St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-05-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-05-2019

Off the Rails

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20), Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen


Let’s see how many of these older catchphrases you recognize and tell me where they came from…

I’m lovin’ it! (McDonald’s) It’s the real thing! (Coke) Snap, crackle, pop! (Rice Krispies) Finger lickin’ good! (Kentucky Fried Chicken) They’re magically delicious! (Lucky Charms) Have it your way! (Burger King) If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer. (Old Milwaukee)  They’re GRRREAT! (Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes)

People in the advertising industry spend hours, days, and months coming up with such phrases to attach to products and services. And for their part in the world, it works! They can be used in and across print, audio, and video; they get repeated so frequently that just catching a part of it will remind the hearer or viewer of the whole commercial, and as can be witnessed in my little test, they stick with us and cause a response within us for a long time. (Like… how many of you have a hankerin’ for a burger and a cold beverage right now?)

Now, let’s try these commonly heard selections and see if you can tell me what they’re related to…

I escaped by the skin of my teeth. (Job 19:20) Off to the land of Nod. (Gen. 4:16) At my wits’ end. (Psalm 107:27) We’ve nothing better to do but eat, drink and be merry. (Eccl. 8:15) Feet of clay (Dan. 2:32-34) A fly in the ointment (Eccl. 10:1) A leopard can’t change its spots. (Jer. 13:23) The writing’s on the wall or I can read the writing on the wall. (Dan. 5:5-28) By the sweat of my brow. (Gen. 3:19) A man after my own heart. (1 Sam. 13:14)

(Did you recognize any of these as being from the Bible? Do you realize that they are all from the Bible?) Even though they are all from the Bible, unlike the advertising slogans, they seldom turn our thoughts to their source or the rest of the message that comes with them.

Here’s a few more that, I’ll tell you in advance, are from the Bible…

Walking the straight and narrow. (Matt. 7:14) An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. (Exodus 21:24) God will not give you more than you can bear. (1 Cor. 10:13) All things work for good (Rom. 8:28). You must be born again! (John 3:3)

Even though these are more easily recognized as phrases from the Bible and are commonly used to invoke Biblical thought, they are also among the most misused and misunderstood. And, although they serve their purpose of invoking Biblical thought, those thoughts are often twisted from the original meaning.

With “you must be born again” there is a translation problem that will not come across in English.  The Greek word “anothen” can mean “again” or “from above” (an intentional word play in Jesus’ speech) there is no English word with the same two meanings.

In “all things work for good”, often used as an attempt to comfort those who are distressed, isn’t about God causing distress in our lives to suit His purpose but that all things from God help us through distress when it comes upon us.

In a similar way “God will not give you more than you can bear” isn’t about God afflicting us (in fact the verse actually reads “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” Again, God is not placing the burden but he is helping you through it.

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Now there’s one that gets misused to the extreme when people use it to justify punishment, especially the death penalty. But within the context it speaks not of knocking out teeth and plucking out eyes but of being certain that any punishment is befitting the crime, not exceeding it unjustly.

And, the one about “walking the straight and narrow” speaks more about staying on the difficult path (as opposed to the easy path everyone else is walking) than it speaks of the narrowness of God’s grace as many suppose.

The point, that I hope I’m making, is that our Bible, the foundation of our faith, is more than little bits of catchphrases. It’s GRRREAT! Not because we’re told it’s great but because it explains why it’s great. Unlike the advertising catchphrases, there’s more to it than sound-bites. But like the advertisements, phrases that catch our attention should make us hungry and thirsty for more.

Although, in his time, Jesus didn’t likely hear and see a constant barrage of advertising the way we do today, the use of catchphrases was, no doubt, present. Just look at the number of times he was confronted by the likes of the Pharisees and Scribes who were picking on him with the use of one little verse of scripture. Then look at how many times he countered their attack by drawing in a whole section of Scripture, a more complete story that better explained God’s Word, and the number of parables he told to better clarify the intention of God’s Word.

Jesus’ opponents were those who were focusing on “the strait and narrow” approach to God. They wanted every Jew on their train; riding on their track toward their destination.

But Jesus was broadening the vision of God, God’s Will, and how we can make the journey to there from where we are; a vision that includes all people, Jew and gentile, righteous and sinner, with a purpose of bringing God’s kingdom here, now; as well as entering it in the here – after. Jesus was going off the narrow rails of the establishment to lead those who will follow him on a more fulfilling, more loving, more joyful journey through this life and into the next.

Sadly, in many areas the Church has turned away from Christ’s liberal, inclusive, joyful message and back to the narrowness of the past. Many Church leaders and their denominations are the Pharisees and Scribes of today; the very people Jesus opposed in his life and ministry of inclusion, forgiveness, and grace

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matt. 5:38-39)

That is what Jesus tells us… and that is off the rails.



Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
9:2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
9:3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
9:4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
9:5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
9:6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
9:7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.
9:8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
9:9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
9:10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
9:11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying,
9:12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem;
9:14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.”
9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;
9:16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
9:17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
9:18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized,
9:19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus,
9:20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Psalm 30
30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
30:2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
30:3 O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
30:4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.
30:5 For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
30:7 By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
30:8 To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication:
30:9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
30:10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
30:12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Revelation 5:11-14
5:11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,
5:12 singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
5:13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
5:14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

John 21:1-19
21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius; and he showed himself in this way.
21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.
21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”
21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.
21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.
21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.
21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”
21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.
21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”