying to manage or fend off the evil of the world. Jesus insists on not managing evil but going deep into God’s heart and purpose, really living in God’s reality – simplicity, solid rock, joy, love.

The cities smelled with burning sacrifices. Paul points to a new vision of living sacrifice, the whole person, not just “spiritual” but body, a whole life offering to God, a vision of worship that is logikos, fitting the message (logos), the Word of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection.

Sermon Series

Seeing Life Through Jesus’ Eyes


01: No Worries–Seeking the Kingdom of God
Matthew 6:24-34   MP3 | Sermon Notes

02: Learning to Pray with Jesus
Matthew 6:5-15   MP3 | Sermon Notes

03: Fasting and Giving with Jesus
Matthew 6:1-4, 16-26   MP3 | Sermon Notes

04: Seeing Ourselves Clearly with Jesus
Matthew 7:1-12   MP3 | Sermon Notes

05: What’s So Wrong with Getting Angry
Matthew 5:21-26   Sermon Notes

06: Lust, Temptation, and Divorce
Matthew 5:27-32   MP3 | Sermon Notes

07: To Tell the Truth
Matthew 5:33-37   MP3 | Sermon Notes

08: The Other Cheek & the Second Mile
Matthew 5:38-42   MP3 | Sermon Notes

09: “But I Don’t Want to Love My Enemies!”
Matthew 5:43-48   MP3 | Sermon Notes

10: Salt of the Earth, Light of the World
Matthew 5:13-16   MP3 | Sermon Notes

11: The Hard Road to Jerusalem
Matthew 7:13-20   MP3 | Sermon Notes

12: Blessed, Happy, Poor, and Mourning!
Matthew 5:1-9   MP3 | Sermon Notes

13: Building a Life Solid in Jesus
Matthew 7:21-29   MP3 | Sermon Notes

14: Blessed When Reviled and Persecuted?
Matthew 5:9-12   MP3 | Sermon Notes

15: Great in the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 5:17-20   MP3 | Sermon Notes

One God, One Trust, One Kingdom

Matthew 5:44-45, 48; 6:24b-33

Identity – Shaped by the God I Serve

Jesus’ wisdom moves from Blessing (God’s kingdom breaking in) to Identity (discovering who I am in God’s realm) to Action (living actively from the Identity I learn in Jesus). Jesus shows us who we are by showing us the nature and character of God, of reality.

Identity is profoundly contested. Who am I? What is my life about? Am I defined by work, class struggle, nation, race, gender, oppression, relationships, wealth, desires, music, subconscious id-ego. Is my ‘self’ a delusion of chemical reactions in mindless brain cells. Does my life matter, now or ever? Am I loved? How do I find hope – the truth? We feel after God with human-sized gods – variations of power, sex, and money.

Jesus' Call to the Way: Forgiveness and Even Reconciliation

Matthew 5:21-24; 6:9-15

A Kingdom Breaking in among the Broken

Jesus proclaims the kingdom/rule of God. People throng to him, sick, suffering, curious. He calls ordinary people to follow him. And they do. He begins teaching on a hillside. He pronounces blessings. Not ideals but naming those among whom this kingdom is breaking in. Not the religious, powerful, wealthy. Poor in spirit, mourning, meek. Among them God’s ancient promises to Israel are coming to fullness, unexpectedly.

Jesus never condescends. These are the light of the world. The cutting edge of God’s rule. He calls them to the wisdom, the life of God’s realm, beginning now in our world.

Jesus’ Call to the Way: Turning the Cheek - Turning the World

Matthew 5:38-42

The Call and The Way
We begin a series looking toward our congregational retreat: “Called to the Way – Living the Wisdom of Jesus.” Jesus was not an expected wisdom teacher giving proverbial advice with a bit different twist. He called followers to learn to see a new reality and to walk that path. For every one of his early disciples, it was a radical challenge to begin a journey of challenges over years. Jesus leading to events beyond imagining. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Matthew, Simon– Jesus is profoundly personal. God is personal, creating diverse, specific people, loving all. Jesus calls to “follow behind me,” warns/promises transformation. They leave everything and follow. They leave behind an old self, to find their own lives/souls.

Parable of the Repentant Enemy: Jonah

Jonah 1-4

Yahweh as Israel’s God and God of the Nations
The book of Jonah is a remarkable story. Probably written about 400 bc in the period when many have returned from exile under Persian domination. After Ezra and Nehemiah. A time of great uncertainty – Job, Ecclesiastes. The story looks back more than 350 yrs earlier, before Amos & Hosea, 775 bc in time of Jeroboam II. Jonah was referred to as a prophet of expansion (2 Kg. 14:23-29). Assyria was the evil, terrorist empire. Nineveh became capital about 75 yrs after Jonah but then was seen as center of the destruction of Israel (Nahum 3:1-7).

Prophecy in Future Ruins: Amos and Hosea

Amos 5:18-24, Hosea 14:1-9

Prophecy in Future Ruins
The early written prophets take us mid 8th cent (750) bc. Time of Homer & Rome’s founding. David was as long ago as the American Revolution is to us. Kingdom divided: Israel, north; Judah, south, since Solomon nearly 2 cent. In the north a strong king, Jeroboam II (784-47 bc). The empire of Assyria was in inner turmoil and Jeroboam expanded territory, brought trade, prosperity. Israel’s worship centers at Bethel and elsewhere were prospering. Both Yahweh and Baal Hadad and other gods were worshiped. The very definition of good religion. Religion was always a bargain/contract with the gods. Offer sacrifice and pay vows so that the gods will bless you with fertility, prosperity, victory. That was the language of most religion, Canaan, Greece, Assyria, even Israel.

The Powers that Be

Romans 13:1-8

Patriotism, Authority, Rebellion It’s 4th of July weekend.
Memorial of the beginning of the rebellion, 241 yrs ago, 1776. The colonies rejected “the Powers that be” (Rm 13:1 KJV) and began a war for independence. US history is long & complicated, with great advances and profound problems that we still wrestle with. It’s one of many nations, empires, colonies, people groups across history. Christians live within all nations, under all authorities, in tension with all. We all experience patriotism, connection to the land of our birth or ancestors or ethnic group or home.