Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 7)

Text: Romans 6:4, 11
By our baptism we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. 
You are to think of yourselves as dead, so far as sin is concerned, but living in fellowship with God through Christ Jesus.

A revolution in my life

Throughout the history of the world there have been revolutions. In 1688 a revolution in England saw a rebellion against King James II and the end of the absolute authority of the monarch thus paving the way for a constitutional monarchy as still exists today.

There is the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Cultural Revolution in China, and the Cuban Revolution. There have been revolutions in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe. The ones I have mentioned are mostly political revolutions but there are also social revolutions which instigate a whole new way of thinking about social issues. William Wilberforce led a revolution against slavery. UNICEF reports that some 250 million children worldwide are compelled to work in the labour force often doing work considered totally inappropriate for a child. There is an ongoing revolution to change this situation.

What is a revolution? The word ‘revolution’ means to turn around. There have been revolutions against governments or leaders who have become unjust, cruel and unfair. When the steam engine was invented this brought about a whole new way of doing things using machinery in industry and for transport. Following the Industrial Revolution things were never the same again in our world.

The aim of any revolution is to bring about change; to turn things around with the view of making life easier and happier. Out with the old and in with the new. In 2005 there was the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan that overthrew the increasingly corrupt rule of the president and his family. After being accused of rigging the elections thousands of protestors called for his resignation to make way for a more honest and trustworthy government. The old government was dissolved and a new parliament and president elected.

God is looking for a revolution in our lives, in the life of the church, and in our society. Renewal begins with God and we become agents of renewal – revolutionaries if you like.
Renewal is most needed in our relationships - our relationship to Jesus, the relationships in our families, in the church, with our neighbours.
Renewal is needed in our prayer life.
A revolution is needed in our attitudes to the Bible, to worship, to serving others.
A renewal is required in our witness to the gospel, the sharing of the good news we have come to know and love with those who need to hear that good news.

The revolution in our lives began with our baptism. In those few seconds of our baptism, God was beginning something new in us.
We were made new through receiving the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross.
We received the gift of the Holy Spirit and our lives were renewed and continuous daily revolution was begun. Our whole life was touched with the power of God through water and God's Word and something new and different began.
We may have been very young when we were baptised but that doesn’t change one bit what God did on that occasion. As his chosen people he challenges us to make this revolution a part of our whole lives so that the newness we received through the forgiveness of Jesus affects every moment of life.

The apostle Paul makes this point in his letter to the Romans. In baptism we are joined to Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s as if we were nailed to the cross with Jesus and shared his death. The power of sin to condemn us has been broken. God has stamped "forgiven" across the length of my whole life.
In baptism we join Jesus in the tomb and are raised to life again. We are raised with a new life, a life that is clean, fresh, and pure. A life so different to the one controlled by sin and every evil desire that draws us away from God's presence.

Let me put it another way. I am to look upon my life as though I am no longer connected to the old "sinful me";
that "me" which wants to make myself the centre of my own little world,
that "me" which wants to remove God to the sidelines of life;
the "me" that slaps myself on the back in pride when I do a good turn, expecting every one else to exclaim how good I am.

The apostle Paul says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). "Don't let sin keep ruling your lives" (Romans 6:14).

Out with the old and in with new, Paul is saying. Out with the old, sinful ways and in with the new – the new life that is connected to Christ. When we were baptised a wonderful intimate relationship was established between Christ and us. The New Testament uses the expression "in Christ" or "in union with Christ" (TEV) some 196 times to get across the idea that our lives are joined together with Christ. It is as though we were grafted into Christ's body.

I don't know too much about grafting fruit trees, but I do know that you can graft a branch from one kind of a fruit tree to another, so that the two grow together and literally become one. The main trunk supplies the nourishment, the sap, the life, the vitality for the "graft". That grafted branch is able to produce fruit because of the life that it receives from the trunk.

Jesus emphasises this when he says, "I am the vine you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; you can do nothing without me" (John 15:5). God has placed us in a unique relationship with Jesus through our baptism.

The implications of this intimate connection with Christ are immense. We are to let his thoughts direct our thoughts, his mind control our minds, his concerns be our concerns. We seek to speak and think and act toward others as Jesus did while on earth because we are one with him. And of course, this applies especially to our fellow members of the church who have been "grafted" into Christ with us. We are all part of the same body of Christ. We all share the same intimate connection with Christ. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been involved in the same revolution. We are new creations; the old has gone, the new has come!

This new life in Christ especially shows itself in all our relationships with others whether here at church, at home, at work or with friends. Again and again we need to do a stocktake and reconsider how well Christ in us is affecting the way we treat others.

As soon as we cause division, as soon as our mouth and our actions cause offense and it doesn't matter what kind of justification we might give for our behaviour, we have failed to let the love of Christ influence how we regard other people. For that reason we are continuously faced with renewal and revolution as we repent of our failures and seek to give expression to our oneness with Christ in our every day relationships.

The New Testament frequently talks about this revolution in our lives in terms of wearing clothes that are appropriate for the occasion. Let's say you are invited to some very important function, a function where you would be expected to conform to certain standards of dress. Possible you would say, "I can’t wear just any old thing. I certainly can’t wear what I have on now. I need to go out and buy something new; something more suitable".

The New Testament quite frequently speaks of "putting off" and "putting on" – that is, putting off the old and dirty and putting on the new and clean. The reference is to those qualities of behaviour appropriate for the new life. The implication is that you are now in Christ's company, Christ's presence, Christ's fellowship, therefore put off all such things as evil desire, greed, anger, slander, foul talk and so forth. Put on qualities like kindness, humility, patience, compassion, a forgiving spirit. These latter qualities belong in Christ's company and in your new life. The others don't. Put them to death! They are completely "out of fashion" for wear in the presence of Christ.

Again we are faced with a constant need for renewal and revolution. We love those "old clothes". We love our pet sins too much – much the same way like an old pair of comfortable slippers, and we can't give them up. Listen to what Paul says on this matter, "You must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy" (Eph 4:22-24 CEV).

By now you will realise that we don't do very well in living the new life, putting off the old, turning our lives around to be more like Christ, more like the people whom God has made us in baptism. The revolution is a daily one. Renewal is a continuous event.
Daily we repent, admit that we are too willing to resurrect our old ways.
Daily we are forgiven.
Daily we return to our baptism and are renewed and reoriented.  

God’s revolution in your lives is a lifelong process. With God's help, take a look at your life and work on those areas of your life where you need to grow and be renewed. Daily be renewed through the love and forgiveness of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit seek to live the new life that you received at your baptism. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
22nd June 2008

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