Sermon Options: June 27, 2021

May 2nd, 2021

Lament for Fallen Warriors

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Christians should lament the fall of Christian warriors (those falling into sin) as surely as David lamented the death of Saul and Jonathan. His lament for Jonathan wasn’t surprising. They were best friends. His lament of Saul, on the other hand, was extraordinary, because Saul had relentlessly hated and hounded him. David was deeply grieved over Saul’s death because Saul was God’s anointed, the king of Israel.

Christians should grieve the fall into sin of any other Christian because we are God’s elect; chosen for his glory. Our lament for fallen Christians will convey the same attitudes as David’s lament for Saul.

I. The Attitude of Forgiveness of the Fallen

The whole tone of David’s funeral elegy for Saul reflects his forgiveness of Saul. The greatest need of a fallen Christian is God’s forgiveness. The second great need is forgiveness by fellow believers.

The prodigal son’s father forgave him freely and threw a party to celebrate his homecoming. But the older brother withheld his forgiveness and refused to attend the party. That must have deprived the younger brother of a critical ingredient for him to ever enjoy and benefit fully from the restoration of relationship with his father. When we withhold forgiveness from fallen brothers and sisters in Christ, we deprive them of an essential ingredient for continued growth in Christ: the joy of Christian fellowship.

II. The Attitude of Positive Talk About the Fallen

David’s lament forbade negative discussions about Saul’s and Jonathan’s defeat and death. Instead, David wrote of the victories and strengths of the regal father and son. He encouraged others to do the same.

In a critical football game, a running back fumbled away his team’s last-minute opportunity to tie or win the game. His teammates who patted him on the back and encouraged him did the Christian thing. A member of the other team who cursed and ridiculed him did the ungodly thing.

All around us are brothers and sisters who are struggling with life’s challenges. They may be struggling with marriage; or having difficulties with children; or facing vocational insecurity or even loss of a job. There could be any number of reasons for their struggle, but there is only one Christian response: to love, encourage, and be Christ’s presence in the life of that brother or sister.

When Christians fall, the last word they need to hear from a brother or sister is a harsh word of judgment and criticism. They desperately need a word of forgiveness and encouragement. (Jerry E. Oswalt)

Attention: This is Not a Sermon About Sex!

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Several years ago a minister pondered how to maintain decent crowds for Stewardship Sunday. The topic has an uncanny way of emptying pews, and he labored at how to avoid that. So he announced in the church newsletter that next week’s sermon would be entitled: “Everything You Need to Know About Sex.” Predictably, come Sunday morning the pews were jammed. Even the C-and-E (Christmas and Easter) Christians had added a third worship service to their annual repertoire.

After the hymn of preparation, the pastor noted how quiet the sanctuary became. The listeners sat on the edge of their seats, anxious to hear the latest word on the world’s hottest topic. The pastor mounted the steps into the pulpit, looked at the congregation, and said: “Sex was created by God as an expression of love between husbands and wives and a way of propagating life on planet Earth. Now that we’ve settled that, let’s talk about stewardship.”

No games and no gimmicks today. Instead we need to be honest and up front about this topic. Stewardship is a biblical priority. What we do with what we have been given is a subject regularly addressed in both the Old and New Testaments. In today’s lesson Paul challenges the Corinthians to put their money where their mouths are, to back up their professions of charity with the practice of giving.

I. Authentic Stewardship Requires Faithfulness

Paul was collecting an offering for the church in Jerusalem. Various Christian communities (including some of rather meager means) had contributed. Corinth, of course, was a city of considerable financial ability. The believers there were capable of supporting the mission significantly. They obviously had expressed their support verbally. Now Paul was asking them to follow through. He spoke of their “readiness in desiring it” being matched by their willingness to “complete it out of what you have” ( 2 Cor. 8:11, RSV).

How easy it is to talk a good game about faith without being faithful. How easy it is to preach love without loving, to teach forgiveness without forgiving, to testify about missions without helping and healing, to verbally champion youth ministries without contributing or programming, to talk evangelism without inviting. Perhaps the Corinthian church was at that point, talking a good game about stewardship without being faithful stewards. Meanwhile the needs of the poor in Jerusalem were not effectively met by mere talk.

II. Authentic Stewardship Requires Giving Ourselves First

Paul said that Jesus is the model for Christian stewards: “[f]or your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (v. 9). It is an image of self-giving love that always places a priority on others.

General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, used to send handwritten Christmas cards to all his workers. Booth signed the cards with a single word. It was a word designed to keep them focused. It was a word designed to remind them of their calling and their duty. It was a word designed to drive them past verbalizing faith to authentic fidelity. Every card he signed with the single word: Others.

We, too, are called by God to think of others, to share with others, to love and serve and help and heal others. And few Christian disciplines accomplish all that half as effectively as the stewardship of our finances, by which the church wraps its arms of compassion around the world, healing hurts and lifting high the cross. (Michael Brown)

Desperate

Mark 5:24-34

The woman was sick. Mark tells us she had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She went to many doctors, but none had been able to help her. Instead, her condition had grown worse.

She received reports of this man called Jesus and how he was having a remarkable effect on people. She knew what she had to do: she would go to Jesus. He would heal her.

When she gets there it is a mob scene. The crowds were pressing against Jesus. The woman believed that if she could just touch him—just the hem of his garment—she would get well. She reaches out and touches his cloak—and she is cured.

Most of us have not had this kind of experience. We are captured by the faith of the woman. She did not just believe that Jesus had the power to heal her—she was convinced that if she just touched his robe, the hem of his garment, she would be cured. She forces us to reexamine our faith in the mystery around us—that which can’t be explained and is beyond reason. Whether you call it mystery, magic, or grace, Christianity has always been filled with elements that involve a trust in something supernatural.

In many quarters of the church we have tried to ignore this mystery. We have attempted to make the Christian faith rational. Meanwhile, all around us and deep within us is a hunger that reaches out for expression. We see it in the rise of witchcraft, tarot cards, and astrology.

But there is more to human life than just reason. There is a mind, and a heart, and mystery and wonder, and powers and principalities we can’t explain. Jesus invites us to love the Lord our God with all of our minds—which means that we are to use and respect and appreciate the power of reason and our minds—and we are to love the Lord with all our heart and emotions and instincts, and we are to offer our souls, which is to commit ourselves to the grace of God that surrounds us. If we can just touch the grace of God, then our sin-sick world can be healed. (Rick Brand)

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