Sermon and worship options: February 13, 2022

August 1st, 2021

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany

Worship Theme: Christ's resurrection offers hope for the future.

Readings: Jeremiah 17:5-10; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Call to Worship (Psalm 1 CEB):

Leader: The truly happy person doesn’t follow wicked advice, doesn’t stand on the road of sinners, and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.

People: Instead of doing those things, these persons love the LORD’s Instruction, and they recite God’s Instruction day and night.

Leader: They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade. Whatever they do succeeds.

People: That’s not true for the wicked! They are like dust that the wind blows away.

Leader: And that’s why the wicked will have no standing in the court of justice—neither will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

People: The LORD is intimately acquainted with the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is destroyed.

Pastoral Prayer:

Unto you, Lord, we bring our praise and our thanksgiving this day. We are a sinful people, Lord, and yet you have loved us. We are a rebellious people, and yet you have forgiven us. And though our words and actions distanced us from your holy presence, yet in Christ you have healed the breach and brought us close to you once more. Though we are worthy of death, yet in Christ you offer us life everlasting. His resurrection assures us of our own hope for the future. No longer does death oppress, for your love has overcome death and gives us hope. Help us to be faithful to that divine hope, as we pray in the name of the One whose resurrection is our hope. Amen.


JEREMIAH 17:5-10

Note the parallel between this passage and Psalm 1. Both deal with the fate of the wicked and the godly—they are contrasted. It is thought that the Jeremiah passage is the source for Psalm 1, a wisdom psalm.

I. Cursed (vv. 5-6)

The person who relies only on his or her own wit and strength is foolish. Human pride may not want to acknowledge its dependence on anyone, including the Lord. When we go in our own strength, we find ourselves turning away from God, instead of relying on him. This is the little red hen syndrome: "I'll do it myself."

Jeremiah sees the godless as being like a plant trying to grow in the parched desert or a land made uninhabitable by salt that has permeated the soil. A shrub growing like that is barren. A life lived apart from God is spiritually barren. The psalmist concluded, "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish" (v. 6). God sent his Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life.

II. Blessed (vv. 7-8)

The Hebrew word for blessed means "how happy!" George Buttrick translated it "Bravo joy!"  It means we are to be congratulated. Note Jesus' beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. John Wesley translated the Greek equivalent as "Happy" in the beatitudes.

Happy is the person who trusts in the Lord. They are like trees planted beside a stream. Their leaves are evergreen, they have no fear of the drought, and they continually bear fruit. Those who rely on God live productive lives free from fear.

An Arab proverb says that where there is water, there is life and where there is no water, there is no life. The land of Palestine depicts this truth graphically. Irrigation can literally make the desert bloom. Jeremiah gives us a vivid contrast between those who go it alone and those who trust in the Lord. Which are you?

III. Tricky Heart (vv. 9-10)

This passage takes evil seriously and shows our fallen human nature. The human heart is a Jacob, a trickster that is crooked and perverse. Left to our own devices, the heart is deceitful and corrupt.

The good news of the gospel can make us hopeful and optimistic. But we also need to recognize our innate "bent toward sinning." We witness and experience evil in the world around us, and within ourselves. We need the gospel of divine love and forgiveness—a new heart.

Only God knows what is in our heart, both good and bad. He looks on the human heart and knows our motivation—temptations resisted and those we give in to. We cannot adequately judge others because we cannot fully understand their circumstances or intentions. God does search our minds and hearts. He knows the fruit of our lives and can rightly judge us with reward or punishment (see Romans 7:18-19).

The heart is the seat of our loyalty, not simply our emotions. Life apart from God is disastrous, while a life lived in trust is blessed. (Alton H. McEachern)

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

For many people, death is something to be feared. We recognize it as a natural part of life but try to avoid it at all costs. Americans spend billions of dollars on health foods, diet plans and exercise equipment in large part to postpone the inevitable. While we may desire good health and long life, Christians should also confidently claim the truth of God's Word about death and our anticipated resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Paul explains the meaning behind Christ's resurrection. Instead of fearing the unknown, Paul suggests that believers should look toward death with great expectations.

I. Expectation #1: Our Sins Are Forgiven

Do you remember the last time you had a garage sale? The only reason we submit to such an embarrassing ordeal is to get rid of our junk. Unfashionable clothes, warped records, and avocado green kitchen appliances are all displayed in the hopes that some garage sale junkie will remove those undesirables.

But can you imagine how humiliating it would be to die and confront the God of the universe with all our sins displayed? Paul tells us that Jesus' resurrection authenticates the atoning work of his death on the cross. Because he rose from the grave, Christ conquered death and abolished the penalty of believers' sins forever. One of the greatest joys of becoming a Christian is the anticipation of coming face to face with the Almighty and knowing your sins are forgiven.

II. Expectation #2: Our Resurrection Will Be Physical

On that great Easter morning, Christ appeared to his disciples in bodily form. He was not a ghost or an apparition. Jesus appeared in the resurrected flesh. Likewise, Paul states that Christians will experience the same resurrection from the dead.

Traditional images of the afterlife picture angelic people, sitting on clouds and playing their harps. However, this notion contradicts the biblical portrait. Paul asserts what all of the New Testament confirms. When Christians rise out of the grave, they can expect a new body similar to their previous one but not subject to physical decay. As heaven and earth are recreated, we will experience the fellowship of being together in the presence of God, not secluded on private clouds in the sky. One can only imagine the glorious activities God plans for us and our new resurrected bodies.

III. Expectation #3: Our Resurrection Is Guaranteed

A final great expectation rests in the knowledge that Christ's resurrection guarantees our own. Paul's logic is simple. If Jesus is still in the grave, we will remain in the grave. But if he is risen, so shall we be risen. As "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep," Jesus represents the first of a great harvest that will come to fruition in new bodies of service to God. Without this expectation our faith is futile. Those who would acknowledge Jesus to be prophet and teacher but less than the Son of God have not believed well enough. The distinction of Christianity remains the belief that God came to humanity in the flesh through the person of Jesus Christ. All other major world religions can point to a grave and say, "There is our founder." Only Christians can point to an empty tomb and proclaim, "Christ is risen indeed!"

As we ponder the inevitable, let us do so with great expectations. For the best is yet to come! (Craig C. Christina)

LUKE 6:17-26

One of life's early lessons is learning whom to trust. Children grow up with their parents' words ringing in their ears: "Be careful of strangers. You know you can't trust everybody." Even adults have to keep a wary eye out for people who are trustworthy and for those who are not.

Jesus often spoke about trust. In today's text he spoke about learning whom to trust. He did so by listing and contrasting right and wrong sources of trust.

I. The Joy of Dependence on God

Jesus spoke of four aspects of learning to depend on God. The first has to do with being poor. Poverty as such is no guarantee of bliss. Wilma Dykeman, in The Prophet of Plenty, wrote the following description of poverty.

"What is poverty? . . . It is the cooking smell of old grease used and reused, saturated into clothes and hair and rotting upholstery; the sleeping smell of beds crowded with malnourished bodies, and threadbare blankets soaked with odors of sickness and staleness. . . . It is the sound of perpetual crying: an infant mewling, a mother mourning, an old man moaning. . . . It is the sight of slumped shoulders, useless hands stuffed into empty pockets, averted eyes. . . . It is the taste of hot saliva boiling into the mouth before nausea, or dried beans and chicken gizzards and hog skins and too many starches and too few fruits. . . . It is not only hunger today but fear of tomorrow. Not only present chill but future freeze. Not only daily discomfort but accumulations of illness. It is fear, but fear made impotent by the enormity of today's demands and an insufficiency of energy to forestall tomorrow's defeats."

Jesus blessed those who were poor in their own resources, who knew their reliance on God. Theirs is the kingdom of God. Jesus blessed those who are hungry now because they will be satisfied. In Christ, life has meaning now. Those who weep are blessed because they will laugh in the age to come. For the present, they are blessed because they are sensitive to evil and the rebellion against God. Jesus also blessed those who are hated because of him. Anyone who is rejected for Christ's sake will be accepted by God.

II. The Illusion of Dependence on Yourself

Jesus turned the standards of the world around and pointed out the illusion of dependence on ourselves. These are the opposite of the joys of depending on God. He spoke about this using the word woe. Woe is not a threat but an expression of regret and compassion. Jesus regretted the situation when people depended on themselves instead of God.

Those who are rich now have been paid in full. They have nothing to look forward to. They do not depend on God. The well-fed now will go hungry in the age to come. They have no compassion now and will be shown none later. Those who laugh now are people of carefree, shallow merriment. They care nothing about others but only about their own amusement. They will weep in the age to come. And those who are spoken well of now had to sacrifice their principles somewhere along the line. People with strong principles are not liked by everyone.

Who are you really trusting in? Yourself or God? (Don M. Aycock)

comments powered by Disqus