From: Documentary Portraits of Mississippi: The Thirties, Selected and Edited by Patti Carr Black
From: Documentary Portraits of Mississippi: The Thirties, Selected and Edited by Patti Carr Black

Sermon Script: Romans 8:15
Sermon Purpose: As the Children of God we are in this together
Sermon Title: Brotherhood of Christ/We Are Family

Why am I afraid this morning? Of what am I afraid this morning? I feel as though the world has spun around many times since I began writing this sermon last Monday. We celebrated Veteran’s Day last Wednesday. I had the sermon pretty well done by Thursday afternoon. And then Friday evening the news reports started rolling in about the terror attack in Paris, France. Roughly 180 dead or wounded. France’s borders are shut stranding French citizens in foreign countries and American citizens in France. French President Francois Hollande has promised vengeance and declared this terror attack an act of war. President Holland’s words remind me so much of President Bush’s words following the terror attacks in this country September 11, 2001. France and the United States have this shared experience. We are now part of a brotherhood of those who have experienced a terror attack. Oh that there were another kind of brotherhood that would give us hope instead of this misery that loves company.

As Christians we have a shared experience of becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. John Wesley talked about the experience of being adopted into the family of Christ. Wesley said we basically go through three stages; “the natural man,” “under the law,” and finally “under grace.” As the natural man we tended to walk as if blind. We could not see Christ. Our spiritual eyes might as well have been sown shut. In our spiritual blindness we followed whatever our hearts wanted and endured whatever misery came our way in the misguided belief we were free. Never once did we realize that as the natural man we were slaves to sin and death. On our own we were unable to choose life. Instead we were slaves to the flesh.

However, one day God’s prevenient grace finally got through to us. One day God’s light opened our eyes and we could see the horror of who and what we are. And what are we? We are sinners; poor and needy; weak and sore. We are not right. When we see ourselves for the first time as we truly are it is scarier than anything you might see on “The Walking Dead.” As the natural person we walked around as if we looked like all the super models on the covers of the magazines in the line at the grocery store. However, when the reality hits us of our own sinfulness we can scarcely look at ourselves in the mirror. We can neither tell if that bright light shining on our sinfulness comes from the fires of hell or the consuming fire of our God in heaven. We recognize that our God cannot stand to look upon sinfulness or wrong doing of any kind because our God is good and just. At that time we know full well God will not let wrong doing stand. Like a black smith our God will use fire, hammer and tongs to straighten us out again. Thanks be to God for the spirit of fear and bondage that we would learn the truth of what we are and earnestly flee the wrath to come. However, it is a sad thing. No matter how much we try we cannot run fast enough to escape God’s judgment. There aint no mountain high enough; aint no valley low enough; aint no river wide enough to protect us from the love of God.

Thanks be to God for God’s loving grace. God’s loving grace falls upon us that we may receive the Spirit of Adoption. Through God’s adoptive Spirit we are empowered to cry out to God, “Abba! Father!” Through God’s grace we are adopted into God’s family. Through the Spirit of adoption we have become children of God, “and if children then heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). However, we have to recognize this is not a one and done moment. We have to persevere as Christ did so we may be glorified with Christ. God provides the means to remain faithful. The same light which first revealed the ugliness we kept in the darkness is now a light of hope, love and joy within us. There is no more sin within our hearts. Through God’s light and grace the power of sin and guilt are defeated and washed away. Consequently, there is no longer a fear of death, or the wrath of God. Wesley described those who carry Christ within them as being under grace.

However, Christ told His disciples, “[N]ot everyone who cries out to [Jesus] saying, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21). I think the reason is not everyone here is living under grace. I think it is very likely there are some here today who live in fear of what God may do to them. I think others still walk around doing whatever they want as if there really is no God, and yet they still want to call themselves Christians. The result of all of this confusion is we often see each other as the world sees us – professing to be Christians and not fitting the world’s or each other’s expectation of what a Christian looks like. I mentioned this quote last week, but it bears repeating.

“The single leading cause of atheism in the world today is Christians. They acknowledge God with their lips, then walk out the door and are disarmed by their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Brennan Manning

Let’s face it; we aint right. If we honestly look at ourselves in the mirror we know we are not right. We are not righteous before God and we are not righteous before one another. Sometimes I think we cannot stand to look at that person in the mirror because we know we are so far from God. Sometimes I think it is just easier to see the flaws in others than to look at the flaws in ourselves. Do we ever move past being “under the law”? Do we ever move past being under the expectations of others? Do we ever move past being under our own expectations? What is it God expects?

I think God expects us to stop looking for all of the faults in other people. I could pretty easily look out into this room and find fault with all of you. I could make easy money if I bet everyone here could find fault with me. No one here is perfect. And shocker: No one out there is perfect either. I think we know what they expect to see when they come into this place, but the truth is we are every bit as broken as they are. There are only two main differences. #1 we are supposed to know we are broken. #2 we are supposed to be living our lives to grow closer to God because through God’s grace the pieces of our broken lives are woven back together.

This morning there are a lot of lives in Paris, France, needing to be woven back together. There is a tremendous need for grace and compassion. Friday night there was a coordinated terror attack in Paris. Over 180 people are dead or wounded. French President Francois Hollande has promised vengeance and called the attacks an act of war. Hollande’s words bring back memories of fourteen years ago when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For the past fourteen years American soldiers have fought for freedom in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Thank you for that sacrificial act of service. Thank you for your courage, but after fourteen years, and all of the lives lost I am starting to wonder if that old adage is true. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you can believe the news those people who have become radical extremists did so because of the brokenness in their own lives. They were poor, or bullied, or isolated. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe and yet the country is divided against the Muslims. There is prejudice against Muslims. From America’s own history coming out of the 1960’s it’s easy to see that where prejudice goes injustice follows. And yet Jesus gives us the hard teaching. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Who can take such teaching; especially in the aftermath of such terror?

My sisters and brothers injustice and fear take their deepest breaths when we are afraid or angry about those who are different from us. We pay more attention to the differences in others when we are afraid to look at what is not right about ourselves. However, if we are to grow closer to Christ we must carry our cross by examining and understanding what is not right about ourselves. When we know what is not right about ourselves we can see all of the places God’s grace is putting the pieces back together. Until then we have a job to do – we have a role to play. We are to stand up against injustice in our own community. What is the highest demographic for poverty in our county? Who are those discriminated against? Who are those being bullied, or isolated? What would it look like for God to work in our lives to bring us under grace by standing up for balance and justice for the marginalized in our own community? How will we let people know to which family we belong? Do we belong to the family of fear and misery, or have we received the Spirit of Adoption to become heirs with Christ?

In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.