The Constancy of Change

Message Title: The Constancy of Change
Theme: Stories of Transformation
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Romans 7:15-25a;
Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Focus: Paul speaks about the struggle of following God’s word.
Function: To pursue the upward spiral of spiritual formation by connecting with God, community, and education.
Other Notes: COMMUNION// THE BUTLER (Cecil Gains changes his mind about the Civil Rights movement) I CAN CHANGE MY MIND! When I grow with God my mind, my behavior, and my words may change.

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 16 “To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others, 17 ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 Yet the Human One[c] came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”….25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have shown them to babies. 26 Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness. 27 “My Father has handed all things over to me. No one knows the Son except the Father. And nobody knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wants to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 30 My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”
LORD’S PRAYER

Intro to the July Series: Stories of Transformation
During the month of July, we will be considering stories of transformation from movies based on historical events. As we journey through these stories, we will also be doing a deep examination of Revelation 7 & 8. May God transform us through these words.

MOVIE: THE BUTLER (Cecil Gains changes his mind about the Civil Rights movement)

In 2013 a movie was released in which Forest Whitaker plays a black man named Cecil Gaines.  Lee Daniel’s The Butler is loosely based on the life of a man named Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House for decades.

The move spans Cecil’s life from childhood well into his senior years. As a youth Cecil watches his father, a farm hand, killed by the plantation owner after standing up to the owner for taking advantage of his wife. Cecil recounts how he learned to be a house servant.

Through a series of events, Cecil is hired on as a butler in the White house and serves under five different presidents over the decades. He learned to be invisible in crowded rooms. Important conversations happened before Cecil and he simply watched things pass by. Cecil had always been raised to keep your head down and follow the rules because this isn’t your world.

Cecil’s son Louis grows up and becomes a Freedom Fighter, which displeases Cecil. Throughout the movie you see a juxtaposition of Cecil serving significant figures in the white house and witnessing significant conversations while his son is protesting and getting arrested for speaking out.

TRANSITION: The tension between Cecil and his son grows throughout the movie as they wrestle with the ‘right’ way to live in respect to the law. In our text for today, we will see Paul struggle with what it means to follow the law in consideration to his natural behavior.

EXPLAINATION: Romans 7: 15-25

15 I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. 16 But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. 17 But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. 18 I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. 19 I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. 20 But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. 21 So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. 22 I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, 23 but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body. 24 I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? 25 Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body.

  1. Background info:
    1. Romans author: Paul
    2. Date:
  2. Lots of law talk
    • Paul is Jewish. This is in reference to Jewish law, not Roman law.

INTERPRETATION:

  1. Paul’s mental gymnastics will make anyone confused here.
    1. Paul knows what is right.
    2. Paul does what he doesn’t want to do.
    3. Paul feels trapped in choosing wrong.

OUR TRANSFORMATION:

  1. Our view of the law
    1. What Law?
      1. God originally gave humans a simple law:
        1. As God’s representatives on this earth: flourish in creation and care for creation
      2. However, by default, Christians think Law = 10 commandments
      3. Historical Jews expanded the law from 10 to 613. Expanding the 10 commandments to splice out more specifically what EXACTLY each law meant and what was the punishment for breaking that law.
    2. Why do you think God gave us the 10 commandments?
      1. With the intention of
    3. The law was a burden to follow. It was heavy and hard.
      1. If you go to Israel, try not to be in a hotel with multiple floors on the sabbath. Because you can’t push a button on the sabbath so elevators stop at every level…. And it takes FOREVER to use an elevator. 
  2. My transformation
    1. My Embarrassing 8th Grade Story (sorry everyone, I couldn’t find an 8th grade photo but I found a 5th grade and 9th grade photo. Somewhere in between these years is where this story happened…)
      1. I used to punch my friends for swearing. Yes, you heard me right. Punches for cusses. I thought I was helping them to be better people by motivating them to not use swear words.
      2. The irony about all of this was that my friends didn’t feel like I was someone they could come to about tough stuff. So, I was the last one to know all kinds of big secrets (sex, smoking, drinking, and even abortions). I missed out on actually helping my friends through tough stuff because I cared a whole lot about swear words.
    2. Something changed in me over the past 20 years. My experiences as a human and as a pastor have shifted my perspective on many things, including language.
      1. Sometimes a swear word will fall out of my mouth. Yes, I realize it’s not normal for pastors to talk about this… unless you’re Nadia Bolz-Weber, but it’s true.
      2. Do I think swear words will send me to hell? No.
      3. Do I think what words I use matters? Yes.
    3. Avoiding swear words isn’t the goal. Loving people like Jesus is the goal.
      1. Swear words aren’t the problem. Our heart is the problem. You can be full of venom and use every ‘polite’ word in the book. You can share a genuinely beautiful faith story and include swear words.
    4. Intention & Heart Condition: I changed my mind about language. I saw the essence of the law. It wasn’t about a list of “bad” words. Rather, it was about the intention in my communications and what was in my heart.
  3. Movie transformation: Throughout the film, Cecil and his older son Louis fight about the way Black Americans were treated. Cecil was taught by his father, and other Black men, to keep your head down and follow the rules because this isn’t our world. Louis fought for civil rights because this world belongs to not just white people but Black people too. It wasn’t until Cecil retired during the Regan administration that he finally understood what his son meant and decided to join his son in protesting for Black rights.
    1. For Cecil, transformation came when he realized that protesting was ‘the right thing’ to do even if it meant getting arrested.
  4. Sometimes following the letter of a law holds us back from upholding the essence of the law.
    1. God is calling for our transformation. We aren’t simply supposed to be Christian robots who are excellent at coloring in the lines. We are to read scripture, think for ourselves, and apply the essence of the law in each unique situation.
  5. Change is guaranteed: Unfortunately, this means that we will only ever experience change in our faith walk. Our faith should be ever growing and developing.

CONCLUSION

COMMUNION

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