Printable PDF: 9-27-2020 Pentecost 17 Sermon
Pastor Jacobson ~ Pentecost 17 ~ September 27, 2021 ~ Romans 14:5-9
5One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT DISPUTABLE MATTERS
A story has been told about a man who was stranded on an island all by himself. The man lived alone on that island for a number of years until another man suffered the same fate as him. As the first island resident gave the newcomer a tour of the island a question was asked about the three buildings on the island. The man answered the newcomer, “The middle building is my home. That is where I live. The building on the right is my church. That is where I go to worship God. The building on the left is the church where I used to worship God, but I don’t go to that church anymore.”
There is a time when someone must change their church membership. Jesus once taught, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Luke 12:51). Either you believe what the Bible says about Jesus or you don’t. Martin Luther demonstrated this truth. Martin Luther brought division into the Catholic Church by standing firm on the clear teaching of God’s Word. Martin Luther believed as the Bible taught: We are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, and by Scripture alone. Martin Luther also wouldn’t join with other reformers. They agreed on 14 teachings, but on the 15th teaching one reformer taught incorrectly how the bread and wine represents Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. Luther simply explained how Christ said, “This is my body.” “This is my blood,” and this is what I believe. Martin Luther, like Christ, was inflexible about indisputable matters like the teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus and the teaching of the real presence of the Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion. And it is very Christian and Lutheran of us to be inflexible about the indisputable matters taught in God’s Word. While that inflexible stance on Bible doctrine is most certainly true, the Bible teaches us today to be flexible about disputable matters.
- Don’t judge one another on matters God doesn’t judged.
The disputable matters Paul addresses in Romans chapter 14 are about special days and specific diets. Paul writes, “5One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Previously, in Old Testament times, God had made inflexible rules about special days and specific diets. The Old Testament command was, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God (Exodus 20:8-10a). In Old Testament times the Israelites had rules about what foods they could eat and what foods they could not eat. Old Testament Israelites could eat beef, but not pork. Old Testament Israelites could eat walleye or perch or bass, but no lobster or crab or shrimp.
In the New Testament, times had changed. In the New Testament Christ fulfilled all these Old Testament laws in our place. Now, in the New Testament the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. For New Testament Jewish Christians this love meant they shouldn’t think less of Gentile Christians because they eat pork and shrimp and prefer to worship on Sunday. For Gentile Christians this love meant they should have some understanding that old habits die hard and to go easy on the Jews who felt they should still worship on Saturday and eat kosher or clean foods. The principle of love we carry to our church today is “don’t judge one another on matters God doesn’t judge.”
I don’t think we struggle with special days or specific diets, but we can struggle with disputable matters especially if someone holds a disputable matter that is different from ours. Style of worship is a disputable matter. We are free to have organ and piano music until Jesus returns, but we could also decide to play the guitar and drums and sing like pop stars. Decades ago worshippers wouldn’t think of coming to church in anything but their church clothes, but today people are more likely to come to church in more casual clothes. Here at Grace the men have always ushered and the woman have always served the coffee and that is absolutely fine, but it would also be fine for the woman to hand out bulletins and the men to handle the snacks. These are only customs. Don’t judge one another on matters God hasn’t judged. What’s true for our worship is also true for our way of life. Vote your conscience in this country, but don’t think I’m less Christian if I vote different than you. Forms of Government and political parties are disputable matters and so is where you send your children to school. I would love for your children to attend Grace Lutheran School or Arizona Lutheran Academy, but don’t allow me to think you are any less Lutheran than me if you decide to send your children to another school. God calls on us to serve, but doesn’t command how we should serve. I certainly don’t want to dissuade anyone from serving in the Church, it’s hard to imagine how we could function without a large supply of volunteers, but nowhere in the Bible does God consider serving in the church to be more praiseworthy than faithfully serving God in your home and in your place of employment. Be flexible about disputable matters. Don’t judge one another on matters God doesn’t judge. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.
- Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.
Paul teaches, “7For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” As Christians we have a higher purpose than this earthly life. We have heaven. As Christians we serve a higher person than ourselves. We serve the Lord. Our worship, whatever style it takes, as long as God’s Word is correctly taught and God’s Sacraments rightly administered, is for the Lord. Our work, whatever work we might be doing at the time, as long as it pleases God and serves others, is for the Lord. Our witness, whether that witness is living in faith or dying in faith, is for the Lord. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. The reason we belong to the Lord is because “Christ died and returned to life.” The Lord left heaven for earth. The Lord lived a human life under the law obediently. The Lord willed himself to become an atoning sacrifice for sins on a cross. The Lord made these sacrifices for all people so that he could accept people through faith. Through faith Christ accepted Sabbath-observing, kosher-eating Christians. Through faith Christ accepted Sunday worshippers who ate pork. And still today through faith the Lord accepts believers who worship differently, dress differently, vote differently, serve differently, and raise their children differently.
God accepts all of us who believe in Christ Jesus and so let’s accept one another. Let’s think deeply on what is an indisputable matter and a disputable matter. If it’s truly an indisputable matter, be inflexible. There is only one God and that God reveals himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. Love the Lord with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Be inflexible on those indisputable teachings. But, if it’s a disputable matter, be flexible. God sacrificed for us so we can be a sacrificial community. Speak your mind on disputable matters, but don’t attack others for speaking their minds on disputable matters. As Christians we have a heavenly vision, and disputable matters become a stumbling block when we talk about disputable matters in the same way we talk about gospel truths. In heaven we will all be one happy family of God. There will be only one church, and we won’t be disputing disputable matters. With God’s help, let’s get a head start on the life to come by sticking to the truth of God’s Word and accepting others who think and live differently than we do when it comes to disputable matters. Amen.