Message Title: Influencing Liberation
Theme: Paul’s Influence
Season: Ordinary Time
Main Text: Philemon 1:1-21
Scripture Reading: Luke 14:25-33
RCL Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Deuteronomy 30:15-20;
Psalm 1; Philemon 1:1-21; Luke 14:25-33
Focus: Paul used his influence to help liberate an enslaved man.
Function: To embrace our role in mercy.
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 14:25-33 25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, 26 “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. 30 They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ 31 Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? 32 And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. 33 In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.
SERIES INTRODUCTION: The Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament. He is known as one of the biggest influences of the Early Church. A church receiving a letter from Paul was sure to read it and put his words into practice. Over the month of September, we will look at 2 different letters of Paul and consider his influence in two men’s lives.
- AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: If your house was burning down and you could only get out with what was in your hands, what would you grab to bring with you?
- No one said their children/loved ones?!?!
- I may have to start calling you all Quokkas.
- Quokka (kwaa-kah)- marsupial from Australia, they’re from the wallaby family
- Internet spread rumors that Quokka throw their babies at predators when they feel threatened so that they can run away. However, it’s more accurate to say they release their pouch muscles so their baby “falls out” while they’re running away.
- Self-preservation at the expense of their spawn
TRANSITION: Paul was not someone too concerned with self-preservation. He was imprisoned multiple times, beaten, shipwrecked, and eventually executed by Rome all for the sake of the Gospel. While imprisoned he wrote a letter to Philemon—would Paul use this time to help himself or provide council?
Paul is writing for Onesimus’ preservation.
MAIN TEXT: Philemon 1:1-21 1 From Paul, who is a prisoner for the cause of Christ Jesus, and our brother Timothy. To Philemon our dearly loved coworker, 2 Apphia our sister, Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church that meets in your house. 3 May the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 4 Philemon, I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers 5 because I’ve heard of your love and faithfulness, which you have both for the Lord Jesus and for all God’s people. 6 I pray that your partnership in the faith might become effective by an understanding of all that is good among us in Christ. 7 I have great joy and encouragement because of your love, since the hearts of God’s people are refreshed by your actions, my brother. 8 Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to command you to do the right thing, 9 I would rather appeal to you through love. I, Paul—an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus— 10 appeal to you for my child Onesimus. I became his father in the faith during my time in prison. 11 He was useless to you before, but now he is useful to both of us. 12 I’m sending him back to you, which is like sending you my own heart. 13 I considered keeping him with me so that he might serve me in your place during my time in prison because of the gospel. 14 However, I didn’t want to do anything without your consent so that your act of kindness would occur willingly and not under pressure. 15 Maybe this is the reason that Onesimus was separated from you for a while so that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—that is, as a dearly loved brother. He is especially a dearly loved brother to me. How much more can he become a brother to you, personally and spiritually in the Lord! 17 So, if you really consider me a partner, welcome Onesimus as if you were welcoming me. 18 If he has harmed you in any way or owes you money, charge it to my account. 19 I, Paul, will pay it back to you (I’m writing this with my own hand). Of course, I won’t mention that you owe me your life. 20 Yes, brother, I want this favor from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 I’m writing to you, confident of your obedience and knowing that you will do more than what I ask.
EXPLAINATION: Our first letter in this series is quite short. Paul’s letter to Philemon was only 25 verses long. If you keep reading the remaining 4 verses you can say you read a whole book of the Bible today!
- Background details:
- Author: Paul
- Recipient: Philemon- property owner/wealthy man, Christian hosting a house church
- Content: Onesimus- enslaved person/indentured servant ran away
- Paul meets Onesimus, Onesimus becomes a Christ follower, Paul convinces Onesimus to return to Philemon with this letter in hopes that Philemon will release Onesimus of his debt and set him free because he is now a brother in Christ. “Level up your faith, Philemon”
- Also, Paul reminds him of the eternal debt that Paul helped Philemon with by introducing him to Jesus.
- Paul takes pride in his faith in Christ. Paul was a zealous Pharisee that became zealous for Jesus and called others to do the same.
- He was transformed by Jesus. Originally his zealousness was going to kill Christians, now it liberates people.
- He wants others to model his zealousness for God.
- Connecting this passage to the Gospel:
- Jesus calls his audience to count the cost of discipleship using three examples.
- Nothing should hold a disciple back from faithfulness to Jesus, not even their own desires or family.
- Offend people by who we include vs who we exclude
- Philemon likely had every desire of Onesimus paying off his debt but Paul is saying “bro, you gotta let that go. Also, you owe me!” Paul wants Philemon to let go of his self-preservation and his “rights” for the sake of the Gospel.
- Ironic, when so many Christians used this at one point in time to defend the return of run-away slaves during the Civil War.
- This is a letter about liberation not enslavement. This is a letter beseeching a man to do the right thing. This is NOT a letter endorsing slavery. Btw slaver is still legal in the US in the form of punishment (prison inmates).
APPLICATION: To embrace our role in mercy.
- Philemon was asked to set aside his rights for the Gospel.
- AMERICAN SACRIFICE: I’d love us to ask ‘Could we do the same? Could we give up our rights for the Gospel?’ but I don’t think American Christians could even if they thought they wanted to.
- American Christians have not counted the cost. We don’t want to give up our rights, beliefs, or opinions for the Gospel.
- “The great debates around COVID precautions” is a perfect example of “my body my choice.” Christians chose autonomy over caring for their neighbor. I remember actually hearing Christians say that elderly can be sacrificed for the greater good. They’ve lived long enough. … LITERALLY. Or that if your family is vulnerable STAY HOME?!?! 2 years later… did we hear ourselves? We literally told the disabled, needy, vulnerable to stay home so that we could have our freedom.
- How is that caring for the least of these?
- I won’t even get into the discussion of guns or abortion because even mentioning those two topics would lead to people not listening to the message. We cling to our autonomy and safety like they are God. We want freedom to chose OUR way when it fits our personal preferences but don’t want others to have the same freedom.
- If you are Philemon, who is your Onesimus? Who are you holding back the Gospel for your own benefit or preferences? … or even beliefs…?
- How are your rights/actions infringing on the Gospel being received by others?
CONCLUSION & COMMUNION: This table is a reminder that Jesus sacrificed his rights for us. Jesus died on a cross so that we could have eternal life. This table is a reminder of the promises we receive through Jesus’ actions. It also reminds us that we are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, by his cross we are liberated. We are called to sacrifice our will for God’s design.
Sacrifice our plans.
Sacrifice our safety.
Sacrifice our rights.
Sacrifice our concept of the Gospel.
Because we worship a God who liberates the captives. We worship a God who restores the broken. We worship a God who invites the lonely. We worship a God who levels the playing field.
The act of communion reminds us that we sacrifice our plans because God’s plan is even more joyful, beautiful, and fulfilling that our wildest dreams.
PRAY BLESSING FOR ELEMENTS
DEACONS SERVE COMMUNION
BENEDICTION & BLESSING