“God IS In The Ordinary”

(Romans 12:1-2, 9-21)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

      Have you ever noticed how people see things differently? For example, three people, a minister, a geologist and a cowboy, were all getting their very first view of the vastness of the Grand Canyon. As the minister approached the viewing rail he was heard to say, “Whoa, this has to be one of the most beautiful examples of the handiwork and glory of God!" The Geologist was equally as stunned and commented, "Wow! What a wonderful example of the creative process of nature all outlined before your very eyes in the various strata.”

      The cowboy just shook his head and said, "Can you imagine trying to find a lost steer in there?" People definitely see things differently. [1]

      Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at “Seeing God In The Ordinary.” We’ve definitely seen God in the ordinary places of life because “God IS In The Ordinary.” God is in the middle of the storm in the midst of tragedy, can be seen in the lives of others, our family, our friends, even in our work.

      “God IS In The Ordinary.” We’ve also discovered that God expects us to be instruments of letting others see God in the ordinary aspects of life. And one of the tools we can use for fulfilling that mission is John Wesley’s “3 Simple Rules.” It could be argued that there are three tools but they are so intricately woven together that they really form one tool. Those rules ARE simply to say but often hard to carry out. The rules are: “Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.” Let’s look at the passage for today which, in Paul’s way, talks about all three.

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

 [1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
[2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
[9] Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
[10] love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
[11] Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
[12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
[15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
[16] Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
[17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
[18] If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
[20] No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads."
[21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

      I think those verses can be summarized in Wesley’s three rules: “Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.” Let’s look at those three rules in the context of this passage.

 

I. DO NO HARM:

      A.  Let’s look at “Do No Harm” first. That seems simple enough doesn’t it? People do it all the time even in the most difficult of times. In Elmer Bendiner's book, The Fall of Fortresses, he describes one bombing run over the German city of Kassel: “His B-17 (The Tondelayo) was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That wasn’t unusual, but on this occasion their gas tanks were hit. Later, as he reflected on the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, the pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told him it wasn’t quite that simple.

      On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask the crew chief for the shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but eleven had been found in the gas tanks. Eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast them out of the sky. Even after thirty-five years, the event was so awesome that it leaves the author shaken, especially after he heard the rest of the story.

      Bohn had been told that the shells had been sent to the armory to be defused. The armory told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They couldn’t say why at the time, but Bohn eventually discovered the answer. Apparently when the armory workers opened each of those shells they didn’t find any explosive charge. The shells were clean as a whistle and just as harmless.

      Empty? Not all of them. One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured the base for until they found someone who could decipher the note which read: “This is all we can do for you now.” [2]

      That’s the heart of Wesley’s rule and idea of “Do no harm.”

      B.   The problem is that we understand what it means to “Do no harm.” And for the most part, I think most of us try to live like that. It’s sort of a reverse or negative version of the Golden Rule. We try to live by this rule but what happens when someone else doesn’t live by that rule and harms us either purposely or by accident. What should we do?

      I know you’ve probably seen the Nationwide Insurance commercial which played during the Olympics. Mary and I nearly fell in the floor laughing when we saw it.

      In the commercial, a young man scrapes the side of an older couple’s car. He jumps out and starts apologizing profusely, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” The sweet looking older lady shoves the door of her car into the young man saying, “Forgive you? I’ve got your forgiveness right here.” She smacks him with her purse three or four times shouting, “How’s that for forgiveness.”

      As an appalled young women watches, this woman’s husband holler’s, “Hit him in the head Rose.” She does and then just keeps whaling away at him with that purse while the voice of the announcer talks about “Nationwide’s accident forgiveness.” [3]

      As funny as that commercial is it begs the question “What should we do?”

II. DO GOOD:

      A.  That brings us to Mr. Wesley’s 2nd rule: “Do Good!” As Christians we know what that means. We know how to do good. We know how to feed the hungry and help the poor. We know how to open our doors to the stranger. We know how to heal and help and teach and preach and feed and lead. But, for the most part, we fail in the one area that Christians and Christianity should be most noted for. What is it? Forgiveness.

      This is the one area we always seem to fall the shortest in our Christian Walk. We hear the preacher talking about forgiving those people who have hurt us and we think, “You tell them preacher.” We think the message is aimed at someone else and relish the fact that the preacher is calling them on the carpet. In our minds we name them all. But we never let the words enter and penetrate our own heart and soul.

      So, we continue to harbor hard feelings toward each other. And the sad truth is we do it to family. We do it to friends and at work. And worst of all we do it here, in the church.

      I’m not sure but when Wesley wrote “Do no harm.” I’m pretty sure he was talking about to others, but it could also apply to us. Because every time we hold a grudge, every time we fail to forgive, we harm ourselves. And every time we fail to forgive in the life of the church, we not only harm ourselves but we wound and harm the body of Christ.

      B.   I believe that the most Good we can do in the world, in the church and in our own spiritual lives is to Forgive. It’s also the hardest thing we have to do in the world, in the church and in our own spiritual lives. There is nothing in the world which is harder than forgiving those who have harmed us in one way or another.

      Nor is there any attitude and action which is more important for the world to see modeled in and through both us and the Church, than the attitude of Forgiveness. How will they know how to forgive if they’ve never seen it modeled in us?

      Wesley said, “Do No Harm! Do Good!” I think the best “Good” we can do is simply to begin living the life of Forgiveness we’ve been forgiven to live. When we do, it helps us fulfill the third rule.

III. STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD:

      A.  That third rule is: “Stay In Love With God.” The best way to “Stay In Love With God” is to be obedient like a loving child. Being obedient means reaching out to those who have “Harmed” us and forgiving them. You see most people are seeking forgiveness and want to know they can be forgiven.

      Tyler Perry is a writer and director who is probably best known for the TV show House Of Payne. His plays and movies all have a deeply religious undertone and message to them. Coupled with a different view of Black America, Perry has wrestled with overcoming stereotypes and dealing with very real issues like cross racial relationships or fidelity and infidelity with both humor and faith like in “Why Did I Get Married.”

      “The Family That Preys, (spell it), the newest Perry film, just opened in theaters but like so many of the top movies, clips and study guides have been made available to churches and Christian groups. In this clip we hear one of the main characters played by Kathy Bates, voices a question which is on more hearts than we know.

      She asks, “Alice, do you think God forgives us all our previous sins?” Alice then tells her, that’s why Jesus came.

      That is why Jesus came. Jesus came to offer forgiveness to all who would follow him. That was His purpose. But there’s a condition to that forgiveness that we don’t like to hear. It’s something Jesus was pretty clear about. If we accept the forgiveness of God through Christ then we are called to forgive those who have sinned against us or Harmed us.

      Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Forgive me with the same measure of forgiveness which I have used in my relationship with others. It’s tough but it’s part of the deal. Besides, we don’t have to do it alone. Jesus promised to be with us to offer His strength and his might to the struggle.

      B.   An admirer once asked Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, what was the hardest instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied: "Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that's a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony." [4]

       You and I are called to play second fiddle to Christ. When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior and accept the forgiveness He offers, we give ourselves to Him. We are no longer our own but His. Jesus comes first, not us. We’re called to play second fiddle to Christ because when we do, when we push aside our feelings and seek only to let Christ shine through, a wave of harmony emanates. And when the world sees and hears that harmony they are drawn closer to God through Christ.

      Forgiving others is one of the ways we play second fiddle. And playing second fiddle is one of the ways we stay in love with God. Our purpose is to be a part of the symphony of God’s grace. But every time we are unforgiving it’s like the blare of a fog horn in the middle of a Brahms lullaby.

      We are called to “Stay In Love With God” not cause disharmony.

CONCLUSION:

      I was reading the theological section of the paper the other day and ran across a Ziggy cartoon that I really liked. Ziggy is watching TV and the announcer says: “In a surprising development today, good triumphed over evil.” [5]

      The Good News is the through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, Good did triumph over evil once and for all. Evil just hasn’t given up. You and I are called to be Ambassadors for Christ. And we do that not only with the witness of our voices but we do it with the witness of our actions. How we treat one another in the church tells others how they can expect to be treated.

      That’s why Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect. . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

      That’s why John Wesley gave us Three Simple Rules: Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. Show the world your love affair with God. Let them see that love through the Harm you don’t do, through the Good you do through Forgiveness. Let the world know God is right smack dab in the middle of the ordinary everyday world offering that forgiveness to everyone.

 

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

 

End Notes

 



[1] (Sermons.com Dynamic Preaching)

[2] (Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, 1983)

[3] Nationwide Insurance Commercial

[4] (Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, 1983)

[5] (Wilson) Sept 9, 2008

 

 

Bibliography

 

(n.d.). Retrieved from Sermons.com Dynamic Preaching: http://www.sermons.com

Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651. (1983, June).

Wilson, T. (n.d.). Ziggy. Ft. Worth Star Telegram .

 

 

Other References Consulted