Sermons

Summary: Recognition of those who advance the cause of Christ through quiet service within the assembly of the righteous.

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.” [1]

Lynda and I enjoy watching many of the concerts sponsored by PBS, especially those performances that gather the musical stars from the 50s or from the 60s. Well, that shouldn’t be too surprising since that is the era of our youth. During halcyon days of yore we listened to the music these warblers produced. Many of the singers from a particular era will be gathered on stage for a great performance as each of these stars or the groups of stars sing the song or songs that made them stars.

The musicians are older, heavier, they don’t move as gracefully as they once did. The hair is thinner. Their voices don’t have quite the range we remember. Reaching for the high notes, the sound they produce sometimes grates on our ears. But they were stars; and for a moment we are transported back to a time when we were younger, thinner, and able to move gracefully rather than being bent over and shuffling. What is important for these shows is that those appearing on stage are still stars in our eyes!

We also have our stars in the church world, don’t we? We Christians are prepared to travel quite a distance to hear some notable speaker. If the individual happens to be a healer, we can be assured she or he will draw a crowd. If he pastors a megachurch, he is certifiably worth hearing, so we’ll travel a long distance just so we can listen to what he has to say. We have religious stars, and they feast on the adulation of their audiences.

Notice the number of views that a well-known preacher receives even when delivering what admittedly can be a rather pedestrian sermon. He throws together a variety of platitudes, religious sayings designed to make us feel good about our choices or intended to make us feel superior to those who disagree with us, and we are prepared to listen to them. However, should a godly man present a challenging message that demands that we grapple with the righteous demands of the Risen Saviour, few among the saints seem interested in hearing what that man has to say. He’s not a star!

More surprising still is that fact that even in the congregations to which we belong, we have stars. Some will be voted in as deacons or as church officers at every election. Our stars always receive our full attention when they speak, whereas lesser saints are shushed or ignored. The stars of our congregations are prominent, and they always receive our full attention. If they move a motion at a congregational meeting, we know it will be accepted. If they oppose a position, it won’t be accepted by the assembly. Whether we agree with the assessment or not, these individuals are stars, after all.

Paul was not like us when it came to the issue of church stars; he was focused on the whole rather than the parts. It is not as though he was unaware of the individuals, but he seems always to have worked to encourage all Christians to work in harmony while building the Body. Paul wanted each Christian to realise the necessity of working together in unity for one great end—glorifying the Saviour through building up one another. As an example of what I’m saying, consider the manner in which he closed his Letter to the saints in Rome. Notice the names he recites.

How many of them have you read about elsewhere in Scripture? Prisca and Aquila, perhaps, but what about Epaenetus? Epaenetus was the first convert in Asia. It must have required some courage to be the first to break with the tradition of his village in order to embrace the Christ as Master over life! Andronicus and Junia? These saints were kinsmen of the Apostle, and they had spent time with him in prison. Or Ampliatus? Urbanus? Stachys? Rufus? Yeah, these are all rather foreign sounding names of people we’ve never heard of. And yet, the Apostle knew each of them; and he was prepared to remind others of just how important these individuals were to the church. I don’t suppose anyone would rate any of those whom Paul named as stars, and yet he was not in the least hesitant in identifying with them. They didn’t have to be stars to be in Paul’s show.

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