Summary: A sermon for the 7th Sunday of Pentecost, proper 8, series A.
7th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 8] June 29, 2008 “Series “A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you sent your Son, Jesus the Christ, into our world that he might reveal you Word for our lives, and through his death on the cross, redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to his redeeming grace, that we might receive his Word with thanksgiving, and strive to live our lives accordingly. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
I’ve chosen as my text for this morning, our second lesson from Paul’s letter to the Romans, and in particular, verses 12 and 13. Listen again to what Paul says: “Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.” End quote.
The point Paul is making in this sixth chapter is that through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we have been redeemed from sin, set free from the law, and given new life as children of God’s kingdom. However, apparently there were some Christians to whom Paul addressed this letter that misinterpreted his teaching about Christian freedom. This text for this morning is Paul’s response to those who viewed their redemption from sin as a license to do whatever they wanted.
On the last day of confir-camp, our theme for the day was “In, not of the world.” Our devotions and worship for the week centered on various themes of discipleship – what it means to be a Christian in today’s world. It was my responsibility to preach and conduct worship on Friday, and so I would like to share with you some of my message from that day, as I believe it relates to this text, and because I feel that we need to emphasize this aspect of our faith more vigorously.
I think we all know what it means to be “in” the world – to be a part of God’s creation here on earth. Genesis tells us that in the beginning, God created the universe, and this planet we call earth. God brought into being all the plants and the trees, the animals and fish, the air and sky and rain.
If we think about the world – the earth on which we live – it is quite a sophisticated, ecological system, where all things seem to work together in order to sustain life. We need the earth’s water to drink and hydrate our bodies. We need the food the earth produces to nourish and sustain life. We need the oxygen in the air to breath, and the plants and trees to convert the carbon dioxide we exhale back into oxygen.
In fact, you might say that we are bound to the earth! We are so much a part of God’s created order here on earth, that when we travel into space, and leave this planet, we need to package up these elements of the earth and take them with us, in order to sustain our life. To say
that we are in the world, is truly an understatement. We are bound to the earth for our very life.
I also believe that being in the world entails and requires other systems to sustain our life as we live in community with one another. We need political or governmental systems to establish laws and norms to set boundaries on our behavior, so that we can live together as a peaceful society. We need economic systems to enable individuals to acquire the things we need to sustain our life, such as food, clothing and shelter.
To live in the world requires everybody working together for the good of the community, to sustain and enhance our lives. And as I read the Scriptures, I believe that God supports this concept of communal life.
But there is also sin in the world in which we live, which manifests itself in many ways which distorts and perverts these essential systems which God ordained to sustain his creation. We have heard a lot lately, about how our pollution of the earth may be changing our ecological system, raising concerns that the earth may be diminished in its ability to support future generations. And we all know that sins of greed and power have had their impact on governmental and economic systems, distorting them for personal gain.
Walter Brueggemann, in his book, Mandate to Difference, An Invitation to the Contemporary Church, points out that today’s Christians have failed to understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ in our world. He suggests that we place far more faith in the individualistic norms of our world, of our society, that we have failed to grasp the idea, that to be a disciple of Christ means to live our lives as children of God’s kingdom. In essence, Brueggemann is echoing these words of Paul from this morning’s text.