This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 16, 2017.
The chapter designations in the Bible make it easier to find texts when we are studying Scripture, but too often they break up a free-flowing thought from one chapter to the next. Such is the case from Romans chapter 7 to chapter 8. Paul concludes the final verses of chapter 7 with two agonizing cries from the heart: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Paul has described the problem of human bondage to sin and the deeply personal struggle that ensues from it in Romans 7 (marked by the first person singular pronoun used more than 30 times), and now in Romans chapter 8 he offers an explication of the answer (marked by the recurrent use of the word Spirit throughout these verses).
Paul begins chapter 8 with a contrast between the bondage of sin and death with the freedom that comes from knowing Christ and experiencing the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” In Jesus, God has done what the law could not do. God has created a path to righteousness through the gift of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which offers forgiveness to all believers. In verse 3 he describes the incarnation of Jesus as the “sending of his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh” so that Jesus might “condemn sin in the flesh so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” In other words, Jesus, as God’s incarnate Son, does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God becomes flesh in the form of a human being, condemns sin through his salvific suffering and dying, and sets us free from slavery to sin and death through his resurrection – freedom from a life lived in servitude to our own selfish desires. God’s justice has been fulfilled in Jesus who sets us free through the Spirit of God that dwells within us. So that those who “walk according to the Spirit,” not according to the flesh, might have forgiveness and new life in Christ. Faith in Jesus does what trust in the law cannot do.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 30, 2017.
Have you wondered how a person becomes a member of a church? This section of Acts 2 documents how the first members became a part of the movement.
A new generation of humans was introduced in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. They became a new generation that morning when their prayers were interrupted by the coming of the Holy Spirit. 120 believers were gathered in a room in the Temple waiting. The Holy Spirit came with the sound of a mighty wind, and a display of fire. A tongue of fire was seen over the head of the disciples. The group was under the leadership of the surviving Apostles that Jesus of Nazareth had appointed before his return to heaven. Simon Peter was the spokesman for the group that day with the support of the eleven other Apostles. Every member was suddenly endowed with a gift of speaking in a foreign language that they had not learned.
The noise of the wind and the worship of the new generation attracts a large gathering. When the attendees want to know what is happening, Peter explains to them that the prophecy of Joel is being fulfilled right before their eyes. Then Peter gives the first proclamation of the Christian Gospel. He concludes the declaration, which included an announcement of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, with a word about what it all means. Peter declares that the man from Nazareth that they crucified has been raised from the dead, and is exalted. He is now both Lord and Christ. The crowd was made up of Jews, many of the proselytes came from all over the Roman world, so they understand the implication of Peter’s declaration. They are involved in the death of the Lord of glory, the One sent to be the Messiah of Israel. His blood is on their hands.
The words of Peter penetrate to the heart, leaving them very troubled. The Holy Spirit is already performing his mission of convicting humans of their sins. The fear of judgment to come falls upon them immediately. They humbly cry out to the Apostles for help; “What shall we do?”
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 2, 2017.
Romans chapter 8 is the highpoint section in Paul’s most remarkable letter. Romans 8:6-11, along with the previous five verses (8:1-5) and subsequent six verses (8:12-17), conveys a series of dichotomies: flesh vs. the Spirit; death vs. life; the law of the Spirit of life vs. the law of sin and of death; death and resurrection; Spirit of God and children of God; spirit of slavery vs. Spirit of adoption. Verses 6-11 form a small part of a broader exposition Paul provides the contrast between flesh and Spirit. It is crucial for the preacher to understand Paul’s perception concerning these two forces and to avoid misrepresenting the metaphorical concepts he uses to convey his message.
Do we understand what Paul means by “flesh”? How should preachers interpret Paul today, particularly, in a world where we idolize attractive celebrities, vigorous athletes, carnal desires, while we are embarrassed by grotesqueness, physical atrophy, and the ailments of senility?
Is the Apostle’s understanding of “flesh” as trivial as that diffused by today’s secularized culture? Is Paul simply offering us the pitfalls of network television? Is he describing practical Christianity with the unreserved dismissal of the luxuries of a consumer-driven society? Perhaps this is what countless of faithful believers assume.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 23rd, 2016.
This sermon series began three weeks ago in Lamentations 1:1-6 and ends this week in Joel 2:23-32. This series allows the pastor to trace the arc of redemption as told through Israel’s story with God. This is the foundation of Christ’s coming, through which this story finds its fruition and fulfillment. Such a series permits a congregation to re-engage the movement of their own life with God through this story, starting in Lamentations with disorientation over their sin and its consequences. This confrontation with sin is necessary if a church is to engage in the faithful application of hope toward Joel’s vision of life and land indwelled with the presence of the Spirit.
Last week, in Jeremiah 31, the text focused on the promise of renewed relationship and renewed covenant. Such a promise is hope on the move, God approaching people to establish relational wholeness, expressed in human relationships and covenant life with God. Today’s passage provides the people of God with a vivid image of the reality of that day. Such a day combines the fruition of created existence with the life-quickening reality of the Spirit of God. The prophet Joel thus communicates an earthly spirituality, one that joins heaven and earth. To illustrate this reality, today’s passage shows that the fear of agricultural loss gives way to abundance. Joel expertly ties such abundance to life in the Spirit, poured out on all people. Joel is written to the nation of Judah, likely after the fall of the northern kingdom. The prophet centers his message around common themes, such as “repentance, guilt, and punishment”. However, the prophet makes sure to balance a word of warning with the promise of God’s rescue and restoration.