A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Readings Commentary - September 21

Sunday, September 21 - "A Life Worth Living"

Philippians 1:21-30

Overview of this Epistle - Philippi, located in northern Greece was the first European place to hear about Jesus Christ. Paul's first visit to Philippi can be found in Acts 16. This congregation gave Paul the most joy.

Paul is writing this letter while in prison, probably in Ephesus. The Christians in Philippi had sent him a relief offering and he is thanking them for this gift.

In this passage, Paul claims that whether he lives or dies, he has confidence because of his relationship with Christ. This passage offers some insight regarding life after death. Upon death, a Christian will be with the Lord.

New Testament, Tom Wright reminds us that there is a two-stage process after death. The first stage is being with the Lord as Paul mentions in this passage. The second stage is when Christ returns and all of God's people are resurrected and given new bodies. This is good news for those who have placed their faith in Christ and Paul wants the Philippian Christians to embrace this hope.

II Corinthians 1:8-11 is a companion passage to this one because Paul describes what happened before he was released from prison. Paul had thought he was going to be killed. Paul was willing to suffer the consequences for his obedience to the gospel but his desire was to continue building up the churches that he had founded. His release from prison ended up being a sign that Jesus was the true King of the world and not the Emperor of Rome or any other world leader for that matter.

For the sermon, I want to explore what it means for us to embrace this life that is worth living. Even though we face adversities, Paul is reminding us that life is worth living.  It all centers on the good news of Jesus Christ and his calling to share this good news with others.

Matthew 20:1-16

The Gospel reading is part of the lectionary texts for this Sunday. Even though my focus will be on the Philippians text, this scripture from Matthew is an incredible parable about God's grace.

As is true for many of Jesus' parables, this parable isn't primarily about workers' rights or fair labor. That's an important issue but in the context of Jesus telling this parable, that's a side issue. The point of the parable is that God's grace is available fully for everyone, regardless of how "late in the game" we may have come to Christ.

I once preached a sermon on this text entitled, "The Sting of Grace." We often think of grace as a sweet and beautiful thing but when we see other people receive it who we think don't deserve it as much as we do, we can become bitter.

Think of people who after living a life of intentionally hurting people and acting in very non-human ways accept Christ on their death-bed. If it's a genuine repentance and acceptance of the good news of Christ, they are given just as much grace as someone who has lived a full life of serving Christ.

We shouldn't be dismayed at this apparent disparity because if the death-bed conversion was truly authentic, that person would realize that he/she is the one who really missed out for most of his/her life. The point of the parable is not about when we receive Christ, but if we have received Christ. Don't be upset over death bed conversions. Be grateful for the grace you have received from Christ as well as for the grace others have received.

 [Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

No comments: