Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Terry Hidichuk 

Text: Romans 12: 1-8

There is something scary about the word: therefore.

Not a heart in your throat,
Knee-knocking scary.
But an OMG, did she really say that kind of scary.

Therefore is scary word because it requires response and there are consequences.

A mother says her young son: okay, want a new bicycle but you will have to pay for it therefore you will cut the grass every Saturday morning for the entire summer.

The father says to his eighteen year old daughter. You can have the keys to the car therefore I expect you to drive carefully, always be the designated driver, and put gas in the tank.

Therefore is the sound of the other shoe falling.

A young couple, both in their wedding clothes, excited nervous:
he anxious about getting the vows the right,
she worried that Uncle Charlie would have too many drinks before he offers the toast to the bride.
They stand at the altar: a symbol of both sacrifice and thanksgiving and hear the words….

Therefore what God has joined together let no one put asunder.

In that moment they have no idea of what therefore will come to mean.
The years will come and go and show them.

Therefore is a scary word.

As Walter Brueggemann, tells us… whenever you see “therefore” in the Bible you better duck.

Well: starting ducking because here it comes….

In this morning’s epistle reading from the 12th chapter to the letter to the Romans Paul says…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship.


In the first eleven chapters, Paul announces God’s radical grace.
In chapter 12, Paul changes gears.
In the first eleven chapters Paul shows God’s mercy, God’s grace, Christ’s love.

Nowhere is this better described than in those words found in the eighth chapter…

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything in all creation would be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8: 38-39 

Eleven chapters that point the way to grace
Eleven chapters that show us the mercies of God
The love of Christ…
And then the other shoe drops.

The scariest of words…

Therefore ….brothers and sister be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds…

A response is required to the grace that is given.

The mercies of God, the grace and the love of Christ should make you different

God’s grace should transform

                                                Change us.


It should matter to our behavior and our ethics.

This is radical stuff…

I hear the word therefore
I sit up at the edge of my seat, my spine stiffens.
Therefore I am compelled to respond to God’s mercies.
To do something bold and dramatic.
I am expecting to be sent into the world to become a hero of the faith, whatever the cost….

And with the Psalmst I sing…

Then will I go unto the altar of God,

unto God my exceeding joy:

yea, upon the harp will I praise thee,

O God my God. 

And with Isaiah I say…

Here I am send me. 

Therefore Paul says…
And I am both scared and pumped…


Well maybe if I heard those words for first time.
But like you, for me they old and familiar like a pair of slippers you put on at the end of a long day.
I’ve read Romans: you read Romans…
We heard it all before.

 Therefore ….brothers and sister be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds…


What Paul is asking isn’t really that extraordinary.
After Paul’s grand words about transformation and renewal, there are familiar words about gifts…
Being compassionate
And cheerful


Same old, same old actually.
Paul’ s stirring call to transformation…leads to what…
teaching bible study…
giving to the Primate’s World Relief Fund…
That’s not earth shattering.
Or even that demanding.

But what if we look at this text through a different lens.

Charles Campbell turns over the rock and pushes us to look at the underside of the text.
He invites look at the text through Paul’s eyes…
Set in the context of the first century Romans world.


The early church especially in Rome was not a happy place where everyone believed the same things and got along wonderfully well.
Christian theology was woven together,
a strand here
A piece there…
A little bit from Greek Philosophy,
A little bit from Rabbinic Judaism.
Woven together in a loosely bound quilt.
Sometimes the pattern was clear, mostly it was cast in the shadows of confusion.


The church was not monolithic in its theology or its make up.

The world of Paul’s church was a world of division.
A world of insiders and outsiders
Jews and Gentiles
Male and female
Slave and free.
It was a world shaped by hierarchies
Some were on top, some on the bottom.
There were winners and there were losers
Some were honoured, others were shamed.


Relationships in Paul’s world were constructed with these divisions and hierarchies. Without them there would be chaos.
Things would have fallen apart.
That is the way the world was.


Our world is no different really that the world of Paul.

We are a world divided by
Sexual orientation


Especially so in this summer,
amid the rockets red glare,
the bombs bursting air,
children getting killed
and passenger jets been blown out of the sky.


It seems like groups have to have outsiders in order to feel good about themselves as insiders.
The church is no exception.


And with the divisions come the hierarchies…
Superior and inferior


In the twelve chapter of the letter to the Romans Paul offers another way for the church
Another image
Paul envisions the church as one body with many gifts.
Paul gives shape to a radical transformation.
He says we are not going to live that old world anymore.
Paul is offering different construct for community.


The church will view people in terms of the gifts of God…what God has given will define community
rather the world’s categories of
honour and shame,
Insider and outsider,
winner and loser.


My good friend Al is fond of saying… the problem with kids today is that everyone gets a trophy:
That is not the way it works in the real world he says…there needs to be winners and losers.
That’s the way the world works.
We’re number one is not just a chant at sporting event, it is a cry that shapes the underlying competition that drives much of our culture.

This is our world…

It is not so different Paul’s world.

But Paul says it does not have to be so.

Paul’s vision of one body with gifts…all given by the grace of God would not only transform the church but the world.

It might just change the cries of We’re number one! We’re number one! To We are one.

That would be change.

Just imagine.

What if we viewed people not in terms of gender or race, but in terms of the gifts they possess for building up God’s people?

What if we saw others not as too old, too young, as able or disabled but in terms of the gifts they bring?

What if we viewed people not through the lens of artificial categories of homosexual or hetrosexual but according to the grace of God that spills over in the gifts offered.

What if we saw our Indigenous brothers and sisters   according to what they bring to the table, rather than what they take from the table?

And what if all these gifts, no matter how small came from the grace of God ?

If that were the case, no gift would be more valued than any other gift.

All would be equal.

No winners

No losers.

No honoured

No shamed.

The old divisions and hierarchies would crumble

As we celebrated the offerings of each person.

Our churches would be richer.


On our coffee table in our living room, in a piece of pottery that was given to us years ago my dear friends.
The piece is called circle of friends.
Some of you may have one.
Its shape consists of people standing in a circle with their arms around each other.
In the centre of the circle a place for a candle.
It is a beautiful piece of pottery.
Quite meaningful to Phyl and me.
But when you turn off the lights and light the candle and look at the ceiling, it is transformed.
As the candle flickers those figures dance together on the ceiling in a wonderful harmony.
That piece of pottery is an image of the church.


Paul might say.. This is what the church can be when our life together is shaped not by the world’s categories but by the light of Christ.
In a world of hostility and hatred, what an amazing witness that would be.

For I am convinced


Paul writes:

that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything in all creation would be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8: 38-39)


Therefore   Paul says….

We have a choice….

We can duck or we can be the church…