Sermon Series: Normal Is Just A Small Town In Kentucky

 

 “Living In ‘Oddville’ With ‘Peculiar’ People”

(Romans 12:1-2, 19-21)

 

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

      As that little game show opening points out, we have a hard time distinguishing who’s a Christian and who isn’t. It seems that Christians have developed the ability to blend in so well with the rest of society that it’s hard to distinguish us from the rest of the world.

      In the John 15:19, Jesus says, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. . .  you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world . . .”

      Eugene Peterson’s The Message might make that a little clearer. He puts it this way: “If you lived on the world's terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But . . . I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer on the world's terms. . .”

      That leads us to the question: “What is different about your lifestyle? Can people tell whether you are a follower of Christ or not?

      A preacher tells the story that his kids were always asking him to take them out for a treat such as an ice cream soda or pizza or lunch in one of the local restaurants after Sunday School and Worship. But one Sunday he protested and asked: "Where does it say that you kids should always get something to eat and drink right after church?"

      Without batting an eye, his daughter said: “In the Bible, Daddy. Jesus said, 'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.'" (1)

      I’m not exactly sure she got the correct interpretation of that passage but it’s obvious that she was familiar with Scripture. And it’s obvious she learned that Scripture in Church and a Christian home. But why do we bring our kids to Church and teach them the Bible? Why do we concern ourselves with our children’s Christian education and spiritual life?

      Well, I think it’s because we “Live In ‘Oddville’ With ‘Peculiar’ People”.

      Let me read the passage from Romans 12:1-2, 19-21 and maybe you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

 [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.  

 [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.  

      Compared to what the world teaches, if that’s not Odd, then I don’t know what is. If we even half-heartedly attempt to live what Paul writes, we would definitely qualify to live in Oddville, Kentucky and Peculiar, Missouri. Especially when you put them into the context of the reading from 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.”

I. ODDVILLE:

      A.  I tried to find out how and why these towns got their names. Oddville was first settled in 1799 and apparently chose the name in an attempt to satisfy the postal authorities with a unique name when the post office opened in 1851.

      The reason I say that you and I would qualify to live in Oddville is because we are not the “Normal People.” We’re called to be abnormal. Normal is what you see on TV, in the movies, in magazines and in the Reality TV shows. Normal is the big house, fancy car, greedy, bling bling filled, self important, in your face, self centered life of the celebrity that everybody seems to want. Normal is the American Dream on steroids and out of control.

      You and I called to be abnormal. We’re called to live by a different standard. Remember, Jesus said, “I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer on the world's terms. . .”

      B. From the very beginning God's people have been Peculiar and lived in Oddville. While the rest of the world was practicing polytheistic religions God told Abraham that there was just one God.

      While other religions were requiring the sacrifice of the first born child, God lead Abraham and Isaac to the hill of sacrifice and then emphatically said: "No more child sacrifices."

      While other religions were making grand sacrifices to win back the attention of their so called gods, over and over again we are told by God, "I will not leave you or forsake you."

      While other religions leave us to wallow in the stink and filth of our sin, God sent Jesus, His own Son, to take our sin upon Himself and be the last and final blood sacrifice needed to forgive and redeem the sins of the entire world. God did what God told Abraham NOT to do.

      While other religions say life has no meaning and there is nothing beyond death, God reminds us that through Christ Jesus, what He did on the cross and how Jesus rose from the dead, gives us not only the hope but the promise of life eternal with Christ because death has been defeated.

      We are the Abnormal people, the Peculiar people. We live in Oddville.

II. PECULIAR:

      A.  We qualify to live in Peculiar, Missouri, as well. Apparently it got it’s name in a similar fashion as Oddville. In about 1858 the area had gotten big enough to need a post office. The man seeking the town's first postmaster position requested to the United States Post Office Department the name of Excelsior.

      The postmaster wannabe was told that name was already taken in Missouri. So, he chose another name. That name was also taken. This happened 4 more times. "Finally, exasperated, he wrote to Washington and said, 'Listen. We'll take any name. Just send us a name that's a little bit peculiar, and we'll be happy.'"

      The folks in Peculiar learned a very important lesson. Never let the government choose a name. But they seem to be proud of the name, and it stuck.

      So, why do I say we live with Peculiar people? Well, we do and I’m not talking about the little quirks that make us all unique. Because of Christ, we have chosen to live by a different set of rules and a different master. We believe that Loving God with all of our heart soul mind and strength & Loving our Neighbor as ourselves are the highest rules for living. John Wesley would call this Personal & Social Holiness. Jesus simply called it being a Disciple. Paul said: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed”

      B.   So you see, we are a Peculiar People. We are not supposed to be normal. We are called to look at the world with different eyes. And we do. That’s why our mission statement resonates with us so much. “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of world.” And the thing is, with all the pessimism in the world today, we STILL believe that we can transform the world.

      And we’re doing something about it. Friday, when I checked, we have sent over 2,819,321 bed nets to Africa. That’s 2,819,321 children who won’t die from malaria or measles because when the United Nations and World Health Organization deliver the nets, the kids also get a measles vaccine, they are given Vitamin A and de-worming medicine. Texas United Methodists have purchased and delivered well over 900,000 of those bed nets. A friend of mine, a former youth director, was on the team which took 855,000 bed nets to Cote d’Ivoire.

      We’re a Peculiar People because we think we can Transform the world by saving lives.

      B.   Wednesday night, my wife Mary, Carly Payne, Bonna and Elaine all went to hear the Hope for Africa Children’s Choir perform and give testimony. These 5 -11 year old children have hope for the very first time. Oddly enough, peculiar people like us helped them discover that hope through Jesus Christ. Their lives ARE being transformed. And as disciples of Jesus Christ, they will, in turn, continue to transform the world for God’s Kingdom. (Watch)

CONCLUSION:

      Leadership Magazine had a great story about a pastor visiting a church service. He wrote: "It was one of those mornings when the tenor didn't get out of bed on the right side of the sheet music. As I listened to his faltering voice, I looked around. People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist.

      "By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn. And by the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range. And by the fourth verse, it was beautiful. And on the fifth verse the congregation was absolutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beautiful solo of his life. (2)

      The normal thing would have been to try and not be embarrassed or turn to our neighbor and make  a snide comment about coming back when he got a tune up.

      But luckily that church was “Living In ‘Oddville’ With ‘Peculiar’ People” and they exhibited what life in the body of Christ is supposed to be, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us to be best of our abilities.

      In other words, we’re called to “Live In ‘Oddville’ With ‘Peculiar’ People” and be “Odd For God.”

      When we live like Christ, the world says we’re ODD. The world says we’re PECULIAR. That’s OK, because whether they know it or not, they are just echoing what the Apostle Peter says. “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.” We are actually fulfilling what Paul encouraged us to do: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.”

      And we are simply living how Jesus told us to live when he said: “I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer on the world's terms. . .”

      The challenge is to “Be Odd 4 God” and “live on God's terms and not the world's terms so we can transform the world.”

 

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

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Bibliography

1.    AutoIllustrator

2.    John H. Unger, Brandon, Manitoba. Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 4.