Thanks to the Reverend Faun Harriman, Rector of St. Albans, Burnaby and regional dean of Royal City / South Burnaby Deanery for this sermon on Paul’s challenge to us to renew our minds. Faun’s words and experiences present a challenge to all of us.
-Steve Bailey, Deacon and Blogmaster, NW Anglican Blog
ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST YEAR A
Sunday, August 24, 2014
St. Albans, Burnaby BC
Romans 12:1- 4
“Guidance from Beyond”
Let us pray: Lord, breathe Your Spirit upon us at this time. Bless now the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts – give us an understanding of Your Holy Word and lead us in the way you want us to go. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Last week a family member by marriage took his own life. It had been a life of pain and unbelievable anguish since the senseless murder of a child over four years ago. Like so many others life had been spiralling out of control into a place of darkness and hopelessness from which there seemed to be no way out. A service was held last Friday. A few days later his brother and sister in law were at the apartment sorting through things and taking care of the paper work. While they were there something remarkable happened. All the papers were left on the desk but the original will was not among them. A will lying on the desk was not signed. His brother said out loud “I know you are here” and walking over to a box opened it and there was the original will. They would have never looked in that box. God is in the details. Coincidence maybe but I prefer to believe that God will make sure that all things work together for good for those who trust in him and we can always expect guidance from beyond.
Scripture always provides guidance from above and the letter to the church at Rome is no exception. In it Paul is distilling and working out the Good News of Jesus Christ to Christians he had never met but who were divided over the degree to which the Old Testament law should continue to guide believers. “ We see Paul the Jew wrestling with the implications of his own and his converts experience of grace and Paul the Christian wrestling with the implications of his Jewish heritage. “NLT James D.G. Dunn Romans.” These are authentic thoughts from someone who has nothing to gain and nothing to lose but whose life was one of complete service to Jesus Christ. Words that have lasted and are now part of his legacy. Powerful words coming from a place of true peace and within lay the essence, the inside of the mind and heart of Paul.
His life was manifesting itself from the inside out, he had become that which he professed, a worthy disciple of Jesus. Paul’s instructions to the Roman Christians and the faithful now are timeless. They can be compared to the words spoken by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. They are an inventory of a spiritual life that lived genuinely will be apparent on the outside of us. Paul writes to be full of love, hope, patience and zeal. To persevere in prayer, seek good, reject evil, live in harmony, never seek vengeance, bless those who persecute you, if your enemy is hungry feed them and do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. What an incredible stirring list, of course this is how we ought to behave. But what happens when we come up against the slings and arrows of our daily lives?
I have shared before that my challenge most often seems to come when I am behind the wheel. One morning this week after racing home to get ready for work I was stopped at the end of the driveway looking to make a left-hand turn. I eased out slowly attempting to see around large green garbage/recycling truck that was blocking the view in both directions. I could not see the driver but was hoping he could me while straining my neck trying to see if there was any traffic coming. I finally pulled out and got into the proper lane but I found myself saying out loud some not so kind words about the driver of the green truck. This not so nice stuff was accompanied by a hand signal. Immediately the Holy Spirit busted me and I was convicted of cursing those who persecuted me. I heard that still small voice telling me that I had just spoken badly about one of God’s beloved creatures. I know better I was reminded again of the number of times I am angry at other drivers and how often I curse them instead of offering them God’s blessing. That same afternoon another driver pulled out in front of me and just as I was about to curse them I stopped and blessed them instead.
I was given a grace filled moment enough spiritual manna for the day and the Holy Spirit continued working on changing the way I think, renewing my thoughts. It may seem like a small thing getting angry in traffic but in the spiritual realm nothing is too small. Paul writes “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” 12:2 Replacing anger with love, hating what is evil and holding fast to what is good. Knowing, trusting and believing God has a plan for our lives and He will deal with every bad attitude and character flaw so that we will be able to “… discern what is the will of God what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 12:2 The transformation of our character is the primary directive of God- this same God that is abiding in us so we can abide with Him.
In the Old Testament God was carried around in the Ark of Covenant, a portable tabernacle that the children of Israel moved through the wilderness. You and I are like portable tabernacles, we move from place to place and God makes his home on the inside of us. There is still the outer court, a holy place, and a most holy place. Joyce Meyers describes it as “the outer court is our body, the holy place is our soul and the most holy place is our spirit. When we examine our inner lives we are looking at holy ground where the Spirit of God makes his home.” When we praise, worship and honour God in our inner self then our insides become right and the outside will follow.
Paul’s heartfelt words of guidance from beyond can become something we can achieve without having to fret or stress about. We can genuinely love, we can bless those that curse us and we can be patient and persevere in prayer because we are living our inner holy life on the outside. It is effortless because we have been crucified in Christ and it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.
When I am swimming lap after lap I use that time to repeat Scripture and one of my favourite is from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When I want to pack in it, cut short my workout I just keep on renewing my mind that is it is Christ who strengthens me and I can do anything. Even after I am finished I can still hear those words, it is Jesus who gives me power and I belong to him. The good news is we do not have wait until we are facing a terminal disease or incapacitated we can make a choice to liv our one and only life in God’s power and presence. We do not need to be so concerned about what is happening in our circumstances when our priority is what is happening in our hearts, in our inner court, our holy of holies. God is interested in changing us; to become what he has in mind for us so that we become more like Christ in our thoughts, our attitudes and our words and deeds.
The transforming of our thought life is a process, learning to follow Jesus faithfully, intentionally and joyfully. Like any change, any renewal, any transformation it means commitment. As Harold Percy writes on the handout you have today “Ten Commitments You can make to help your Church Thrive” love your church but love Jesus more. But following Jesus faithfully involves participation in the life of the Christian community, the church. It important to keep these two in the right order. So let us make the commitment to attend, to welcome, to create a positive atmosphere, to grow, to serve, to pray, to give generously, to be open to change, to dream and to invite. We can change the world we can replace anger with love, fear with hope and despair with optimism. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us and let us give thanks to the only wise God though Jesus Christ to whom be the glory forever. (Romans 16:27)
Let us pray: Lord we pray today that we will hear your Word and grasp it. That it will takes root in or hearts and bear much fruit. Lord you desire truth in our inner being we pray Lord that you will give us wisdom in our innermost hearts. For we are persuaded beyond a doubt that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending nor things to come nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Amen