Summary: A sermon on being living sacrifices to God, transformed by the renewal of our minds.
This has been a rough week on the cultural scene in America. First, Kate Spade. Then, Anthony Bourdain. Suicide has become a major public health concern in the United States. It is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
According to the CDC, "Middle-aged woman, between the ages 45 and 64, had the highest suicide rate among women in both 2014 and 1999." Furthermore, "Suicide rates for white females increased 60% between 1999 and 2014."
Anthony Bourdain is the latest in a string of celebrity suicides in recent years. Why is this happening?
Kate Spade suffered from bipolar disorder, yet she lived a productive life.
Anthony Bourdain, in a November 2016 episode of his show, "Parts Unknown," was filmed at a psychotherapy session where he admitted to "feeling isolated and having trouble connecting with others."
"I'd like to be happy," said Bourdain. "I'd like to be happier. I should be happy. I have incredible luck. I'd like to look out the window and say, 'Yay, life is good.'"
Bourdain battled depression in his adult life and it's sad to see where it led him.
Secular sources advise the mentally ill to find professional treatment through therapy and medication, and these can help. They say, "Avoid alcohol and drugs," and that's good advice. They counsel exercise and joining a support group. These are all good suggestions.
But what about the love and hope that we find in Jesus Christ and His Church? What about the resources for life that we receive from the Holy Spirit? What love and hope can we in the church bring to those who are struggling under the weight of mental illness?
In Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church, Amy Simpson writes,
"The suffering of mental illness, whether for the afflicted or for their families, is typically marked by isolation. When people desperately need to experience the love and empathy of their fellow human beings and to know that their Creator has not abandoned them, many reach out and are shocked to touch the church’s cold shoulder. Other’s fear the church’s rejection enough to hide their struggles and not seek exposure at all. [p. 16]
The church should be a healing place, but for many, it’s not. Many others have given up on the church and no longer darken our doors. Yet, there is help here. We can offer to others the love and care that we have received from God. We can proclaim in word and action that God our Creator offers His love to everyone. We can show through our concern and care for others that God has not abandoned anyone.
When people reach out to us, we can embrace them with God’s love.
To be the people that God has created us to be begins in our minds. Healthy minds lead to healthy lives.
In Romans, chapter 12, Paul moves into the practical section of his epistle. If you study his epistles, you’ll see that Paul’s most basic structure is doctrinal content first, then practical content.
I invite you to open your Bible or a Pew Bible to Romans, chapter 12. We’ll begin with verse 1.
v.1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Paul makes an appeal to the members of the church in Rome. This exhortation or encouragement isn’t a command; it’s an urging.
Paul urges the Christians in Rome to present themselves, their whole selves, as a living sacrifice to God. Paul urges them on the basis of God’s mercies to them. The mercies of God refer to God’s tenderhearted compassion for all that He has created.
President Calvin Coolidge awoke one morning in a hotel room and saw a burglar going through his pockets. The president spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain, because it contained an engraved charm that held sentimental value for him.
Coolidge then initiated a conversation with the thief and learned that he was a college student who had no money to pay for his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet, that he had persuaded the dazed young man to give back. The president handed the money to the young man and declared that it was a loan. He also advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service.
That was mercy. By the way, the loan was paid back!
No human mercy is as great as God’s mercy. God sees humanity locked in desperation and helpless without His Son. God, in His mercy, comes to humanity in His Son to free us from our sin, guilt, and stubborn self-will.