Sermon Series: Paul

8/13 - 11/20/2022

Paul

There are so many rich themes found in the letters that are attributed to the Apostle Paul. It is clear from the tone of each text: Paul certainly lacks no sense of urgency or conviction! This man is someone to whom we can look as we strive to follow Christ, while also recognizing the realities of life. Paul was no stranger to suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Amid the temptations of divisions, shallow contentment, or misled teachers, Paul boldly reminds his flocks what a life in God’s economy entails: unity, boldness, and defense of the one true Gospel. These themes are the bedrock for not only Paul’s mission as a devoted follower of Christ and leader of early Christians, but serve as the foundation for us still today. Overall, each of these three themes leads to real transformation.

Everybody loves a story, so we need to tell the story of Paul, weaving into where he was in his writing and his ministry. The chronology makes the story so much more authentic, even shocking. So we will connect the dots of Paul’s life and ministry, dropping down regularly to hear Paul in his letters addressed to the churches in his care.

We will use NT Wright’s chronology of Paul’s ministry. It is as good as any and better than most. It can be found in the back of Wright’s book, Paul.

Messages

11/19 - 11/20/2022 (November 19/20) | No Other Gospel V

The conclusion of the book of Acts provides a glimpse into Paul’s remaining years of life proclaiming the coming kingdom of God and “welcoming everyone who came to see him”. Though throughout his journeys Paul met opposition, strife, and persecution of his own, he was undeterred and unrelenting from his mission – to spread the Gospel to the gentiles, unifying a diverse people in the name of Christ, and teaching that there is no other Gospel. No matter the cost, as Paul writes to Philippi, there is nothing of more surpassing value than to know Christ and be found in him.

11/12 - 11/13/2022 (November 12/13) | No Other Gospel IV

A man named Timothy is a coworker in ministry alongside the apostle Paul, known for being the young apprentice with whom Paul engages in mentorship. In 1Timothy, Paul is greatly concerned with the authentic teachings of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the danger of misinformation of false teachers in his era. Over two millennium, our concern was hardly wavered – are we not still concerned about reality and discerning what is ‘fake news’? This was a rightful concern then, as it is now. What then does the minister, Paul, recommend as attributes when discerning teachings of God? That the work of God would be advanced through sincere faith, a good conscience, and pure heart. Thus, these are qualities for which we can pray! In the whole of Scripture, it is clear that God’s hope for humanity is that we would rightly desire God – above anything and everything else. There is no other Gospel than Christ.

11/5 - 11/6/2022 (November 5/6) | No Other Gospel III

Paul’s journeys are arduous and complicated, as evidenced when he arrives in Jerusalem. There he is met with persecution, in which he is presented before the Sanhedrin to be tried; and he is ultimately arrested. Throughout
it all, Paul’s dedication to the Way, the Gospel of Christ, is grounded in his experience of his conversion which he takes the time to present in speech before crowds of people. It is his very testimony and recalling this conversion that initiates this persecution upon himself. We are to look at Paul and his trial, arrest, and release from prison as an example of what clinging tightly to the Gospel is worth – with God on our side, we never go about the work of the Way alone.

10/29 - 10/30/2022 (October 29/30) | No Other Gospel II

A deeply gratifying experience is to have people in your life in whom you can trust. Of course, Paul tells us that Christ is our hope and is worthy of our steadfast trust forever. But in addition, like us, Paul has confidants and trusted partners in whom he refers to throughout his letters. When concluding his text to Romans, Paul takes the time to thoughtfully thank them in appreciation, and send onward his greeting of grace and peace. Among those listed are prominent women: Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, and Junia, among others. The radicality of this gesture lies within the historical context of 1st century AD in the Greco-Roman empire: a place and time in which women were treated without any respect, dignity, equality, or worth. The choice that Paul makes when entrusting Phoebe, a leader in the church as a deacon whom he calls ‘sister’, to carry his long letter to the Romans is no small task. Paul refers to Priscilla as a coworker in Christ Jesus. What does this mean for the Christian movement? It takes all of us. Diverse people, united in mission.

10/22 - 10/23/2022 (October 22/23) | No Other Gospel I

The best part about a team is that each individual member brings something unique to the collective whole for the purpose of advancing toward the team’s goal. Paul’s writings serve to spread this idea in the early Christian faith as he encourages the hearers of his letter to the Romans to not only discern their individual gifts (given graciously to them by God), but moreover to put them in action. Here, ‘the team’ is the body of Christ. As Paul has written before, a key element of his ministry is focused on unifying a diverse group of people, to advance the mission given to him by Christ. How can one ever endure this mission if they are lost in conforming to the (fleeting, faulted, and frail) pattern of this world...no, rather we must be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds” as he writes in Romans 12:2!

10/15 - 10/16/2022 (October 15/16) | Unity and Diversity in God's Kingdom V

Paul’s writings often reflect the high expectations that God has for God’s people. Through Jesus Christ, the
invisible God is made visible, as Paul writes in Colossians 1:15. Since the beginning, God has been about the business of reconciling us back to God, in loving-kindness. But now, in a new way, Paul highlights the crucial role Jesus has in this mission . . . and the supremacy of the Son of God, as he describes, is far beyond our wildest dreams. In Jesus, who is both fully God and fully man, we are given the example of the actions and attributes of a life in right relationship with God. Paul correctly treats this with the intensity it deserves – by writing in his letter to Colossae the ways in which maturity in Christ is not only ideal, but expected. In fact, this maturity will yield real transformation, by growing in our relationships, movements, and conversations so that our very existence serves as a pointer to the Light of Light, true God of true God.

10/8 - 10/9/2022 (October 8/9) | Unity and Diversity in God's Kingdom IV

Paul spends considerable time imprisoned in Ephesus during his third journey and writes several letters preserved in the NT, including the letter to the Philippians. A couple of things are clear from the letter. First, Paul is clearly very close to the Philippians; they hold a special place in his heart. Second, he thinks his end may be near and writes in that context. So, he urges the Philippian believers toward genuine Christ-likeness, esp. in the prelude to the Christ-hymn of 2:8-11. To have the same mind as Christ, which was revealed in Jesus’ humility and obedience . .
. “to death, even death on a cross.” This leads us to the second passage from later in the letter. Here, Paul reminds the Philippians that everything . . . everything . . . even what we value most in life . . . falls away in comparison to knowing Christ, for this knowing is unsurpassable. What does this say about the priorities in our lives?

10/1 - 10/2/2022 (October 1/2) | Unity and Diversity in God's Kingdom III

We continue in 1 Corinthians, and it is Communion Sunday, so an obvious Scripture choice is to comment on
the abuses laid out 1 Corinthians 11 and note the already-formed traditions in 11:23-26. This is the oldest writing
we have on the Lord’s supper. 1 Corinthians 13 has become such an oft-used wedding piece, we’d almost think
that was the occasion for its writing. It was not. The Corinthians have an over-spiritualized understanding of the Christian life, so Paul urges them to remember all the spiritual gifts they might claim pale next to the gift of love. Even a quick reading of the chapter reveals that even this theology is eschatological for Paul, looking ahead to the day when love will be complete. For a Wesleyan, love is where we begin to understand the nature of God and his work in this world.

9/24 - 9/25/2022 (September 24/25) | Unity and Diversity in God's Kingdom II

It is easy to miss the transition from Paul’s 2nd journey to his 3rd in Acts 18 (verses 22 & 23). During the course
of this 3rd journey (map), Paul writes several letters to Christian communities he founded, including the house churches in Corinth, where a plethora of issues and problems have arisen. Not surprisingly Paul begins the letter we know as 1 Corinthians with a call for unity (1:10-17). It will not be the last time Paul urges unity in this long letter. Further, Paul also urges the Corinthians to remember that the cross reveals God’s power and wisdom, set against the views of the world. This is, in part, why it is so hard for us to remain united and lift up the enduring truths of God’s work set forth in the pages of Scripture. The Gospel is profoundly counter-cultural; it is the world turned upside-down.

9/17 - 9/18/2022 (September 17/18) | Unity and Diversity in God's Kingdom I

We return to Paul’s second journey and two pivotal stops. In Athens, Paul preaches to the intellectual heart of
the Greco-Roman world, in terms that will speak to them. He tells them about one true God and that the time for judgment has come. And the proof? The resurrection of Jesus. Some wanted to hear more, some sneered. Much like 2022. Paul goes on to Corinth, where he spends eighteen months and meets Priscilla and Aquila, who will become early leaders in the church. Paul set up his tent-making business alongside theirs, working with them and “reasoning” in the synagogue every Sabbath “trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4). And how did he reason? From the Hebrew scriptures outward to Jesus. Just as we are called to sit down today and reason together about our differences, on the basis of the authority of Scriptures. As usual, once it became too difficult with the Jews in Corinth, Paul went on to preaching to the Gentiles.

9/10 - 9/11/2022 (September 10/11) | Growing With Christ V

Paul was not only the founder of many Christian communities, he continued to be their “senior pastor,” writing back to them and even visiting some on later trips. One such community is Thessalonica, where there had been trouble with some of the Jews in the city who had rejected Paul’s message. 1 and 2 Thessalonians are early letters (AD 50/51) written not long after Paul’s first visit. 1 Thessalonians opens with a lengthy thanksgiving (1:2-10) for the faithful disciples, who had become imitators of Paul and Jesus. Paul commends them to all of Achaia (the Greek mainland south of Macedonia), for their faith has become known everywhere (1:8). May the same be true of us! 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 is one of many calls from Paul for the believers to “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings” Paul had passed on to them (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

9/3 - 9/4/2022 (September 3/4) | Growing With Christ IV

Paul’s 2nd journey cements his mission to the Gentiles, as he travels through Asia Minor and then across into Macedonia and Greece. He continues to found new communities of believers. Early on, he meets Timothy who becomes one of Paul’s most important associates. In Philippi, Paul meets Lydia, who embraces the Gospel. Always on the move, Paul is chased out of Thessalonica and embraced in Berea. In Corinth, Paul meets Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, who become leaders in the early church. In all this, we see the Holy Spirit at work: sending Paul westward (Acts 16:6-10), opening hearts to the truth of the Gospel, gathering new leaders, even springing Paul and Silas from jail in Philippi (16:16-40). The Spirit will not be held back, instead pressing Paul ever forward. The work of the Spirit continues in us all even now.

8/27 - 8/28/2022 (August 27/28) | Growing With Christ III

Galatians is perhaps the earliest of Paul’s letters in the NT. Written to Christian communities in central Asia Minor, between his first and second missionary journeys. The letter reveals that these churches have significant problems, even falling prey to those spreading a pseudo-Gospel. Paul writes with a strong edge – for what could matter more than this spreading of the Good News. Not surprisingly, Paul’s touches on the three themes in this series, as will most of this letter: stay true to the authentic Gospel, remain unified as the reborn people of God, and grow in Christ-likeness, i.e., in the fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us all.

8/20 - 8/21/2022 (August 20/21) | Growing With Christ II

Emerging from fifteen years being readied to be the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul and his traveling companion, Barnabas, make a trip into Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. Luke lets us listen on Paul the preacher as he speaks first to a gathering of Jews and God-fearers. Paul begins with the story of the Exodus and brings it forward to Jesus, through whom everyone is set free from sin, a righteousness that could not be obtained through the Law
of Moses (13:39).

8/13 - 8/14/2022 (August 13/14) | Growing With Christ I

What a surprising God we worship. Who would guess that God would become incarnate with the humblest of beginnings? Who would guess that this same God would choose a zealous Pharisee, an ardent persecutor of Jesus’ earliest followers to carry the Good News to the Gentile world? But God did just that. The persecutor Saul becomes the apostle Paul, traveling the Roman Empire to begin colonies of a new human race, those who put their faith in Jesus and were, consequently, reborn.

All Series

More Than Conquerors
5/14 - 6/19/2022
In the early first century, culturally speaking, everything was positioned around the idea that a nation ought to expand and conquer to accumulate power and influence. In this way, the movement that began with Jesus was positioned well to be a religion that was focused on going out in the world, spreading its message to new nations, and converting others to this system of beliefs. The world was primed for a religious movement that would respond to the great commission, and in effect, go forth and conquer. Yet, the church was not about conquering. It did not hope to extinguish and assimilate every other person and culture. Instead, the early church grew on the basis that it had the ability to universally speak to the human condition of brokenness and offer hope and promise in the wake of that very condition. The church would be more than the conquerors. Everyone was coming to believe in the promise of God. The Gospel reached into different cultures, differently idioms and languages altogether. In this message, they preached and believed that Jesus would return again, and would return again sooner rather than later. Nobody could have fathomed the idea that 2000 years into the future, we would still be waiting on this return. They were teaching each other lessons and lifting each other up in the hopes that they would be alive to see the grand return. However, those lessons taught have a practicality that transcends any time period. In growing over this time, the church moved beyond the disciples. What was once an effort of individuals and leaders who had all had direct connections to, and conversations with, the risen Lord now transitioned to a movement of different ages, nations, and races of converted believers who had simply heard the Good News of the Gospel. They would lean on their own spiritual experiences of the divine rather than tangible interactions with God Incarnate. What will leadership look like in this new Church? Who can be a part of this faith movement? What will be required to participate? Most importantly, how do those messages speak to us today?
Appeared
4/23 - 5/8/2022
Easter has come, Christ has been resurrected. We have enjoyed the big celebrations, the Easter egg hunts, and the family meals, but we forget that there was more than an empty tomb after Christ was resurrected. There were more visits than the brief encounter of the women in the garden. A fully resurrected Christ is a free Christ. Jesus could have gone anywhere and done anything after the resurrection, and yet he chose to search for the disciples. Jesus sought out the ones who abandoned and failed him more than anyone else. The ones who swore loyalty disappeared. The ones who followed in his footsteps for three years turned their backs on the suffering Savior. The ones who pledged to help transform the world abandoned the mission in fear and shame. Yet the story of the cross and resurrection is true for each of us through the power of God’s grace: we are more than our worst moments. The worst thing is never the last thing. What might those disciples have been feeling after the cross? Can you imagine the deep silence between them? The shared knowledge of their failures? The unrelenting question: “What now?” Brene Brown defines shame as “an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.” It is not hard to imagine the deep shame of these disciples, one that each of them knew intimately and yet did not want to name. Shame assigns identity based on our worst moments. It thrives on secrecy. It is “the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal we’ve not lived up to, or a goal we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection” (Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart, 137). We see over and over again in the Gospels and Acts scenes of redemption and healing through God’s grace. Jesus could have chosen to abandon the ones who left him at the cross, who pretended they did not even know him, to start from scratch with better disciples. Yet in God’s infinite grace and unrelenting love, the disciples were chosen for connection, relationship, and entrusted with the mission of Christ. Jesus confronts their failures head on. This is the Christian story: our deepest shame is redeemed and we are transformed into world-changing disciples