I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. [NRSV]
We gather to worship today, on the occasion of the birth and empowering of the church. As we know from the second chapter of the Book of Acts of the Apostles that the Holy Spirit is poured out empowering people from around the world to hear the Gospel, in their own language and in their own hearts and they take that Good News home and the promise of Jesus that he would send the Holy Spirit to empower the followers to become teachers, leaders, servants and called to do even greater signs and wonders in the work, worship and service of Christ, as the church.
It is rather unimportant that we attempt to relive an occasion that we did not experience. Rather we are called to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to be the Church in 2020. We are the church, called to gain the heart and ear of the word that we might be for the world Christ, present, alive and giving witness to the love and power of God. Pentecost is not our heritage Sunday; it is not our homecoming. Pentecost is our reaching out to the world in the power of the Holy Spirit.
What are we called to share the world: Paul gives a lengthy list! His list is not only long it is overwhelmingly demanding. We are tempted to shy away from it and only take bite size pieces. But on Pentecost Sunday, we need to eat and digest the whole thing.
Our returning out from the cocoons of our homes for these past two months, into a world that has been changed. We will have to be diligent not to forget the lessons we are learning in a reverse journey from the one of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. We are now leaving the starkness of home to risk being in the wilderness of the world. Our temptation is to get back to normal. But never before has the world been so centrally focuses in thought and action. And driving force has been fear of a virus. I tiny virus and the thread of death. Now that is a motivating combination. Is this what takes to get the world’s attention?
Now that we have shared the mind of the virus, we know what it looks like to share the mind of Christ. What if the whole world was listening each day for the Good News and message of hope? What if we measure that count of persons who have been reunited with God and their neighbor, the number persons forgive, the number of lives and hearts saved from addictions, illnesses and all manner of brokenness. To be globally focused on one thing, and that one being Jesus Christ.
When every knee would bow and every tongue confess, Jesus as Lord and Savior.
If a virus can inspire the actions, we have witnesses and participated in, what would be if our witness was as infectious as the COVID-19? And instead of tracking the loss of life, we celebrating the new life, hope, and grace?
Paul is giving the church at Rome, encouragement about Christian living a witness that would become influence, infectious in a positive way. Here is the challenge he shares with disciples, then and now:
- We are a living witness of Christ’s sacrifice
- Our Spiritual Worship is lived out in our faith
- We do not act and think as the world measures what is valued and most important.
- We Live by God’s standards and expectations
- We find renewal in our minds through God’s word and heart.
- We decern from God what is Good, True and Whole
- We strive to be Humble
- We use sober judgement
- We understand faith in Christ is express in various ways, based on our degree of faith, some will be simple, others complex
- We know each person has value, gifts, talents and responsibilities, even if they differ, all are necessary to God.
- We love genuinely
- We passionately avoid evil
- We treasure what is good.
- We love one another
- We respect and honor each other
- We are passionate in living our faith
- We are made strong through the Spirit
- We serve the Lord.
- We rejoice in God’s home
- We are patient in suffering
- We continue in prayer always
- We contribute to one another’s needs
- We show hospitality to strangers.
- We bless and do not curse those who harm us
- We share each other’s joys and sorrows.
- We seek harmony and work to live peacefully
- We guard against pride,
- We are intentional to be friends with the friendless
- We are wise enough you can always be growing and learning
- We do not follow evil’s example, but overcome it with God’s goodness
- We know others are always looking up to your example
- We Leave wrath and vengeance to God
Who could do all these things, all the times?
None of us, yet these describe the bullseye of the target of our Christian living.
What does it look like we are allowing the World to define our purpose and identity?
- Win at all cost
- Being spiritual is just a show to satisfy our fears and weaknesses.
- Measure yourself and others based successful or failure we are.
- Live by the standards of what is popular at the time.
- Renew yourself by knowledge and self-awareness
- Decern from media, government and fashion what is Good, True and Whole
- Live by the motto, survival of the fittest.
- Trust the judgements of those who seek to take advantage of you.
- Live life based accepting all faiths and trust their God have authority over you.
- Know all persons not necessary, only those who help and serve our needs
- Let love gratifying of ourselves at the expense of others
- Love what is evil
- Avoid what is good
- Love another only those you tolerate or need.
- Respect and Honor those who can help you.
- Be passionate in self fulfillment
- Be strong in the eyes the community
- Serve yourself and those you look up to serve
- Rejoice in your accomplishments above all else
- Be impatient in Suffering
- Dismiss prayer as foolish self-consoling
- Contribute to one another’s needs only if you benefit from doing so
- Show hospitality to friends and family, if you like them.
- Curse and attack those who harm you
- Share your joys and sorrows and ignore others.
- Create disharmony and seek to rebel against everything that displeases or bothers you
- Always be proud,
- Hang out with the only those who benefit you
- Learn and accomplish only what you are interested in now
- Hate what is good and do as much damage as you can
- It matters not if others are looking to your example, you come first
- Dish as much wrath and vengeance, its your finest talent and calling
If you listen to the loudest voices in the marketplace, on the TV, online and surrounding our everyday life, which voice to do hear the most? Do we hear Paul’s list or the world’s list being preach and pounded in our hearts and minds?
Which list will do the most Good? What list creates the best for all people? Which feeds your spirit? Which list will bring you everlasting hope, joy, love and life?
It gets clear that one list, which difficult to take on all at once is better than the other!
I think we can condense the list to make it more concise without losing the details.
Draft 2: With humility, sobriety, patience, joy, worship, service, genuineness, spiritual empowerment, passion, harmony, and wisdom, we are living sacrifices to Christ, with Christ, for the world by loving, praying, trusting, treasuring, respecting, honoring, blessing, and witnessing God’s word, will, heart and measure in our daily lives. Leaving the temptation to measure with the world’s values, working to avoid evil, and leave justice and vengeance to God.
Draft 3: With all intension, passion, and devotion, we live for and with Christ for the world, through our faith in God’s will and love in our daily lives. We leave God to deal with evil, justice and judgment.
Draft 4: Will at that is God by God’s measure, we live for and with Christ, trusting God’s understanding, leaving God to deal with evil, justice and judgement.
Draft 5: I Trust God, with all that I am in Christ, to reveal to the world God’s loving will and goodness.
Draft 6: Trust God, through Christ, to be God’s witness for evil in the world.
Draft 7: God, in Christ, lives in me, to overcome evil.
In a world driven by greed, power, blame, distraction, entertainment, being served, callous to violence against spouses, neighbors, children, the poor, that calls on someone else to be good, kind, compassionate, and generous from arm-chair distance over social media or expect governments, institutions or various organization to do in our place.
At some point, we stand up and draw the line in the sand, Paul is saying to the church in Rome.
“In God, I stand, In Christ I live, God is alive through me working to overcome the evil in this world.“
Q: When we are ready to make this stand, we are ready to become followers of Jesus Christ in word AND deed.