Roman Soldiers, Christians, and Unity

June 16th, 2019

Message Title: Roman Soldiers, Christians, and Unity
Theme: History is Our Story
Season: Ordinary Time
Color: Green
Main Text: Romans 5:1-5
Scripture Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
RCL Scripture: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15
Focus: Paul writes a letter to the Roman church to keep their faith grounded in Christ. 
Function: To step up as active members of the church bringing about unity, discourse, and service. 
Other Notes: Father’s Day//Holy Trinity Sunday

SCRIPTURE READING: Proverbs 8:1-5, 22-31 Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2Onthe heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: 4“To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. … 22“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

INTRO TO SEASON: We are now in the season of the church which is called Ordinary Time. Throughout this season we are going to study Epistles (Letters in New Testament) while we look back into history as we consider our owns stories and how they fit with the Christian faith. 

HISTORY: During Paul’s life, the Roman Empire was the governing force in the area. There was a church started in Rome quite quickly, though we don’t know the origins exactly. This was a church mixed with Jews and Gentiles, until one day when the Roman Empire Claudius expelled the Jews from the city, likely this was because of the followers of Jesus Christ and the accounts heard about Jerusalem. Five years later the Emperor was murdered and the Jews were allowed back in the city. But this led to tension between the Gentile believers and the Jewish believers. The Jews wanted all Christ followers to be Jewish first. 

TRANSITION: The Apostle Paul writes a letter to the church in Rome. This letter is a grounding and focusing document written to remind the diverse church in Rome how they are unified. 

GOD: Today we examine the Letter to the Romans 5:1-5 and learn from their struggles. 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

  1. “justified by faith”
    1. Paul had just finished talking about how it isn’t our heritage that qualifies us or justifies us in God’s eyes. 
    2. He now reminds them in clear terms: Justification comes through faith, not by nationality or family tree. 
  2. we have also obtained access by faith”
    1. It isn’t our heritage that makes us legit or part of the family. No biological relatives necessary. 
    2. We are admitted through faith. 
  3. Unity through difficulty
    1. “we rejoice in our sufferings”
      1. produces endurance
      2. produces character
      3. produces hope
        1. does not put us to shame
  4. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts”
    1. There isn’t any boasting we can do, it’s God that puts us in the family and God that enables us to love one another. 

OUR STORY: To step up as active members of the church bringing about unity, discourse, and service. 

  1. Paul is reminding this group of people of their need to focus on their connecting parts not their different parts. When we build a clear-cut description of how Christians are supposed to act, we shut down so many potential believers. 
    1. In Acts 15, Paul comes before the Council in Jerusalem and they determine that Gentiles don’t have to become Jews to become Christians. That is, Christians of other backgrounds don’t have to pick up the cultural practices of the Jews in order to follow Jesus. 
  2. Frequently though, Christians forget about the Council in Acts 15 and want all Christians to look the same. …and by the same they mean white/European descent Protestant Christians…
    1. Back in South Dakota there is an Episcopal Church that has a Lakota worship service. During the service they use their sacred drums in worship, they sing hymns in Lakota, they burn sage grass as part of their confession, and pray to the four directions. 
    2. Some would call this blaspheme, that the Native Americans need to shed all of their culture in order to follow Christ. But what does that mean? What culture remains? 
    3. It is through our diversity that we learn more about God. 
      1. Through the Lakota worship I learned
        1. They pray in 4 directions to acknowledge God’s presence is everywhere
        2. They burn sage grass during confession like a cleansing. The Smoke is wafted over each individual as if they were washing their body. This is an acknowledging of the sin they came in with and banishing it from the presence of God. 
        3. They use their instruments and language to honor their God because those things were gifts from the Creator. 
  3. Diversity is a gift that should teach us more about God and bring us together. Though most of this congregation is of European descent, Liberty is comprised of people from very diverse backgrounds: 
    1. Sure, we vote differently and spend our money differently. But we also connect with God through different types of music or translations of scripture. We even think about God differently as we consider faith through the lenses of our generation, culture, and heritage. 
  4. But our differences aren’t supposed to be points of division rather opportunities to learn and grow. 
    1. Ideas:
      1. What if we regularly mixed our seniors with our youth? 
        1. Youth teaching seniors about technology
        2. Seniors teaching youth about skills they HAD to know growing up
      2. What if young and old studied the bible together?
        1. We have our weekly bible study group that has been walking through our favorite scripture in the bible, it has been amazing to listen to the differences in what we hear from God.
        2. Sure, we laugh and chat about life while studying scripture… but that’s part of the interpreting of scripture. We look at how God has moved in our lives, what we personally experience about God and then look at the experiences recorded in scripture. 
        3. The past couple weeks we’ve had ages in the early teens to late 70’s all in one room wrestling with scripture! It takes humility to learn from each other, especially when we are convinced that we know all the answers. 
      3. What if men and women mixed together?
        1. We have the occasional man come to Bible study but what if it was a 50/50? 
        2. Imagine what we would learn about God if we had the full image of God represented to help dissect scripture?

     CONCLUSION: Unity is informed by our diversity. We are drawn together by our different perspectives. Collectively, we may get a better picture of God. 

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