Bible Text: Romans 12:9-21, Hebrews 10:19-25 | Preacher: Rev.M. | Series: The Gospel According to Lego | This morning we are continuing in our current sermon series for September, “The Gospel According to Lego”, where we are looking at our faith through the lens and perspective of one of the most popular children’s toy that has inspired generations of people to new heights of creativity. LEGO building blocks have been enjoyed and enriched the minds of countless people of all ages, races, genders, and abilities.
Last week we talked about how each piece has a place. We talked about how every single person has a place and purpose within the church, and that sometimes that place and purpose changes with the different seasons of our own lives, as well as the life of the church. We also focused on how sometimes it takes the observations of another person to help us identify just where that place is for us, what purpose God may have waiting for us to grasp.
So, this morning, staying in this theme of looking at faith through the lens of the LEGO toys, we will be focusing on the idea of being a connector. In 1958 the current LEGO stud-and-tube coupling system was patented. That system has added so much stability and functionality, that it has withstood over 60 years. The original design, which will still work with the LEGO bricks today I might add, did not have the tube part that helps to hold the bricks together better. That design feature was added later as a way to add stability and a more secure connection.
In our second Scripture reading for this morning we have heard a section of the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans, or rather the churches in Rome. Paul’s epistle was meant to explain to the people that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not only the longest of the Pauline epistles, but it is also considered by most biblical scholars and theologians to be Paul’s most important theological legacy.
In this section of text Paul gives many instructions to his readers including to show real love and not some kind of pretend love, to hate evil and hold on to what is good, to love each other as members of your family. Paul tells his readers to be enthusiastic and to be on fire in the Spirit as they serve the Lord. He tells them to be happy in their hope, to stand their ground when they are in trouble, and to devote themselves in prayer.
Paul goes on to instruct the people about contributing to the needs of God’s people, how to treat strangers, how to treat those who harass you, how they should consider everyone as equal and not to think that they are better than anyone else. He even talks about to them about revenge and how they should not seek it against those who have hurt them. And Paul ends this whole section with the words, “Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.” Those are some powerful words. A long list of instructions, including some that may have and still seem impossible, but a very powerful ending none the less.
Now it is important to remember that these are not the Ten Commandments handed down to the leader of Israel from on top the great mountain. But I would argue that these twenty-two or so instructions may be almost as important to our faith. The Ten Commandments were rules for the people to follow, as part of the covenant with God to be God’s people and to live as God had wanted for humanity. The Ten Commandments were the groundwork for what was to come later on. But these twenty-two instructions from Paul…well they served a slightly different purpose.
At the time of Paul’s writing, the people of Israel had been following their laws for a very long time. But these were not the laws that Paul gave them. Instead these were almost something of a “How-To” manual for the early Christians. These were things that Paul wanted the early church to do and to follow because it was important for them to establish themselves as God’s people, to live lives that reflected the teachings of Jesus. They needed to show the world that they were different because of their faith, because of the God they believed in and worshiped.
And not to show that as to make themselves above or better than others. Paul already told them not to do that in verse sixteen when he wrote, “Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else.” No, instead the intention was to show people that there was another way, the way of Jesus Christ, the way of salvation, the way of love. By living their lives as Paul instructs them here, the people would be beacons of God’s love and grace to the world for all to bear witness to.
And if we look at our first reading for this morning from the Epistle of Hebrews, we find something in a similar vein. Now really quick, before we jump into that I want to point out something about Hebrews. So originally, the Epistle to the Hebrews was included in the collected writings of the Apostle Paul. In fact, if you were to go back to the late second-century or early third-century codex, there you would find a volume of Paul’s general epistles, including Hebrews coming immediately after Romans.
However, after a long period of debate and research, the evidence against Pauline authorship of this epistle is considered too solid for scholarly dispute. In truth, we do not know who the real author was. And there are some scholars who believe that this work was a deliberate forgery that was done with the intention to be passed off as a work of Paul. There are still a few theologians who still believe that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, like R.C. Sproul, but they are in the minority.
But, back to the passage, we find this section of text in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible with the header “A Call to Persevere”. The author states that “since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
The author continues with the assertation to, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I think we can see why, at least at one point in time, people may have thought Paul wrote this letter as these words seem to fit in with many of his teachings, especially what we find in Romans.
Think of what our world would be like today if we all followed these instructions that Paul has laid out. And I don’t mean follow them like paying lip service, but really followed them and were sincere and passionate about it. What would our world look like if we showed real love to others, never pretending? What would our world look like if we loved each other like members of our own family, including the poor and the homeless, the broken and the lost, the oppressed and downtrodden, the abused and the fallen?
What would our world look like if we showed honor to each other? If we did hesitate to be enthusiastic and were instead on fire in the Spirit as we served the Lord? If we were happy in our hope, if we devoted ourselves to prayer? If we contributed to the needs of God’s people, and not just dropped off some food at the local food bank or wrote our checks to the local missions? What if we really, and I mean really, embraced that idea of contributing to the needs of God’s people?
Can you imagine a world where we considered everyone as equal to ourselves, and didn’t think that we were better than anyone else? A world where we associated with people who have no status? A world where people didn’t pay back each other for evil actions with their own evil actions, and instead showed respect for what everyone else believes is good? A world where we are not defeated by evil, but rather we fight against and defeat evil with good?
When I think of what that world might look like, I have to admit I struggle. I struggle because that idea of our world is so foreign at times, just turn on the local evening news or go on social media. We live in a world where sin and evil seem to run rampant and out of control, even seemingly encouraged. Rumor, deceit, hatred, oppression – these are the tools and weapons of evil, the same evil that Paul has called us to defeat with good. So, what are our weapons? Where are our tools in this fight?
Well for starters we have those twenty-two instructions that Paul offers. We also have God’s love and grace. We have the forgiveness that was secured for us by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now I cannot speak for everyone, but I would say that those are some pretty powerful tools, wouldn’t you? And where does this fight against evil begin? Where is the battlefield that we are called to? Well, just look around you. You are there now and every day.
Both Paul in these instructions, and Jesus throughout his ministry, have called us to be connectors to others and God. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the coupling system, if you will, that adds the stability to hold the bricks of faith together, that helps us to be the connectors. The key though is that we have to be willing to listen for when God calls us to this work. We have to be willing to follow the call that God places before us – to be connectors.
It is not always easy work. In fact, when faced with the sin and evil and atrocities that occur in our world, it can feel and be overwhelming. How can we conquer such evil? How can we stand up against all of it? I think we need to remind ourselves, and each other, that with God all things are possible. And there is nowhere in this world that God will call you to that God is not already there and always has been. We are never alone, but always surrounded with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.