Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost 2020
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning I would like to focus on our Epistle reading from Romans, Chapter 12; verses 9-21. The reading begins: “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.”
Let me stop there and ask: “What do you notice about all these verses that I just read to you?” If you responded to my question this way: “They are all a series of commands,” then you would be correct. The reading from Romans today tells us what we should do and what we should not do.
And the passage continues with a whole set of other “instructions” concerning how we should live our lives. “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.”
There are even more instructions after this. So, the question that comes to my mind is this “How do we live out all these instructions for Christian living?” or “Should we even try to live out these instructions for Christian living?”
And the answer Paul himself would give us is “YES” we should try to follow these instructions. Why? Because Paul really, really means what he writes in this text.
Paul expects Christians to follow this instruction he received from God– by loving one another with brotherly love, by living in harmony with each other, by not thinking too highly of oneself, by contributing to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ, and by extending hospitality to strangers.
Last Sunday we heard: “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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
“The Instructions for Christian Living” that Paul wrote about flow out of the mercies that God has given to us through Christ. Through Christ’s death on the cross for our sin, we are now justified before God. Therefore, we are pronounced right before God through our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord apart from the works of the law.
And now, having been justified by faith, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in the way of the Christian life which will produce in us the fruits of faith.
My friends, part of the fruits of faith concern how we live together as Christians in His church. After all, the church is God’s family and we are all members of it. In Paul’s mind there is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian.
God created us to live together in community, to love one another, and to serve one another. As a congregation we are a family, gathered to support one another as we journey forward on the path that God has given to us.
Here at Calvary Lutheran Church we have many examples of love in action. The mercies that God has given to us have moved us into action. The ministry of this congregation is based upon the command “love one another as I loved you.” John 15:12
And how do we live this out? We live out our love for one another when we pray for one another, and when we call upon each other when we are sick, and when we reach out to those who are hurting, lonely or frustrated.
We care for one another through our various ministries such as Project Dignidad, Habitat for Humanity, the local soup kitchen, and the monthly collection known as the Noisy Bucket.
We demonstrate our love for one another through our offering, and volunteer work, and by serving on a committee or the Congregation Council. The list could go on and on.
Throughout my ministry I am amazed at all the Spirit-driven stuff that people do that often goes unnoticed. For example, when I was in a former congregation here in Texas, one gentleman would always arrive at church before anyone else showed up on Sunday morning and sweep the leaves and debris off the sidewalk, turn on the a/c, empty the mouse traps, turn on the coffee pot, and take care of anything else that needed to be done before others arrived. It was only after his death that the congregation realized how much this individual did for the congregation when these tasks were no longer done by him.
This week I challenge you to take these verses to heart and put them into action. Start by loving one another with a genuine, brotherly love. Pray for one another. Rejoice with those who have reason to be happy. Weep with those who are weeping. Live in harmony with each another. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Love as you have been loved. And go where the Spirit of God leads you.
As the third verse in the beloved Hymn states “Faith of our Father! We will love both friend and foe in all our strife; proclaim thee too, as love knows how, by saving word and faithful life. Faith of our Fathers, Holy faith, we will be true to you till death.”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, during this difficult time we ask for your help as we endure this time of social isolation. Guide us through the uncertainties of our journey; and hold before us the vision of your eternal kingdom, made known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.