Sermon Options: August 28, 2022

January 25th, 2022


HEBREWS 13:1-8, 15-16

Through the simplicity and power of this passage we are challenged to live a life of service through the simple challenge to "continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God."

I. God Is Approachable
Jesus called God "Abba." The Aramaic word Abba means "Daddy." God, the Creator, is approachable in the most intimate way, as our heavenly Father. That approachability gives us strength because God calls us to himself even as we are sinners. God welcomes us, meets us where we are, forgives us, and calls us to be more like Christ. The good news is that through the Spirit, we can fulfill our calling to be like Christ.

II. God Takes Up Permanent Residence in Us
There was a little boy who greeted his preacher by putting his hand on his heart and saying, "Jesus lives in MY heart." The preacher smiled and asked how he knew. The boy said, "Cause I feel him bumping around in there."

When we accept Christ, he takes up residence in our hearts. He isn't a temporary guest, but a permanent resident. He said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." Christ is with us always and we become "a sacrifice of praise to God." Our actions become "the fruit of lips that confess his name."

III. God's Presence Creates a Mutual Love
Paul writes, "Let mutual love continue." When love takes up residence in our hearts it transforms our lives and we want to share it with others. That sharing transforms us into the likeness and living image of Christ.

There were two brothers, who were likable enough but they had a bit of a wild streak. It got so wild they became sheep thieves, earning their money off the local farmers. As happens to all thieves, one day they were caught. Rather than kill them, the villagers decided to brand the two brothers on the forehead with the letters S. T. for sheep thief. The action so embarrassed one young man, he left and never came back. The other brother was so remorseful, he chose to stay and reconcile himself to the villagers he had wronged.

At first they were skeptical. Most wouldn't have anything to do with him. But he was determined to make reparation for his offenses. Whenever there was sickness, the sheep thief was there to help care for the sick. Whenever work needed to be done, the sheep thief showed up to help. It made no difference whether the person was rich or poor, the sheep thief was there to lend a hand. Soon he was an integral part of the community, never accepting pay for anything. His life was lived for others. He became a well-respected friend of all.

Years later, a traveler came through town. He sat at the sidewalk cafe eating lunch and noticed the respected old man with the strange brand on his forehead, sitting nearby. It seemed everybody in town stopped to pay their respects or share a kind word. Children stopped to play or give and receive an affectionate hug. The stranger asked the cafe owner about the old man. "What does that strange brand, 'ST,' on his forehead stand for?" The cafe owner, a contemporary of the old man, thought for a moment then said, "It happened so long ago that I don't rightly remember. But I think it stands for Saint."

No matter what has happened in your life, no matter what you have done or left undone, it's never too late to change. God wants a personal relationship with you. Know the forgiveness of your sins. Open your heart, give him your life, and let it become a "sacrifice of praise." (Billy D. Strayhorn)


LUKE 14:1, 7-14

Jesus was the guest of a prominent Pharisee for a meal (v. 1). One author suggests that it was breakfast. The Jews ate bountifully on the sabbath, although the food was cold (having been prepared the previous day). According to their meticulous and detailed laws, no food could be cooked on the sabbath. They defined their religion by observing all the laws. Keeping the sabbath correctly was far more important than being a gracious host to those on one's invitation list.

There was "method in their madness" in including Jesus. They were not necessarily being friendly to Jesus by having him on their invitation list. The text says "they watched him closely." They scrutinized Jesus. The word watched means that they observed what he did with a critical, sinister eye. Their motive was not warm hospitality; it was cold entrapment. When Jesus healed the man with dropsy, he quoted their own laws to them. They were permitted to remove a beast from a well on the sabbath. They were more concerned about the welfare of their property than they were about the well-being of another person.

I. Moving the Place Cards (vv. 7-10)
When Jesus observed that the other guests were eager to choose the best places at the feast, he urged them not to move the place cards. He told them that when they are invited to a meal, they should take a lower place. The phrase, "places of honor" means "the first couches" or "the chief couches." These would be the ones nearest the host, starting with the ones immediately to his left and right. The more important a person was, the nearer he would be to the host.

II. Learning Humility (v. 11)
Jesus underscores the lesson of his parable. The person who exalts himself to a higher position at the table will be humbled. Conversely, the person who chooses a lower place for himself will be invited to a higher position.

The virtue of humility has always been the mark of great people. One speaker was being introduced with a glowing, lengthy recitation of his achievements. Enamored with his importance, he leaned toward his wife and said: "I wonder how many truly great men there are in the world today?" She replied succinctly, "One less than you think."

"In honor prefer one another" remains a given with the person who is truly humble. I read recently, "Those who are willing to play second fiddle make beautiful music in the symphony of life."

III. Inviting the Marginal (vv. 12-13)
Jesus instructed the host in the forming of his invitation list. "Don't just invite those who can repay you with their invitation. Invite the marginal people of society—the unfortunate who have no ability to return the invitation."

The Savior's words are sharp reminders that everybody is somebody to the Lord and in the Lord. The genuine disciple of Christ will show no partiality to others. Whether giving a party or time or money, it is the motive that matters.

IV. Receiving the Blessing (v. 14)
Having the right invitation list brings its own sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Jesus affirms to his host that in so doing there will be a far greater spiritual reward in heaven "at the resurrection of the just." In John 5:29, Jesus uses a synonymous phrase: "the resurrection of life." Luke 14:15 reemphasizes Christ's promise with the words: "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God."

In Matthew 25, Jesus calls his disciples to an "inasmuch" ministry of love to the marginal people of the world. "Inasmuch as you have done it to these, you have done it to me." (John Lee Taylor)

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