A Bee By Any Other Name Would Sting


Message Title:  A Bee By Any Other Name Would Sting
A Season of Growing
Main Text:
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Scripture Reading:
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

RCL Scripture: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
 The blessing of being in the family of God transforms our behavior.
 To recognize our role as ambassadors NOT law makers for Christ.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus told them this parable:…. 11b “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living. 14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”

INTRODUCTION: Last week I mentioned the importance of dandelions as a bee’s first food in spring. Today I want to test your knowledge of bees.

  1. AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: (Disclaimer: I’m a pastor, not an Entomologist. Always consult bug professionals. This exercise is for general fun and not to be considered an official science lesson.)
    1. Can you tell the difference between yellow & black stripped & winged things?
      1. Word bank: Carpenter Bee, Bumblebee, Honeybee, Hoverfly, Yellow Jacket
      2. Answers: A. Carpenter Bee, B. Bumblebee, C. Hoverfly, D. Honeybee, E. Yellow Jacket
    2. Which of these pollenates? all!
    3. Which of these can sting? A. females only (the aggressive ones are males w/o stingers), B. rarely (can multiple times), C. no/can’t, D. in extreme circumstances (will kill them), E. yes, easily & repeatedly
  1. Sources;
      1. https://kottke.org/18/08/a-comprehensive-guide-to-yellow-stripey-things
      2. http://texashighplainsinsects.net/texas-insects-identified
      3. https://reddit.com/r/interestingasfuck/comments/bjjyqr/a_comprehensive_guide_to_yellow_stripey_things/
      4. https://bugguide.net/node/view/15740
      5. https://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/about-pollinators
  2. Family story: As a child, my little brother would refuse to wear yellow or bright colors because he didn’t want to attract bees. We all teased him and thought he was silly. It wasn’t until much later that we learned that bees see colors different than humans and yellow would definitely attract them.

TRANSITION: The problem with flying yellow stripey things is they all get lumped into the same “ouch” category. However, not all flying yellow stripey things do provide ouches or want to provide ouches. In the same way Christians are given a collective label. Anyone who claims to be a “Christian” impacts the label as a whole and impacted by the label. We are going to consider two separate passages today and how we can positively impact the Christian label.

MAIN TEXT:  2 Corinthians 5:16-21 16So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! 18All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. 20So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 21God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.

EXPLAINATION: Remember this second letter to the Corinthians is a follow up that included a whole bunch of drama since the last letter. Paul is still teaching the Corinthians what it means to live for Jesus.  

  1. Vs 16 “we won’t recognize people by human standards.”—living for Jesus means our metric for success changes. It’s not the same as the world’s metric for success.
  2. Vs 17 “if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation”—living for Jesus means we are part of a new creation. We have been transformed.
  3. Vs 19 “God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ,” – living for Jesus means we participate in the Great Reconciliation work that God is doing through Jesus.
  4. Vs 20 “So we are ambassadors who represent Christ.” -living for Jesus means we represent Jesus to the world.
    1. Hint: if you’ve ever wondered what the tattoo on my forearm says…. Now you know. It is the Greek for “ambassadors for Christ” taken directly from this passage.
    2. And not hate the sin, love the sinner BUT invite all in. There isn’t a disclaimer for worthiness. We’re ambassadors not law makers.


  1. Epistle: As believers in Christ, we are a new creation and become representatives of Christ in this world.
  2. Gospel:  Shifting to the Gospel, these may not seems connected but I promise we’ll get there together.
    1. Context:  Jesus was hanging out with tax collectors and sinners but speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees. This parable wasn’t for the “sinner” it was for the one who thought they were good.
    2. The Prodigal Son: The normal focus of this parable is typically on the son who returned. After all, we call this parable The Prodigal Son Returns.
    3. The son who stayed:  ANYWAY…. I want to consider the older son today.
      1. The older brother needs a transformation just as much as the younger brother. Sure, the younger brother basically says to dad “I wish you were dead so I could have your stuff.” BUT the older brother resents the work that he is putting in TO HIS OWN INHERITANCE.
        1. Where are my rewards for being good?! Why can’t I party with my friends? (which is an insult to the father as well: “I don’t want you around in my joyful moments. AND I’m ungrateful for all you are giving me.”)
    4. The brother who leaves is seen as the “bad kid” but is the older brother any better? Both of their hearts need a transformation. How did they grow so jaded with a father as loving and compassionate as the man in the story?
      1. He is furious that his brother is invited/welcomed back. He even stops calling his brother brother: “my brother” vs “your son.” He assumes a story about his brother wasting his money to prostitutes (which the narrator does not specify).
  3. Together:  On the surface, the older brother looks good. He stays. He works. I mean, he’s even in the fields when his brother returns and the party starts… no one goes to get him?!?!?! BUT his heart is full of resentment and venom. He resents his father’s compassion. He resents his labors as the oldest son. He is obedient but not transformed by his blessed state.
    1. Is the older brother really good if he’s filled with bitterness?
      1. Matthew 20:1-15 vineyard workers & a day’s wage
    2. If you identify as a Christian but do not change your life (heart & celebrating the reunion) through the Spirit’s guidance, you are no different than the brother who stayed and complained.
      1. We are God’s representatives on this earth.
      2. This isn’t about being morally good. It’s about being spiritually transformed.
      3. You follow the law… well good for you… BUT has your heart changed?

APPLICATION/RESPONSE: To recognize our role as ambassadors NOT law makers for Christ.

  1. BACK TO INTRO: VULNERABLE MOMENT– Like my little brother being hesitant to wear yellow (T-SHIRT) , I catch myself being hesitant to use the word “Christian” (T-SHIRT) because of how frequently it gets used for the wrong reasons. Instead, I say I follow Jesus or that I’m a Christ follower.
    1. I am not ashamed of Christ or Scripture, but I am sometimes embarrassed at churches and Christians.
  2. Specifically, my embarrassment blossoms when Christians try to speak for God without consulting Scripture or the Spirit.
    1. I am embarrassed when “Christians” use their label to push a particular political agenda…. Especially when Jesus specifically commissioned his disciples NOT ROME to be his hands and feet in the world.
      1. If I’m honest with you, one of the biggest crutches for Christians in America is the belief that America was founded as a Christian nation. We have merged together our faith and our patriotism. Separately both are good things but merged together, they create a mess.
    2. Matthew 22: 19-22 19 Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked. 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.
  3. We are participants in this world. We are law abiding citizens in this world UP UNTIL the point where a law prevents us from being faithful to Christ.
    1. No earthly nation is bound to follow our faith. Christ followers are not citizens of this world, we are citizens of heaven. We talked about this previously.
    2. Our role is ambassadors for Christ.
      1. “Stationed in a specific country, an ambassador is responsible for taking the pulse of the country’s political climate and representing the interests of the United States. Public diplomacy, communicating key positions of the United States and managing the U.S. Embassy are important duties of an ambassador.” https://work.chron.com/ambassador-do-4135.html
      2. An ambassador does not make the laws or make the plans. An ambassador represents the wishes of their government or company to another government or company.
        1. Don’t have their own power. They represent the power of the one who sent them (gov’t or company).

CONCLUSION:  We don’t decide on who or how God’s grace is poured out. We are to proclaim that it is happening.

  1. Our role is to be Christ’s ambassadors NOT law makers.
    1. We are the pollinators NOT stingers.

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