SER # 35Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
12TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SUNDAY AUGUST 23RD 2020
TEXTS: ROMANS 12: 1 – 8
THEME: BECOMING A LIVING A SACRIFICE.
Paul wrote to the Roman church before he ever stepped there. We know that finally Paul was persecuted in Rome. Rome had become a big center in terms of trade and other activities. It was like a melting pot where people from all corners of the “earth” converged. People brought in the cultural practices from where they came from. The came practicing all forms of worship and even brought their own gods. Paul knew that unless believer got grounded in their faith, they would be carried away with every new teaching that came to town. In this section we read today Paul is warning believers to be careful with what was happening out there. He was reminding them what to do and what not to do. Here are some of the concept that Paul brings across that we can learn as we grow in our faith in the world we live in today:
- Our Bodies as Living Sacrifices: The concept of sacrifice comes from the Old Testament practices only that it was the animals that were usually sacrificed and produces given as offerings. Jesus knew the concept of sacrifice. Abraham was asked by God to offer his son (Isaac) as a sacrifice (Genesis 22: 1-19). People also offered the produce as an offering before God. The sons of Adam and Eve one time before one killed the other, they came before God to give offering according to the area of occupation. “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborns of his flock” (Genesis 4: 2b – 4a). As we can see the concept offering and sacrifice was practiced from the beginning. When Paul invites us to this concept of offering our bodies as living sacrifice, we have to note the following: a) A sacrifice animal one had to pick the best. No deformities usually of the same color. Paul is reminding us to live the best life that when God looks at our lives, he can truly call us his church the bride. b) the animal to be sacrificed had to be set apart. Sometimes they used the first born. If it is the produce one picked the best. We can also understand why God uses the same words for his son Jesus. God loved the world that he gave his only son as a sacrifice so that our sins can be washed away. Sacrifice involves dying, and sure enough Christ had to die. Paul invite us to the holiness. We are to be Holy because Christ is holy. One of the ways to keep holy is to be aware of the world we are living in and guard ourselves. This points us to our next point.
- Do not be Conformed to the World: In Rome it was very easy to be conformed to all kinds of new teaching that were being brought by the people converging in this town. It was a melting pot of all kind cultures. If you are Jew it was very easy to drift to the Pagan way of living. The world became the magnet. The solution to this, Paul offers is believers to be transformers not conformers They were to transform the world by renewing of mind so that they can figure what was right. What Paul was writing those days it is true today. The believers like you and me are waiting for the world to give us guidance on the issues of life. We have the bible which should be our guiding document. When we follow what the bibles teaches it will be easy to stand our ground. Believers are supposed to be the moral campus of the world. The church (you) has to be church that was meant to be. When people discuss love we tell them we live by Jesus command to love God and love our neighbor. When it come to justice issues we remind the world that every human was created in the image of God and no one is better than the other person regardless of their social status, race, gender, ethnicity country of origin or residence. It is when we live by the standards of God that we are able to transform the world otherwise we will be conformed to it. When we get our minds renewed in Jesus, we are able to witness to the world of the goodness of the Lord and more so the love of God to his own creation.
- Don’t Elevate Yourself: Paul once again is trying to remind us the importance of humility. “Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4: 10). James brother of Jesus knew this too well. John and James were brothers and they were sons of Zebedee. At one time the mother of the boys Salome (she was sister to Mary mother of Jesus hence Jesus cousins) wanted them to seat on each side of Jesus in the next life by Jesus had to tell her the truth. The boys felt humbled and learned something. “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with his sons and knelling down, asked a favor of him, what is it you want? He asked. She said, ‘grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom. You don’t know what you are asking Jesus said to them can you drink the cup I am going to drink” Matthew 20:20 -22). (From other passages in the bible we know that pride is one of the sins that is hard to overcome. But humility is not cowardice. Jesus humbled himself before the father when he said may thy will be done. We know that living in pride is a sure way of one asking for failure. When we elevate ourselves, we start treating other people as less humans. We can easily believe that no one matters except us. When God has blessed us in his own special ways it is easy to forget it was him who has carried us through. Our life should be a walk following the footsteps of Jesus.
- One Body Different Parts and Gifts: Paul is trying to build a community in Rome that needed to be guided but two closely connected principles. A) Unity: He wanted people to realize how much they are connected and how much they needed each other. It was a time when individual felt that their personal accomplishments were better than those of the other person. Paul gives an example of a human body which has many parts yet they work to support the same body. Each part of the body is equally important and is vital for the body to function right. Each part needs the other part. In the same way as believer we need each other. B) Diversity: Paul acknowledges the diversity that is found in this one body of Christ called the church (you). Paul preached that each one of us has a unique gift that becomes a blessing to the body of Christ. Though we are individuals in our own ways we are one body in Christ. There is nothing like gift-less Christian we each have a gift. Some of us have to explore or push a little to get the gift out of where it is hiding. Sometimes it takes a friend to point this gift we have and we have not known all these years. To Some God has given. I) Gift of prophecy: (prophesy in proportion to your faith) We need prophets in our today’s world. But we are surrounded with the prophets of who don’t get their messages from God but rather say things that will put money in their pockets, or get some favor from the powerful while others speak with an hidden agenda. ii) Gift of service: (devote yourself in service). Jesus said that he came to serve not to be served. We can borrow from this truth as we offer our services whenever the Spirit of God leads us. When we volunteer in our community or we get engaged with mission work we need to do it with a genuine heart. Today we commissioned a team leaving today to the Midwest distribution center our prayer is that they will represent Christ there. iii) Gift of teaching: (devote yourself to teaching). Teachers are special people. There are those teachers who go for training to become good teachers but there are many teachers who never went to a teaching college but they teach in their own ways. Here I am thinking of my grandfather and grandmother who taught me many things of life including faith in Jesus. Many things we have learn in life may not have come from a classroom teacher but sure enough the information passed to us has impacted us the whole life. Some cook certain food in a certain way not because they went to chef school but because grandma or mama taught them that way. We have teachers of the bible and teachers of everyday living. iv) Gift of encouragement: (devote yourself in encouraging). Jesus was an encourager in many ways. Sometimes in life all we need is a little encouragement and we get over the hump. (Show a clip if possible). There is movie I treasure in my heart called “Men of Honor” It is a African American that join the Navy (Cuba – acted Gifted Hands and many more)) in the times of segregation. But he happened to be a good swimmer. He enrolled in a Navy school. After passing through many obstacles he graduated and became scuba diver. He lost his leg trying to save another Navy man. The decision was to retire him but he believed that he can continue with his carrier with one good leg and artificial one on the other. To save his carrier he ordered to show how he could walk with heavy equipment with one good leg. He had to take 12 steps in a heavy equipment but he had a friend who encouraged him through. Sometimes in life we need people who can encourage us to get the next step in life. Among us there are those with a gift of encouraging others please make use of it. v) Gift of leadership: (lead with a passion). When we lead with a passion, we can withstand many challenges on the way. When we have a passion, we also have conviction. People look up to their leaders to get direction. That where they get the signal. I think of choir or orchestra director and the way the team focus their eyes on him/her to get the key of signal of what to do at each transition. The one showing mercy by being cheerful. There are many looking at you today.