Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Sermon Starters: Dual Citizenship

Preached in chapel at IWU Monday. My assigned text was Philippians 3:17-21.

I. Recap of Philippians
  • Because this is in a series of Monday sermons this semester over Philippians, I decided to start with a recap of the book up to this point.
  • Philippians is a thank you letter. They have sent Paul a care package while he's in jail waiting an appearance before some Roman official. 
  • This is perhaps Paul's dearest church. Galatians gave him problems. Corinthians really gave him problems. Philippians repeatedly sent him help (Paul didn't take aid from a church while he was there).
  • Two chief themes of Philippians: rejoicing in suffering and unity amid squabbling.
  • Rejoice while in jail??? "I have learned to be content whatever my circumstances" (4:12). "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say..." (4:4).
  • Chapter 1: "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain" (1:22). Victor Frankl: "A person can live with any how if they have a why."
  • Chapter 2: heavy on the unity. Have the mind of Christ. Be "one-souled."
  • Chapter 3. Paul digresses into those who might try the congregation to get circumcised and convert to Judaism. He has a good Jewish resume--it's nothing, dung, next to the surpassing greatness of Christ. 
II. The verses of the morning
  • Follow his example.
  • There are enemies of Christ out there: Romans like those who have him in jail, Jews who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah, Christians who believe you have to convert fully to Judaism.
  • Their god is their belly--focus on pleasure? Judaizers and food laws?
  • "But our citizenship is in heaven."
III. Our citizenship is in heaven.
What was in the "bubble" above Paul's head?
A. Jerusalem?
  • fits the theme of Philippians 3
  • Today, we might relate it to visible Christian groups like denominations, local churches, Christian colleges, etc.
  • No visible group equates to the invisible church.
  • Not all Wesleyans are citizens of heaven. Not all IWU students are likely to be citizens of heaven. Not all who attend or are members of College Wesleyan Church are likely to be citizens of heaven.
  • Matthew 13--the wheat and the weeds
B. Roman citizenship?
  • Particularly relevant is the fact that Philippi was a Roman colony. If you were a citizen of the city of Philippi, you were a citizen of Rome, a great honor and privilege.
  • But that's nothin. That's dung next to the surpassing greatness of Christ. Like a drop of water next to the ocean of the greatness of God's kingdom.
  • No earthly group is holy enough to compare to the kingdom of God. No human citizenship is anything but dung next to the surpassing greatness of Christ and his kingdom.
  • On the one hand, there's nothing wrong with being excited about your heritage. I'm a mixture of English, Scottish, Dutch, and German.  I'm an American. My Dad was in WW2. I'm proud to be an American.
  • But we must never come anywhere close to equating such things, such groups--my family, my ethnicity, my country--with the kingdom of God. That's blasphemy.
  • All groups have shame in their story too. "All [groups] have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
  • I'm proud that so far in American history, "The arch of justice is long but it bends toward justice" (MLK). But it took eighty years and a horrible, horrible war to end race slavery. That's shame in the American story. It took a hundred more to allow African-Americans to use the same bathroom and drink from the same water fountain as others There is plenty of shame in the American story, in addition to the things we might boast about. 
  • There is no country, ethnicity, or family that is holy enough to be equated with the kingdom of heaven... not even close.
IV. Dual citizenship
  • How do we live as both citizens of heaven and earth?
  • Never confuse any visible, earthly group with the kingdom based in the heavens.
  • Remember that the kingdom of God is always contextualized. There is no earthly embodiment of the kingdom that is not enculturated (this includes the people of God in Scripture). Love God, love neighbor are principles, but how that looks in a specific context is enculturated.
  • Some guidelines. The kingdom of God is more redemptive than punitive.
  • The kingdom of God is more unifying than dividing.
  • The kingdom of God is more about mutual submission and yielding to others than forcing others.
  • We have to work out these things with prayer and fasting, in community, working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

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