On the Team 3
Passage: Romans 12:1–12:13
Are you ready for some football?! Today the NFL season gets under way, I guess it technically got underway Thursday but I’m going to continue to act as if Thursday night football doesn’t exist because it doesn’t make sense and ruins my Fantasy Football rhythm. Some of you are nodding, some of you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s like I’m in the middle of my sermon already. But I digress, the NFL season gets underway and whenever football comes back I always get somewhat transported, I always think back to playing high school football. And I then extrapolate my own experience playing high school football onto the professional experience.
Can I tell you one thing I hated when I played football? Football practice. I played all sorts of sports growing up and I played a couple in high school. And for the most part I always loved practice. I just like playing sports, I like running around playing a game with friends. In college I played every intermural I could get a team together for. But I hated, I hated, I hated going to football practice. It was so monotonous. It was the same drills, the same things every day. It was long. It was, at times, painful. It rarely changed. A lot of the time it was hot. Football practice was never an enjoyable experience and everyone on my team at some point was just done and came to hate going to practice.
I think no matter what sport you play, practice becomes boring. Practice becomes monotonous. Practice becomes not necessarily something you look forward to. It’s similar drills over and over and over again. I wrestled in high school along with playing football. And while I never hated wrestling practice as much as I hated football practice, it definitely got old. Drilling the same moves over and over again for years. Sometimes you just wanted to get to skip a day here and there or at least have the freedom to do whatever you want for a couple hours.
As much as I’ve talked about sports to start this, I don’t think this feeling is limited to sports. For a little while I was in the band in school. If you played an instrument did you ever get tired going to rehearsal every day and playing the same songs for months? Or at the very beginning of the year when you had to be retaught the same scales you’d been playing for years? Or in school how the first month was basically reteaching what we’d learned the year before? Whose job requires going to the same seminars every couple years to sit through the same material? Teachers how do you feel about inservice day? I have been a pastor for seven years now and I tell you I’d need two hands to count the number of trainings I’ve been to that taught me how to navigate and use a particular website. Can anyone else relate?
So we all have elements of our lives, events in our lives, that just seem monotonous. That are repetitive. That are unnecessarily pedantic. That, frankly, are boring.
So why do we put up with these things? Why do we go to the trainings and the inservices? Why do we go to rehearsals and practices?
As much as I hate to admit it, going to football practice every day made me a better football player. Doing the same things over and over, the same drills over and over reinforced good technique and made it possible for me to succeed as a lineman. I became better at keeping my body low, at coming out of my stance hard and low, better at sealing off defenders so my running back had a hole to run through. Simply put, by going to practice every day for four years I got better. Going to wrestling practice everyday for four years made me a better wrestler. Drilling moves I didn’t use regularly allowed me to gain enough proficiency that I could use them when I needed to. Going to band practice everyday and playing the same songs meant that at a certain point we could, nearly every time, play the piece perfectly as a group of 60 instruments. So that at our concert playing the piece perfectly was second nature.
We go to practice and we drill in order to get better. In order to gain proficiency. In order to be able to perform at a certain level when it matters. That perfecting, that maturing, that doing small things routinely so we are ready when it matters is what our Scripture text is about this morning.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
So this text comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul’s Romans letter is his magnum opus, its his grand theological statement. It is everything he would ever want to say about the Christian faith. It’s heady, it’s dense, but it’s amazingly beautiful. All the great theologians have written a commentary on Romans. It covers every theme under the sun of theology.
The richest, deepest, and densest material in the letter is in chapters 9-11. There Paul is talking about God’s plan to save the world and how Israel fits into that plan. I could write hours of sermons on that, but for our purposes what we need to know is that its about Justification. So much of the Christian focus is on justification, how can we be made right with God. But that isn’t all there is to talk about. Because most of us sitting here in church have felt that we have been made right with God. And yet here we are in church. So there’s gotta be a what comes next. How often do we talk about the what comes next?
Well that’s what Romans 12 is about. What comes after Justification. That’s why Paul starts this passage off by saying “in view of God’s mercy.” In light of what God has done for you in justification, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Offer yourselves. After we are made right with God we are given one job: offer ourselves. Precisely what that means is what Paul spells out next.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Here Paul gives a clear mission, some clear marching orders on how we are to offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice to God. Paul says we are not to conform to the pattern of this world, that would not make us a worthy sacrifice, instead we are to be transformed. We are to be renewed. There’s a nerdy theology word for what Paul is talking about here about what comes after justification and that word is sanctification. John Wesley had an understanding about the process of the Christian life he called the way of salvation. The way that God saves, redeems, and heals us. And in many respects we see that process played out in Romans. The first step is coming to understand that there is a God, we are not God, and we need to be saved redeemed and healed by this God. The second step is justification, understanding that God has saved us, that God loves us, that we are God’s child. The next step is sanctification, where we are actually healed, actually redeemed, actually saved, actually made better by God’s grace.
That process continues to what Wesley called Christian Perfection. However what Wesley meant by perfection, and I’ll spare you the hour long Latin and Greek lesson I sat through to learn this, was something more akin to Christian maturation. How do we grow and mature as Christians, as people, as God’s people living in the world.
When I think of being transformed, when I think of being conformed to God’s will, when I think of a process of coming to see that the things God wants are better than the things I want, maturation seems like the right word for that. When I think of not thinking of myself more highly than I ought, when I think about seeing all people as needed as part of the body as part of the team, I think about the word maturation. Growing, expanding, seeing a larger picture. Gaining wisdom. These are things we associate with maturation.
Now let me quickly go back to sports real quick, I know I was doing so well, but in sports there tends to be a distinction made between rookies and veterans. Rookies might be exciting, they might have flair, but there’s a downside to rookies. They aren’t always consistent. They are prone to mistakes. They don’t handle pressure as well. Rookie QBs tend to make eye opening, jaw dropping plays and then thirty seconds later will make a boneheaded interception. Veteran players have gained a certain maturity that makes them more consistent, able to make fewer mistakes, and more dependable under pressure. There’s a sense in which veterans have matured, have gotten to a higher place than rookies. What let them get to that place? What was they way in which they matured in the sport? Practice.
So when we look at what Paul says here how we are to mature as Christians, mature in our faith, mature in our discipleship the question becomes how? How do we do that? What is it for us that is practice? And the answer to that question, as Paul will show us, is to serve. Paul continues.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
After talking about how a mature Christian will see that there are many parts to the body and that as a Church we, though many, are one through Christ Paul pivots to talk about the different gifts that the many possess. We each have different gifts, God has created diversity within our unity and that is done with a purpose. And what Paul says is that God has given us gifts for a reason and there is an expectation we will use our gifts. If you are gifted in teaching, teach. If you are an encourager, encourage. If you are generous, then give. If you have a gift of mercy, show mercy. However it is that God has made you and gifted you, use it in service of God and God’s church.
For us, maturation as Christians comes through serving. It comes through using our gifts in God’s service in the church. When we serve we can see how God has brought this particular group of people into this particular place for this particular time and can see how God is willing and working in our community and in our world through this church. We can see the impact we can have when we all come together, how God takes that which we offer and makes a miracle out of it. We can come to love the ways in which each of us are gifted and we can make deep friendships on seeing how God can use others, seeing their gifts, and seeing what they are willing to offer to God.
We all have gifts. We are called to use those gifts serving God through the church. In this church we have a variety of needs for a variety of people with a variety of gifts. You know how you are gifted. Are you willing to take the next step, to mature as Christians and disciples, and serve the church?
If you’re a gifted teacher, then teach. On this “On the Team” flyer you will see opportunities to teach in our children’s ministry, our youth ministry, and our small group ministry. If you have a strong back, help us set up, help us get all our gear, all the things we need to worship God in this space, and then get it all down after worship. If you’re gift is hospitality, show hospitality through our hospitality team. If you’re a warm extrovert, join our greeting team. If your gift is leading, we have a men’s ministry and a women’s ministry we are looking to build and expand. If you’re financially minded and love numbers, join our counting team. If you’re musically inclined, talk to John about being on the worship team. If you’re a tech geek, and if you are you don’t find the term geek to be an insult, help us out on media. There are a variety of teams with a variety of needs for a variety of people with a variety of gifts.
The question isn’t is there a place for you to serve. There is. The question is are you willing to serve? Are you willing to be sanctified? Are you willing to be transformed, renewed, and healed? Are you willing to mature in your faith and your discipleship?
If so, there’s a Player Card for you to fill out and drop in the offering basket. Tell us how to contact you and where you want to serve. And we will get you in the game.
We have a clear call from Paul as what we, as people of faith, as the justified, as the people God has called child are to do. Get in the game, friends. Get on the team. Let us pray.