Pentecost + 10 Romans 12:1-8

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.2Do 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.*

3 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 judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Joshua 3:7-17 – Where Do We Go From Here

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. 8You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, “When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.” ’ 9Joshua then said to the Israelites, ‘Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.’ 10Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: 11the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. 12So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.’

14 When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, 16the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea,* were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Church friends, this week we depart briefly from our study of Paul’s letter to the Roman Church and go all the way back to the Book of Joshua; a book hardly read and rarely preached.  however, this text is the text which I have been given to preach for the Board of Ordained Ministry, whom I will meet with in November.

The Book of Joshua is a difficult book for us to read in the 21st century.   We champion tolerance, compassion, and set parameters between combatants and non-combatants in war.  But the narrative of Joshua is about the 21st century.  It is about Israel and Israel’s God.  The book of Joshua does not extol many of these virtues and there are places where God orders the wholesale slaughter of everyone in the path of the Israelites including those whom we might consider innocent.  This hard fact led some to question the nature of a God we know as loving and compassionate.  This fact led others to question the validity of Joshua as a book in the Old Testament, or even the Bible as a whole.  Without providing a complete defense of the book of Joshua, it needs to be known that the book of Joshua is about boundaries; God’s boundaries.  Thus, the narrative of Joshua is vital in the story of Israel and those claiming to be God’s covenant people.  Crossing the Jordan into the promised land was the culmination of 40 years of wandering in the desert.

First, though, a little background:

major Characters in the scripture for this week-

Joshua, depicted as a spy in the Israelite Army (Numbers 13,14) and as Moses assistant later.  At the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses is appointed by God to be the new leader of Israel for his exceeding wisdom (Deut 34).

Ark of the Covenant, the box built exactly according to God’s instructions to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25) which contained the two stone tablets on which were written the 10 commandments.

Priests, in this account those who were selected from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to carry the sacred Ark leading Israel across the Jordan.  It is not clear whether these were Levites, since the texts says they were from all tribes.

Israel, the people who were rescued from Egypt and led by Moses for 40 years as they journeyed to the promised land.  They struggled mightily with their faith through these 40 years but ultimately continued to follow Moses’ leadership.  At this point, they are very near crossing into the land which they had been promised.

Themes/story lines:

Water Miracles, As you can probably recall from your days in Sunday School, there is another story of God’s people being rescued because of a water miracle.  When the Israelites were fleeing Egypt they passed through the parted Red Sea just before the Egyptian Army closed in on them.  But the story of the Jordan crossing is different.  How?  Because in this story the Ark of the Covenant leads the way and stands in the River holding back the water so that the people could pass through.  This was a defining moment for the people of Israel and was manifested by the Ark, the defining element of who they were as God’s people.

Worship, crossing the Jordan for the Israelites was an act of worship.  We can tell this because of the central importance of the Ark of the Covenant leading the way and stopping the water.  The story is very detailed about how the Ark was to be carried and by whom it was to be carried.  It reads very much like a liturgy to a worship service.  The AoC was the defining element of who the Israelites were as God’s people.  This act of worship marked a clear transition from “here” to “there” for the Israelites who had been wandering without a home for 40 years but now had one.

Contemporary meaning:

The phrase “Crossing the Jordan” is well known in religious themes as well as popular culture.  The phrase has been used in metaphor to talk about several things which we will talk more about Sunday.  In my mind there is a two-part application for us who read this in 21st century America: individual and communal.  Individual because we can all relate to a time in our lives (maybe now) when we have “stood on the edge of the Jordan” – where we have been one place but felt called to be in another place.  But larger than our individual context is the communal context which is more closely linked to the Israelites crossing the Jordan.  They were a group of people who were called by God and lead by the defining elements of who they were as God’s people.

Questions worth pondering till Sunday:

What are the “Jordan Rivers” in your life?   What do you need to do to cross it?  What is the meaning for us as a Church?  What does this say about where we are?  What elements of our covenant with God lead us?  What role should worship play?

See you all Sunday,

Blessings for the journey

Pentecost + 8; Carry the Good News, Have Beautiful Feet.

10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.”

10:6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)

10:7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);

10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

10:11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.

10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 

When you hear the word “evangelism” or “evangelist” what comes to mind?  I am sure there will be as many answers as there are people who read that question.  Some will be positive; fond memories of revivals of the churches we grew up in and the events related to them.  Unfortunately, most will be negative.  There have simply been to many folks claiming the name evangelist who have fallen off the moral railroad tracks and embezzled money from little old ladies who watched them “heal people” on late-night religious TV or have extra marital affairs with women because “God told them to.” I won’t air it out here but both of those examples are real life cases.  Just Google them if you are curious.  Though my favorite corrupt televangelist has to be Todd Bentley, an evangelist from Texas who “beats the hell out of people” by bringing the afflicted up on stage and summarily drop-kicking them in the chest amid shouts and cheers from on-lookers.  This supposedly exercises demons (and internal organs).  Here’s a link to that one if you don’t believe me:   http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/todd-bentley-fires-blanks-texas.

When we here “evangelism” we may also remember times when folks have come to our door wanting to know about our “personal relationship with Jesus.”  Perhaps this is a valid question but rarely do people want to be questioned in the midst of a family dinner, bedtime routines, or holidays (darn Jehovah’s witnesses).

Yet, despite the bad name it has in popular culture, evangelism seems to be one of the few things Jesus absolutely insists upon.  “Go therefore and make disciples…” was not just a call to the 12 disciples but a commissioning for all those in all times and places who claim to be disciples.  Though Jesus doesn’t use the word “evangelism” or “evangelist” he does call us to do something more than update our Facebook statuses!  And this is where THE evangelist comes to help us out.  Paul practically begs/demands that Christians go forth and share the “good news.”  “How are people to call on one in whom they have not believed….believe if they do not hear…..hear if no one proclaims it to them?”

This is an open ended question that Christians must answer as part of the very fabric of our faith.  Sharing the empty-tomb-resurrection-good news is important!  And Paul says that those who do this have beautiful feet.  That is saying a lot in Paul’s day because people wore very little foot protection and the roads were largely dusty trails.  And just imagine if you got behind a few horses or donkeys!  But if you bring good news, your feet are beautiful, Paul says.

But we need not make the mistakes of those who have held the name “evangelist” captive with their wild antics and false teaching.  We don’t need to know intensely philosophical language and theological theories (though if you do, I’d love to talk!).  Nor do we need to drop-kick people to relieve them of their demons!  Think about how you can answer Paul’s call in Jesus’ name to be an evangelist.  We all have a story to tell; both of our own experience of God and of our experience as one in a long line of Christian witness testifying to God’s action in the world.  So go forth and carry the good news – and have beautiful feet!

see you Sunday!

Pentecost + 6, Romans 8:26-39, Clearing the Debris…

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Many of you have been to Salkehatchie and many more of you will go in the future.  All of you, though, have seen the pictures of Salkehatchie and the amazing work done in such a short amount of time.  Entire roofs are replaced, houses receive new foundations, wheelchair ramps appear where there was only a rotten porch, and the lives of the workers and those receiving the work are transformed.  I saw first-hand the house one church member was working on this year at Salkehatchie.  They replaced nearly 2/3rds of the wall studs along with the exterior paneling on a mobile home…..and this was just the beginning.  As is the case with many Salkehatchie houses, once you peel back the outer pieces of the house, you often find your workload for the week immediately doubled.  But, at the same time, you must do this so that you can fix the original problems you set out to do in the first place.  You have to clear any debris that is in the way in order to see the real problem and to allow those problems to be fixed.  At Salkehatchie, debris regularly blocks our ability to fix the many problems the houses have.  In life, debris regularly prevents our problems from being fixed as well.

Paul, as we have noticed in this Letter to the Romans, has a knack for powerfully strong language as he reflects on the resurrection of Christ and what it means for his life and indeed all of humanity.  We have heard such well-known phrases such as “..no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…,” “we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces character…,” “we are saved by hope…,” “the whole of creation groans…, and last week we heard that we had been “adopted as Children of God.”  Add another one to the list as this week’s scripture declares with resurrection hope and confidence that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  That’s right, you read correctly, NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!  Paul even mentions some of the calamities that people seemed to think could get in the way of God’s love.  Life?  No.  Things present?  No.  Things to come?  No.  Powers?  Well then surely peril or sword?  No.  What about famine?  Nakedness?  Surely at least death!?  Quite literally anything?!  No.  No.  No.  Nothing.  Nada.  God’s love for us is inseparable and pursues us to no end.

As I reflect upon my life and the lives of those whose lives I am priviledged to be a part of through ministry, I know there are all sorts of perils in life which might seem to cloud the picture of God’s love for us; to sever our attention from God.  There are things which tend to erode our confidence in God’s love.  Worry, anxiety, job insecurity, failing marriages, problems in personal relationships, finances, grief, sudden tragedy, anger, pride, destitution, natural disasters are all words that could easily be placed into Paul’s list of things which attempt to separate us from God.  With Paul, who faced his own death at the time of this letter, we declare God’s unfailing and inseparable love, even in the worst life has to offer.  Like a Salkehatchie house, God’s love cuts through the debris of our lives and straight to the heart of our problems.  Talk about powerful statements!  God’s love in Christ seeks us out no matter where we are in our lives, where we have been, and where we are going.  And the beckoning call of the gospel is to release ourselves to that love and then love other people in the name of Love.

What is the “debris” in your life?

Who can you love in the name of God’s love?

Blessings for the journey,

 

 

 

Pentecost + 4; Romans 8:1-11, You Have the Power to Change the World….

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

We have been wading through Paul’s letter to the Roman Church as we continue our post-resurrection perspective of looking back on Jesus’ resurrection and measuring our lives in light of it.  We have discussed freedom and from where true freedom really comes.  We have discussed humanity’s incapability to have this freedom on its own.  Running like a current through all of this is Paul’s idea of justification; namely that it is by grace, through faith.  Justification means being set right in our relationship with God.  Our own sin (“Kid did it”) blocks a right relationship with God but through God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we are as Paul says repeatedly in Romans, set free.

This week, we come to the eighth chapter of Romans and it’s famous first verse, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Any time you see a “therefore” in the scriptures, look to the previous section.  In this case, the “therefore” speaks of God through Christ’s atoning action for human sin in chapters 6 and 7.  Because of this atoning action, there is THEREFORE no condemnation.

Despite what has been done to make people feel like God has condemned them (which, unfortunately, includes the Church), the truth is that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  Once we realize this, we understand that God wants us to truly live now: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells within you.”

The implications of this truth for our lives is astounding.  Through God’s gift of grace through Christ, we can change the world.  Now you may be thinking that’s a little to idealistic.  You are right.  The world is to large for us to change, unless we begin to define the world we want to change!  And through God’s grace it is possible.  Think about the “world” you live in and all the opportunities you have to change it.  We all have families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  We have all been given gifts by which to impact the world with the good news that condemnation rules no longer!  As a church, there is a community all around us where we can and should proclaim the “Spirit of Life in Jesus Christ.”

What will you do to change the world?

Blessings for the journey,

Pentecost + 3, Romans 7:14-25, “Kid Did It”

“14For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.”

I only have a few precious years to build sermons around the cute yet deeply theological “one-liners” my children say before they become old enough to understand exactly what is going on.  Then the gig is up.  I don’t want to embarrass them and it will become way uncool for dad to use these stories in sermons anymore.  But for now, all is fair game and this is my reprisal for innumerable numbers of nights I’ve been awakened by them!

“Kid did it.”  “What,” I said.  “Kid did it,” he said again with more conviction.  “Jacob, who made this mess.”  “I told you dad. Kid did it.”  Recently, Jacob has been blaming messes, toys left out, and other misplaced “things” on his imaginary friend “Kid.”  I understand this to be very normal as I had my own imaginary friends when I was his age who took the fall for the same mischievous kinds of things.  At this point it is more humorous than serious and as he grows “kid” will go the path of most imaginary friends.  I am no expert on child psychology and children having imaginary friends, but from what I understand it has to do with children beginning to grasp their personhood, the good, bad, and ugly.  And in this case, beginning to be uncomfortable with the fact that they have done something wrong – so Kid or whoever takes the fall.

As I reflect on the scripture for this Sunday it seems that we would all love to have an imaginary friend on whom to blame our issues.  We would like a scapegoat for why we have loose tongues and hard hearts.  Some other reason than our own fallibility for wandering eyes and meager faith.  We would love to be able to point to some person, idea, emotion, or our own upbringing and say Well “[blank] did it.”  This is the gist of what is being said when we hear the phrase, “The devil made me do it.”  No.  The devil did not make you do it.  You may have been tempted by the great liar but nothing forced you to do anything save for your own will.  You willfully chose to do whatever it was.

In Romans 7 Paul is battling his own will – his own bent towards sinning despite his efforts to stop.  “For it is no longer I that do it, but the sin that dwells within me.”   Do not think Paul is blaming his sinfulness on his own “kid.”  Here, Paul is talking about his sin on the macro level  In other words, that his own sin is not only his issue but humanity’s issue.  Paul is recognizing his own sinful nature while also expressing a desire to do “what is right.”  A war rages within him.

What are the excuses we use?  Who is “kid” to us?  Perhaps we will say, “I was born this way, so I can’t help my actions,” or we will become defensive and say something like, “Hey don’t judge me” when we feel like we have been caught doing something wrong.  Often times in the church our scapegoat for continuing to do things that don’t work is “but we’ve always done it this way” where the blame is not on people but history.

The truth of what Paul is saying is that the real problem is not “kid.”  It’s us and our own willful desire to sin.  Our fallen nature is pervasive and we fight it all the time every day.  We can all think of examples of this in our lives.  And if we dwell on the pervasiveness of our sin, it’s quite depressing.

Along this line Paul seems to be on the verge of utter despair at the prospect of “war that rages within” when suddenly he declares, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Here is our Christian hope!  On one hand we as sinful humans will constantly struggle with our sinful nature and it will be tempting to blame our ways on soemthing else.  On the other hand, God encounters us in Jesus Christ, and gives grace.  As the famous Charles Wesley hymn reads, “Breathe O breathe thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast!  Let us all in thee inherit; let us find that second rest.  Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at Liberty” (v. 2, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling).

If we blame all of our issues on something else and never really recognize who we are as sacred yet imperfect creations of God, then we can never truly experience the life changing grace of Jesus Christ.  And this is what Paul’s letter to the Roman Church is screaming; salvation by grace, through faith!  In turn, this is the message we have to take to the world outside of our churches.

Ponder those things which we do and try to blame on “kid.” And know that by the grace of God you are forgiven!

Blessings for the journey,

Pentecost + 2, Romans 6:12-23, The Rest of The Story….

 

“Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.13No 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.14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.15What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This week we begin the first of twelve weeks with Paul in his letter to the Church at Rome.  Though this is the first of Paul’s letters as it appears in our Bibles, it is actually the last one written.  Paul planted 7 churches around the Mediterranean and was now interested in joining together in missionary efforts with the young Church at Rome.  The Roman Church was highly independent and was skeptical of Paul’s claims to apostolic authority.  So Paul wrote this long letter which essentially defined exactly who he was and what he believed in order for the Roman Church to accept him in Christian mission.  It is unclear whether or not Paul was seeking to be the leader of the Roman Church also or if he was simply wanting to partner with them.

For our purposes, the exact “who, what, when and where” are less important than the atmosphere of the letter as a whole and this specific passage.  We are leaving the gospel stories which essentially tell the story of Jesus’ life; his life, death, and resurrection.  We are leaving for this season the stories which beg the questions of Jesus’ identity, purpose, and mission.  We are taking a break from the stories which look forward to the resurrection and now delve into the letters which reflect the deep theology birthed from it.  Whereas before we were looking forward to the Easter resurrection, now we look back at it.  Paul’s letter to the Romans epitomizes this exactly.

By the time we reach chapter 6 Paul is talking about Christian freedom.  We all know what freedom is as we live in a country that, for the most part, protects our freedoms from “want” and “fear” (Theodore Roosevelt).  But we all know that overused phrase “freedom isn’t free.”  We understand this every time we pay taxes, serve as jurors, vote,  and when persons serve in the military, police, and as firemen.  In order to enjoy our freedom here in the US of A these duties must be done by its citizens.  The full story of our freedom cannot be understood until these duties are done.

Paul speaks similarly of freedom in Christ.  He spends the first half of the chapter laying out the grace of God through Jesus Christ – namely that it is free for anyone, who, like Christ, will die and rise.  In dying with Christ we rise with Christ.  He spells this out in unrelenting and unapologetic language conveying passionately his belief in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  But this isn’t the whole story, it is only half of it Paul says.  As we look back on the resurrection event we understand that just like the freedom we enjoy as US citizens, freedom in Christ requires something of us.  It is not static and dead.  Freedom in Christ does not exist in seminary books and learned theology.  To truly be free in Christ, Paul says our lives must reflect it.  We must seek to be more like God in our everyday lives being “members of righteousness.”  We must be “slaves to righteousness and sanctification.”  When people see us declare that we are Christians they should see that we are different.  Freedom isn’t free after all and Freedom in Christ always costs us something.

Paul is calling us to examine our lives in light of Jesus’ reality altering resurrection and to believe.  But this belief isn’t static and theoretical.  If you are really crazy enough to believe in resurrection, Paul says your life should reflect it.  This is what John Wesley and others call holiness, a desire to be more like the God we worship.  And this is the rest of the story: that we might acknowledge and believe in the life-changing grace of God through Jesus Christ and seek change the world around us because of it.

So come to Church tomorrow and see how you might respond to “The Rest of The Story.”