A Deacon’s Sermon on Philemon

One of the great blessings I have is to work with deacons and vicars (student pastors) who grow in their ability to share the cross of Christ and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I love working with them over the Bible text, and helping them develop their sermons.

This sermon is by one of those guys,  Deacon Michael Grobelch, a man willing to sacrifice time with family and his home church to serve alongside of me, going out to fill in as needed when pastors are unable to. This one will challenge you, and how you react to the love of God…

May the meditation of our hearts and the words of my mouth be acceptable to you O Lord, My Rock and my Redeemer! Amen!

Think back to your wedding day, the apple of you eye stands across from you and becomes your spouse, and you heart fills with unspeakable joy and happiness. Then one day you find out that the one you love, that you trust; betrays you by sleeping with someone else. Your anger reaches biblical proportions; you want to strike out at the cause of you humiliation and your pain. You feel betrayed, stabbed in the back; the bond of trust is broken; never being able to reach that level ever again.

You and your spouse enter counseling and after a period of time, after much prayer, and after many sessions with your pastor; he says to you: You need at take your spouse back; to forgive them; to love them once more.

Every fiber of your being screams out “No, I’ll never do that!” You tell him that “You don’t know what you are asking me to do; God doesn’t know what He is asking me to do”! He doesn’t understand what it means to be betrayed.

God doesn’t understand what it is like to be betrayed? Really?

What about where Judas betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver; the man who for the last three years had been his friend; his mentor, his teacher; and for a few paltry dollars gives up the Creator.

Or what about when Peter, St. Peter, denies Jesus three times, before the rooster crows. Peter abandoned Him, and acted as if He was some common criminal.

Or what about you and I, we betray God each and every time we sin; we go against His will. Every day we betray Jesus, we mock him just like the soldiers did; only we do it in more subtle ways or so we think. Every time we have an impure thought, either when we look at a woman on the street (us guys) or when we read those romance novels and let our imagination run wild (you ladies) we betray God and the order that He has set.

We betray God when we gossip about the plans the church leadership has in place or we gossip against the leaders themselves. God has put these leaders in authority over you and over me and we are obligated to follow as long as they  do not stray from the Word of God. Yet we still rebel like little children when we don’t get our way; we threaten to go home with our bat and ball and be done with the whole mess. Yet God has called each and every one of us here for a reason a purpose.

So how could God call on us to take back that cheating spouse; to try and rebuild those bonds of trust that were broken with a single act? God does know about betrayal and He certainly know about the intense feelings that are the result of being betrayed for He Himself was betrayed her on earth.

I think God’s purpose in sending Onesimus back to Philemon was twofold. The first was to restore Onesimus to his proper place – Onesimus was a runaway slave who broke the bond of trust with Philemon when we ran away. By going back, Onesimus could be beaten, stoned, or even killed for his actions. Certainly he would be disciplined and not enjoy the freedoms that he had previously enjoyed. It would be a very long time before Philemon would fully trust him again; there would be the lingering doubt, that little cloud that was always there. It may be months, or even years until Philemon fully trusts Onesimus again. I think we all can relate to those feelings and misgivings that after our earlier example.

That is why I think God’s main purpose is sending Onesimus back is so much for Onesimus’ benefit as it was for more for Philemon’s benefit.

Let’s look at this in a little more detail: when you are betrayed the raw emotions that you experience are, in a word intense. They are so intense that we sometimes lose all perspective and this is where crimes of passion are committed. When this occurs, all of the checks and balances God has put in place are in a moment, thrown out – they are no longer part of the equation and we do or say a thing we’d normally not even contemplate and that compounds the problem of the initial betrayal. Know both sides become emotionally distraught and the problem becomes worse.

God wants Philemon and Onesimus to reconcile with one another; to begin the process of forgiveness; to begin the process of healing. Don’t get me wrong, this process is going to take a while. Some of us hold grudges, and allow that bitter poison to consume us and turn us into something we don’t like or even recognize. But if we are confronted with our sin, and we are confronted with those we hurt, and we see the width and breadth of the damage we caused to the one we loved; we can begin the process of healing; we can begin the process of forgiveness. We find ourselves at the foot of the cross, looking up at the damage our sin has caused to Jesus; and He says I did this for you, even though you betrayed Me. I forgive you, I paid your debt, I paid you bill; what I have is yours. That is what Paul is trying to do with Philemon and Onesimus; he is trying to get them to acknowledge their sin and to begin the process of healing and the process of forgiveness for we know that we need to forgive others as God has forgiven us. We are lifted up out of the morass of sin and the bitterness that it causes and God  brings us into His presence and He brings us to His Table where our sins are forgiven; and they are removed from us as far as the East is from the West. We have become co-heirs with Jesus; we are made new again; and we are able to experience the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all understanding; the calmness of body, mind, and soul. Where God heals us, and cares for us. This is what Paul want for both Philemon and or Onesimus, we wants them in the fold, working towards a common goal; to work for God’s plan and not their own designs. He wants them to be at peace, to begin to heal, to begin to forgive and ultimately, to place each other in the hand of God, as equals, as workers in the kingdom, as brothers in Christ until the time that God comes again.

In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on September 8, 2013, in Deacon's Ministry, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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