February 10, 2020
The Epiphany 6A Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Matthew 5:21-37 from the Lectionary Gospel; Deuteronomy 30:15-20 from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 119:1-8 from the Lectionary Psalms; and 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Related Reformed confession: Lectionary Gospel: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 109 (Lord’s Day 41)
Author: Scott Hoezee
Say the word “radical” to the average person and the name of “Jesus” will likely not be the first thing that springs to anyone’s mind. If you think about “radical acts,” the Sermon on the Mount is unlikely to come to mind, either. Radicals throw Molotov cocktails at police and stage sit-ins and carry placards in the town square. But that’s not Matthew 5-7! We like to think of the Sermon on the Mount as gentle and soothing. The Beatitudes are so lovely. Jesus’ teaching of what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer” is likewise lyric as is the passage that follows that prayer about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. This just does not strike us as all that radical.
But as I was taught in New Testament class a long time ago, the root of the word “radical” is the Latin radix and that is the Latin word for “root.” The word radix lives on in mathematics to refer to the base number in some larger system of numbers and numeration. The radix is what is at the bottom of something, at the foundation or below the foundation, at the roots. The radix gets at the root, at the origin of something. And so there is a sense in which a radical is someone who wants to return something—a political system, a religious belief system—to what it was intended to be in the beginning, at the root of all things.
If you visit the 9/11 Museum in New York City, you will go fairly deep underground to what is referred to as the “bathtub” where the foundations of the World Trade Center are. There you see a giant retaining wall with tie-backs into the concrete to hold back the nearby Hudson River. Those deep walls and foundations were the radix of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, though they were not ever seen by anyone above ground (indeed, until the museum was created after the destruction of the Twin Towers, no one ever saw the roots of the towers except maybe for some maintenance workers now and then). But they were more than a little important and are, of course, the only surviving pieces of those decimated skyscrapers.
In this lection from Matthew 5, Jesus is indeed a radical after all because what he is doing with God’s Law here is radicalizing it, getting everyone’s attention back to the basics and the root origin of God’s commands—Jesus wants us to go underground to see what has been holding this whole thing up from the beginning so as to understand things afresh. From the outside looking in, it looks like Jesus is making the Law of God ridiculously hard to keep. He’s turning the Law into something different, something harder and more difficult.
“You haven’t slept with a woman not your wife? Good for you. But you looked at your co-worker Jill and thought about it so that ‘Do not commit adultery’ command is in shambles in your life as far as God is concerned.”
“You haven’t stabbed anyone through the chest or shoved someone to his death off a cliff? Good for you but when in your anger you told Harold last week to go take a flying leap, in God’s eyes the ‘Do not murder’ command snapped quite cleanly in two in your life.”
“You haven’t sworn out a false oath in God’s name? Good for you but when you knowingly lied to your boss about what you did while attending the convention by saying ‘I swear by my children this is not true,’ then in God’s eyes the ‘Do not give false witness’ command died a sudden death because your children are God’s children and they bear his image.”
But is Jesus changing the Law into something new and different? No, he is radicalizing it, he is bringing everyone back to the roots of why God gave the Law in the first place. Of course external behavior and actual deeds are always worse, always more injurious than secret fantasies. And only a very careless person would conclude that if an adulterous fantasy gets you in as much trouble as the actual affair then you may as well have the affair, too, while you’re at it. That is, to state the merely obvious, not exactly Jesus’ point here.
So what is the point? The point is that the Law of God was meant to foster human flourishing at every level, including at the deepest levels of our hearts and minds. God wants us to respect each other, to love each other, to see God’s own image residing deep within one another. Human life is not supposed to be some giant game in which you scheme and scam to get ahead for good old #1. We are not to use people as pawns, as objects of our lust, as receptacles for our scorn, as the targets for our desires to brutalize, manipulate, and then discard.
And it’s not enough that all of this does not show up on the outside of our behavior. Hypocrisy is everything it’s cracked up to be and sooner or later it has a way of brutalizing the hypocrite, too. Remember in The Inferno Dante’s clever punishment in Hell for hypocrites: they were clothed with elaborate and resplendent golden garments but the garments were lined with lead. To wear this attire every day literally weighed the person down with weariness and an unending sense of burdensome heaviness. And that is what unremitting anger and lust and deception does to us on the inside: it weighs us down, saps our joy, and sooner or later really will show up on the outside in how we treat others, talk to them, regard them.
Of course, the root origin of God’s Law is not all about human psychology or some me-focused program of self-improvement. It is finally also about other people and about God himself. How do we see others? How do we treat them in our heart of hearts? Do we think it doesn’t matter how furious we are at every driver who cuts us off or makes some mistake in traffic (a driving mistake that we surely have made more than once ourselves)? Do we think it’s pleasant to nurse a grudge for years such that every time we see Marge or Bill our innards coil up and bile curdles all over again in our gut? Do we think that that attractive guy or that fetching woman exists for our pleasure only? Do we think that this other person who just asked us a question is so worthless as to be undeserving of hearing the truth such that we will play God in his or her life by dictating his or her grasp of reality and just lie to them?
Look, by getting back to the radix of the Law, Jesus really does nail every last one of us and there is a sense that the larger function of Jesus’ teachings on the Law does cast us back to a reliance on grace alone (“your righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees”—good luck with that one). We are sufficiently mired in sin and selfishness that we know full well how easy it is to see ourselves in the pictures Jesus sketches. But Jesus is not just being tough on us: he is at the end of the day reminding us of a truth that is actually so very encouraging: God created us to flourish in his good creation. God wants all of us to flourish.
If it is difficult to see how routinely we undercut the flourishing of our neighbors and of ourselves, it is nevertheless glorious to know that the Creator God of the cosmos is on our side and really does desire to see all things and all things and all manner of things going well in his good creation.
The term translated in verse 22 as raca is probably the equivalent of our word “idiot.” Also, when Jesus refers to calling someone “a fool,” he uses a term that calls into question the other person’s morality–it might be the equivalent of calling someone “a dirty rat,” someone you don’t trust for a second. Taken together Jesus is decrying our belittling of people’s mental powers and our belittling of their moral status. “Let your anger get the best of you in simmering grudge-bearing,” Jesus says, “and sooner or later you’ll start to denounce the people around you as stupid and immoral–as not worthy of your time.” You may even start to regard them as sub-human, and it’s a short step from that to treating them in sub-human ways, too.
Jesus knows the utter untruth of the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” As Dale Bruner says, there are lots of people in mental hospitals because some hurtful word is lodged in their psyches like a bullet in the spine. When people hurl words at us that cast our mental or moral abilities into question, these angry words reach places inside our nervous systems where no laser can reach. Our Lord is against such angry words because they murder the spirit.
We all know someone whom we could best describe as “an angry person.” They rarely if ever forget anything negative that has happened to them. Franklin Roosevelt’s closest political advisor was a man named Louis Howe. Mr. Howe, with some frequency, would be very rude and cruel to certain people at dinner or cocktail parties. On one such occasion Eleanor Roosevelt asked, “Louis, why did you do that?” “Because,” Howe replied, “he was once unsupportive of Franklin.” “Oh goodness,” Eleanor exclaimed, “I’d forgotten all about that.” “I never forget,” Howe snapped back. And that’s just the way some folks go at life: they nurse old wounds and so allow them to fester into an entire cesspool of resentment and anger.
Author: Stan Mast
This is one hard text to preach. On the one hand, it seems so simple that it doesn’t even need a sermon. I mean, what more can we say about a text that is this straightforward. On the other hand, its simple straightforward message is so demanding and absolute that it will be unpalatable for many modern listeners, literally unbelievable for folks caught in the thrall of post-modern relativism. Its “either/or” choice and its “or else” consequences are a message many will not tolerate. Indeed, many preachers will have to decide if they themselves actually believe these simple, hard words before they begin their sermon preparation.
This sermon (for that is exactly what it is) is preached to people on the brink, of the literal Jordan River originally and of figurative Jordan Rivers throughout history. The historic setting pictured in the text is the end of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness and the beginning of their conquest of the Promised Land. As they pitch camp on the plains of Moab on the eastern bank of the Jordan, Moses summarizes the covenant arrangement between Yahweh and Israel. Before they cross over Jordan, he reminds them of the terms of the covenant God has made with them. Our text is the dramatic climax of Moses’ long sermon, raising the central question. Will they follow Torah or not?
The final author of the book of Deuteronomy was also speaking to people on the brink of the Jordan, people in danger of going back over the Jordan into Exile. After centuries of Israel’s disobedience, God was about to send them out of the very land God had promised to give them. Re-preaching Moses’ old sermon was a way of giving them one last chance at life and prosperity. “You have a choice, a great big simple choice.”
If we are to preach on this text to Christian audiences (or at least non-Jewish people), we must assume the kind of continuity with Israel that runs through the New Testament (for example, Paul’s bold claims in Galatians 3:7 that “those who believe are children of Abraham” and in Galatians 6:16 that we are “the Israel of God.”) Their story is our story. Like them we stand at the brink, facing life or death, prosperity or destruction, blessing or curse. In every age, in all lands, in each life, we are faced with a great big simple choice. Moses is preaching to us here.
The sermon has two major positive points: “now choose life” and “for the Lord is your life.” Choose the Lord and you choose life. Simple, upbeat, good news. Until we are confronted with the alternatives. If you don’t choose the Lord, you choose death. Robert Jenson summarizes it memorably when he speaks of “the appalling clarity of the demanded decision” and “the equally appalling absoluteness of the decision’s consequences.”
“For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws…. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them….” That’s what all the commands and decrees and laws of the previous chapters of Deuteronomy and the rest of Torah amount to—love God and God alone. The detailed laws simply spell out what that love looks like in the nitty gritty of daily life. They tell us what it means in practical terms to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength.
This is what Jenson means by the “appalling clarity of the demanded decision.” “The people can obey Torah or not obey it; no mediating possibility is offered…. They can worship the Lord or they can worship something else; what they cannot do is worship the Lord and something else….”
However, “Israel’s whole history between Exodus and Exile can be construed as an extended effort to be more sensible about this matter. The rule of that history could have been formulated:
‘Yahweh, to be sure, is our God, but who is to say there is not something true and valuable in the gods of our neighbors, in the Baalim and Asherah and the host of heaven? And if there is, surely we should give them their due honor. Surely, in religious matters it is wiser to be inclusive than exclusive.”
It doesn’t take a theological genius to see that this implicit rule of Israel’s idolaters is “the explicit dogma of late modernity and has gained power also in the church.” Jenson speaks with the power and bluntness of an Old Testament prophet: “And it is a desperate falsehood. Either God is the only God or there is nothing but the little gods and goddesses.” Moses insists, and so must we, that “the Lord is your life.” There are many competitors for his throne, many who promise life, but only Yahweh is able to give the life that is life indeed.
That is a strong claim, but it at least sounds like Good News; there is Someone who can give us life in this death-ruled world. But our text also contains what Jenson calls the “appalling absoluteness of the decision’s consequences… polar and immediate opposites: obeying is life, good and blessing, and not obeying is death, evil and curse.”
Yes, God wants us to choose life. That’s the point of the sermon: “now choose life so that you and your children may live….” But to underline the extreme importance of making the right choice, God lays out the consequences of making the wrong choice. Again, Jenson puts it better than I ever could. The text doesn’t present us with a choice in the ordinary sense of the world—”not a choice between alternative means to a good end or for the lesser of two evils… with this choice we have nothing to choose. There is only an obedience which is perfectly obvious in itself, or the mystery of iniquity, of our factual ability deliberately to choose our own destruction.” To put it simply, we can choose to live by choosing Yahweh, or we can choose to die by rejecting Yahweh as the only God. That is the “appalling absoluteness of the decision’s consequences.”
King Josiah understood this very clearly. According to II Kings 22:11, when he heard Moses’ sermon in the late days of Israel’s monarchy, he tore his clothing in grief and terror, because he realized that Israel had already chosen its own death. Death had been coming for a long time; indeed, Israel was already dead. And that may be the conclusion you and your congregation may come to as well. We are dead people walking, because we have made the wrong choice in the most fundamental way.
But thanks be to God, we have another choice than tearing our clothes in grief and terror. We can hope for resurrection. By the grace of God, Israel was able to return to the Land of Promise, but they continued to make wrong choices, as do we all. Torah is still out there. In fact, it is in here, in our hearts, as God promised Jeremiah (chapter 31). But our hope is not in Torah; it is in the true Israelite who fulfilled it completely, “the Lord who is our life,” who is, in fact, “the way, the truth, and the life.”
The Apostle Peter, the great Denier of the Lord, was talking about the one true God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he wrote, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…. (I Peter 1:3)”
We are nearing the end of Epiphany and standing on the brink of Lent. As we lean into that time of remembering all the Lord has done to save us from our appalling choices, we get another glimpse of the glory of the Lord. This simple text with its stark choices and stunning consequences points us to the glorious Good News that God has done for us what we have not done for ourselves—obeyed Torah and opened for us the way into the Promised Land where we will live, not many years, but eternally.
Now the question put to us by this text is, will we choose to live the life that is sheer gift by trusting and obeying the God who has saved us? Worship God and live. Or divide our loyalties and experience death, even as we live by grace. That’s not really a choice at all, is it? Preach it simple, straight, and strong. “Now choose life…. For the Lord is your life….”
Frank Stockton’s classic short story, “The Lady and the Tiger,” is a perfect example of the murkiness of so many choices in a world where evil is so strong. A cruel king, a star-crossed lover and his jealous girlfriend, and two doors concealing a beautiful woman or a ferocious tiger. Which to choose? Whom to believe? What will be the consequences when the man finally has to choose? In a world filled with moral grayness, our text is a refreshing or jarring exception.
An example of the moral complexity of our world is the way the words of our text have been claimed by opposite sides of the great abortion controversy. Our text urges us to “choose life,” but one side of the debate is “pro-choice” and the other is “pro-life.”
Author: Scott Hoezee
In the world of secular music, I would guess you would be hard pressed to find many songs with titles like “I Just Love Rules!” In fact the website Ranker provided their top list of songs with the word “law” in the title but songs of the variety “I’m Lovin’ the Law” don’t seem to exist. Quite the contrary: the top song had these titles:
I Fought the Law
Breaking the Law
The Day I Broke the Law
Well to state the merely obvious, Thy Word Is a Lamp unto My Feet these songs ain’t! Outside of religious circles where you might actually encounter hymns and songs that celebrate God’s Law, you don’t find a lot of people getting excited about rules or commands or statutes. Most of the time people—and yes, also Christian people I am certain—spend more time rolling their eyes over various rules or regulations than celebrating their goodness.
“It’s ridiculous that the Speed Limit here is 25!” “Oh honestly, I’m sure it would not kill the environment if they let me collect just a few shells on this nature preserve beach!” “Is it really necessary that HIPPA won’t even let this doctor acknowledge what’s going on with my favorite Aunt?” “Boy the government makes it so hard for food producers to get their products into stores—what’s up with all those food safety regulations anyway?!”
How foreign is the landscape of Psalm 119. This longest (by far) of all Hebrew poems in the psalter is one giant celebration of God’s laws, statutes, regulations, rules, and commands. The author of this psalm is all-but delirious, all-but swooning over the beauty of both knowing and following God’s Law. The short 8-verse snippet assigned to this Year A Sunday a week before Transfiguration Sunday is just the preview of what will follow across the next 168 verses. The entire psalm is also an acrostic, meaning that each of the 22 sections are assigned to a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet and then each stanza in each of those sections begins with that letter. Why write it this way? To make it easier to memorize.
Yes, this giant exultation of the goodness of God’s Law was something people were to memorize, rehearse, recite over and over again. Celebrating the Law was supposed to be that important to Israel.
It is not hard to discern why this part of Psalm 119 was paired in the Lectionary with Jesus’ deepening of the Law in Matthew 5 near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. But what makes the Law so precious to this poet and, ostensibly, to all of Israel? Because the Torah, the Law, was seen as a gift. Believe it or not, God’s rules and regulations were seen as an extension of God’s love for God’s people. You only give life’s rules to those you love. An uncaring God would not bother. Only a God invested in the flourishing of God’s people would want to help them know what activities make for delight and what ones lead to ruin.
Mostly when we are children, we chafe under Mom and Dad’s rules. Children seem to have an almost intuitive resistance to hearing a parent shout “No!” No, you can’t eat that. No, you can’t walk there. No, you can’t stick that in the electric socket. No, you are not going to stay out past 11:30pm. “Why not?!” is as common a reply as any when children talk back to their parents. Wise parents are able to answer that question, and when the rules in question are themselves actually wise and prudent, then there can be a sensible answer to the question of “Why?”
If children are raised in good and loving households where the rules are grounded in safety and wisdom and are not merely arbitrary or a reflection of some mindless following of a tradition whose rationale has long been forgotten, then as children mature they may come to realize, “Hey, all along Mom and Dad just wanted to keep me safe. They wanted me to have true fun (which might have been different from what I only thought might be fun). They gave me rules because they loved me beyond the telling of it. I am thankful for their rules now. In fact, I will be passing them on to my own children out of my love for them!”
God’s Law is like that. It’s the Owner’s Manual for the creation. You can’t live happily or well without consulting the Manual now and again. (And if you’ve ever forgotten how to program your DVR or how to set the clock on your microwave, then you know what a wonderful thing it is to locate that Owner’s Manual so you can get things set right!)
“Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek God with all their hearts.” Indeed they are. Blessed. Because that is just what God wants for us: Blessing. Helpfully enough, God has given us a map to get us there. It’s called the Law.
Many of us have heard this story (probably as a sermon illustration!). But the tale is told that a young girl often observed her mother preparing a beef roast for Sunday dinners. Just before putting the roast into the oven, the mother would cut off the end of the roast and set it aside. So one day the little girl asked “Why do you cut the end off of the meat?” “Because that’s the recipe,” the mother replied. “That’s how my mother did it?” “OK,” the girl said, “but what’s it do? Why do it?”
Well, the Mom was not sure so she called her mother, who likewise had no idea why you prepared a beef roast in just this fashion. “That’s how my mother always did it” she also said. But happily the little girl’s great-grandmother still lived and so they called her only to hear her burst out in laughter. “I always cut the end off beef roasts because the only pan I had for the oven was too small to hold a whole roast!”
Sometimes things we treat as rules have no real basis in anything sensible after all. But many rules do. In fact, Frederick Buechner once noted that in all of life there are two kinds of laws: arbitrary laws like the setting of a Speed Limit or a property owner’s decision to post “No Hunting” signs on his land. There may be some rationale behind those kinds of laws but they could also change: a state government could raise or lower the maximum Speed Limit. The next person who buys a piece of land that had previously been designated “No Hunting” may allow hunting on that land after all now that it belongs to him.
But then there is something like the Law of Gravity. It’s not arbitrary. It explains how the world works. The Law exists to tell us not how some random person or government decided how things could be but rather these laws exist to reflect how things very simply are. If you don’t like a Speed Limit of 35, you can push it up to 45 and probably get away with it most of the time. However, f you decide you don’t like the Law of Gravity and so defy it by stepping into thin air on the edge of a cliff . . . well, you won’t get away with it.
God’s Law is very much of the second sort, whether we acknowledge it, whether we like it, whether we follow it or not.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Author: Doug Bratt
Our text marks what may feel like a rather abrupt change in tone. After all, in the Epistolary Lesson the RCL appoints for this week, Paul portrays the Corinthian Christians quite differently than he did at the beginning of his first letter to them.
In chapter 1:4-9 the apostle refers to them as graced by God in Jesus Christ, enriched in Christ in their speaking and knowledge, and having every necessary spiritual gift. In this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson, by contrast, he speaks of Corinth’s Christians as (not once but twice) “worldly” as well as “mere infants.” Paul goes on to add that the Corinthians are obsessed with drinking spiritual “milk” rather than proceeding, as they should, to eating spiritual “solid food.” What’s more, he refers to his readers as “mere men.”
Yet that switch doesn’t surprise those who have been paying careful attention to Paul’s first letter to Corinth’s Christians. Already in chapter 1, after all, he speaks of things like their jealousy, quarrels and divisions over the preferences in preachers and leaders.
Those who proclaim this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson might benefit from exploring how those apparently contradictory characteristics can “live together.” Its preachers and teachers might begin by exploring those contradictory impulses within our own hearts and lives. 1 Corinthians 3’s proclaimers might then explore with those who hear us how, for example, grace and worldliness, spiritual wealth and infantile behavior, can live in the same temples of the Holy Spirit that are God’s adopted sons and daughters.
In this Lesson’s first four verses, Paul explores the Corinthian church’s divisions. Its members apparently thought of themselves as wise, mature and strong. Yet the apostle thinks of them as “worldly” (1). While Paul thinks of things from the perspective of the cross of Christ, Corinth’s Christians think about things from a worldly point of view. That worldliness affects the way those Christians think of preachers like Paul and Apollos.
So as a colleague notes, Paul must “excise” that way of thinking. The “scalpel” he uses to do so is the cross of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, after all, it removes the kind of thinking that gathers people around preachers like groupies cluster around star athletes. The cross of Jesus removes the kind of thinking that makes people who are loyal to particular preachers “followers” (4).
Paul insists, after all, that neither he nor Apollos deserve to be followed. They are, in fact, not celebrities but “servants” (5). So the apostle can ask the Corinthians rhetorically and critically, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?” They aren’t, he implies in his answer, celebrities or superstars. They’re nothing more (or perhaps less) than God’s servants.
It’s a lesson those who proclaim this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson may profit from re-learning (or even learning). North Americans Christians, after all, sometimes seem enamored with spiritual and ecclesiastical superstars. We easily assume that the bigger the church or class, the better their leaders must be.
It is, says Andre Resner Jr., a terrible idolatry. After all, preacher/teacher worship easily draws attention away from the God who alone deserves our worship and whom we at least claim to serve. In fact, anything (or one) that competes with the living God for our loyalty or affection is a counterfeit god. So while God may use those who proclaim texts like 1 Corinthians 3 to point people toward the Lord, we’re no more than walking advertisements who point people to the God whom we serve in Jesus Christ.
We’re little more than people whom God has assigned our “tasks” (6). So, for example, God’s Spirit may use those who proclaim the gospel to plant seeds that are invitations to faith or even “water” those seeds of faith. But God alone can turn those seeds into faith that receives God’s amazing grace. Even the most popular preachers and teachers are little more than humble farmers who plant and tend to seeds. Any faith that grows out of those plantings is from God alone.
While Paul seems to at least initially address this to “lay members” of Corinth’s church, his contemporary relevance is perhaps most for 21st century church leaders. Modern preachers and teachers may be tempted to use this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson as a platform for bashing those who flock to preacher “superstars” like Todd Bentley or Beth Moore. Yet how many preachers and teachers are equally willing to ask our hearers if they attend the churches we lead because they so deeply admire us?
If I Corinthians 3 shines a light on Christians’ misplaced loyalties to religious stars, it turns a perhaps even harsher light on Christian leaders, including those who write as well as read the Center for Excellence in Preaching’s Sermon Starters. The Holy Spirit uses it to challenge things like church’s leaders’ motives for ministry.
Those who read this may find yourselves in place not so far from mine. I personally appreciate accolades far more than criticism. I like to see a church full of people who find my messages and pastoral work appealing. I’m susceptible to discouragement when people leave the church I pastor because they’re somehow unhappy or dissatisfied with me.
Perhaps you, like me, need to hear Paul’s reminder that while God gives church leaders a variety of tasks, God only gives “one purpose” (8). There’s no distinction. There’s no need for competition. People don’t receive God’s grace with their faith because of preachers and teachers’ eloquence or some other charisma. We’re just God’s “farmers” who do nothing more than the holy, honorable and important work of planting and watering seeds. It’s not saving work. “Jesus saves” may be to us an unappealing bumper sticker. But it’s true.
So both those who proclaim I Corinthians 3 and those who hear us let it remind us of some non-negotiable facts. We are God’s adopted sons and daughters. God calls us to serve the Lord. However, both our service and we belong only and always to the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul reminds those who proclaim the gospel that we’re not religious “rock stars,” but servants whom God uses to plant and nourish the seeds of faith that God alone can graciously transform into saving faith. In this Sermon Starter I’ve noted that that makes us a bit like billboards that draw attention not to ourselves, but to the God whom we serve in Jesus Christ.
That got me to thinking about advertising that, at its best, points to a certain product or service rather than the advertisement or advertisers themselves. Last Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs played the San Francisco 49’s in the Super Bowl – an event that’s famous for its sometimes funny but always outrageously costly advertisements. As is often the case, there was great debate following the game about which advertisement was most memorable.
One of my personal favorites riffed on the movie “Groundhog Day” in which Bill Murray starred. The ad memorably portrays Murray traveling around with a groundhog from location to location over and over again. It got very good reviews.
But does anyone remember what Murray and the groundhog were advertising? Some of us remember the actors and ad. But fewer of us may remember just what they were advertising (I looked it up – Murray and his groundhog were advertising the Jeep Gladiator).