Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 10/13/19. Title: Growing Up From The Roots. Text: Romans 8-11 Series: Postcards from the Roman Road.
Part of what it means to be a preacher is I have the privilege of talking every week about things that I know nothing about. We’re going down the Roman road, and today the Roman road tours through an apple orchard.
Although actually Paul refers to an olive grove. Olive trees can be anywhere from 1500 years old to 3000 years old. Paul talks about an apple tree, and he talks about grafting. And I do not know anything about grafting. If you know more than I do, I look forward to learning more, but I want to talk as an example about the golden delicious apple.
I love golden delicious apples, but what might astonish you is there was no such thing until 1890. A farmer in Clay County, West Virginia walked out into his orchard, and on all these trees, he saw one yellow apple– a mutation, something different, something unique, something that had never happened before.
And with apples, they do what is called grafting, what is called propagation. They take a cutting from that one branch on that one tree that had that one light green-yellow golden delicious apple, and they took that cutting and they pasted it– not exactly, but they connected it with another tree of a slightly different species so that the little golden delicious part was connected into the roots of the other tree. That other tree is called the rootstock.
And it would grow from there, connected to those roots, but it would still be a golden delicious apple because it would be uniquely what it was what made to be. And then from all those cuttings, connected to all those trees, come all of the golden delicious apples of the world.
If you plant the seeds you find in a golden delicious apple, you won’t get a golden delicious apple. It’s only a cutting from the original tree from 1890, and Paul tells us that is something that God did.
Let’s look at the Roman road. Do you remember? The Roman road is the road to salvation. What is it that we do to be saved? What does it mean to be saved? How does a person get saved? We use those terms a lot in the church, and we don’t always explain them.
Romans 8:1, “There’s therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”
I looked at that phrase this morning as I was drinking my coffee, and I thought, “That’s grafting.” We are in Christ Jesus, and that sets us free from the law of sin and death.
Verse 3: for God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the requirement, the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walked not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, with those who live according to the flesh, set their mind on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:28. We know that in everything— let’s read it together. We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love Him.
Does that mean that everything is good?
It means that in everything, God is working. God is working for good with those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And then farther down in verse 37, a promise is made of what it is like to be connected into Christ Jesus. Verse 37, know that all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, principalities (this refers to the powers of evil in this world), nor things present, nor things to come. nor powers, those who think they’re powerful, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else… That’s pretty complete, isn’t it? None of those things will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are connected. And we cannot be separated because of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
So Romans 9:30: What then shall we say? What shall we say then? The Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it. We have. That is, a righteousness through faith. But then Israel, who pursued the righteousness, which is based on the law did not succeed in fulfilling that law.
Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone.
Friends, I would like to tell you, this is my GPS This is my original GPS. This is the GPS I bought at a department store in Chicago … because it was my habit to print out written instructions from the internet on how to get from one place to another. And here’s the problem with the law, the rules, the instructions that are in writing.
Every time I would try to follow them, reading and driving in Chicago traffic, looking at the list, looking at the traffic, I would get lost. In other words, if you put it in writing, it’s easy to get lost. The nation of Israel continue to look to the writings of the law and try to find God by following the rules.
Now, it’s not a bad thing to have rules. It’s that we’re not that good at driving and reading at the same time. So I got a GPS, plugged it into a source of power. You tell it where you want to go, and then the most annoying voice in the world says, “Turn left in three miles. Turn left in 300 feet. Turn left in three feet. You idiot, turn around go back.”
Nonetheless, through guidance in the moment speaking to me, I’ve been able to reach my destination ever since I bought one of these things. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent. Absolutely the best. And a little bit earlier Paul commented that we need to be guided by the Spirit because the Spirit knows when we’ve missed a turn. That written piece of paper never interrupted me to tell me I had missed a turn, but the Holy Spirit can guide you in real-time … because that’s what the new agreement is by faith, which is that now we let the Holy Spirit guide us wherever we need to go.
And as a sheep … we’re used to thinking of Christians as sheep with Jesus as the good shepherd. We need to shift our agricultural symbols because Jesus through Paul is going to talk about grafting as a symbol of salvation. Romans 10:9, this is where Paul gets written, “Because if you, confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord,” That’s one. “And believe in your heart that God raised from the dead,” That’s number two. What’s going to happen? You will be saved. There it is folks, one, two. Verse 10, for a human being believes with his heart and so is justified, made right, made righteous, born again, made clean and shiny and new. And he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says no one who believes in him will be put to shame.
What do I need to believe? What do I need to do to be saved? Here Paul is very very clear. You need to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. And if you don’t believe that, let’s you and I have a conversation and work on that belief.
Paul’s already said in Romans chapter 6 that, just as Jesus was raised from the dead, we have the opportunity to come back to life as well. To walk in the light. That’s what you need to believe. And when you believe that in your heart, you will find justification.
And then you need to call out. You need to confess with your lips. You need to say something … what is it you need to say? “Jesus is Lord.”
To believe that Jesus rose from the dead – to call out and to say that “Jesus is Lord” are the two requirements.
Verse 12: There is no distinction between Jew and Greek. Jews do not get more than others. Gentiles, that’s us, we do not get more than them. The same Lord is Lord of all. And the same Lord will bestow his riches upon the one who calls upon Him.
What do we call out? “Jesus is Lord.” Verse 13: For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord, what does it say? “Will be saved.” Folks, it’s really pretty clear words.
Now, we preachers, over all these years, we’ve added all kinds of additional things … “Well, you know, in addition to believing that, you need to believe this, and you need to believe this and this and this and this and this.” And preachers have loaded up the truck with all kinds of things, but there’s the very simple reality, confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and you will be saved. Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved. That’s what Paul said.
He goes on to say this, “But if some of the branches of olive tree,” – this is a picture of a golden delicious apple tree – “But if some of the branches of the olive tree were broken off and used, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree. Do not boast over the branches.”
Gentiles are not better than Jewish people. Christians are not better than Jewish people. But we’ve been grafted into the root of the faith of our Fathers. It’s almost like we’re riding on the shoulders of the Father who’s the source of all of the teachings and the understandings of the Old Testament. “Do not boast,” Paul warns us, “over the branches”.
We did not take that position because we were better than anyone, so we have no right to boast. But if we do boast, let’s remember that it’s not us that support the root, but the root that supports you.
Now here’s the most astonishing piece of that, we all know what this is, right? (Extension cord.) If you plug something into this end, and this is plugged into the wall, electricity comes through the connection, remember we’re talking about grafting here, it’s the connection. Power comes through the connection to what is plugged into it.
Now, let me ask you a question. When you plug something into this, do you become a power plant? Do you become one of those big Ameren smoking power plant things that produces electricity … or do you just benefit from it?
When you and I are grafted onto the root of all of the faith– we call it the Old Testament, the old covenant, the old agreement. When you are plugged into all of the power of what God has done through the nation of Israel, you become a beneficiary. You do not become Jewish. The golden delicious apple doesn’t change in any way when it grafted into the rootstock. You just benefit from all of that resource. In fact, the golden delicious apple that’s grafted in is still the same apple.
When you’re connected with the power of God, you don’t lose your identity. You don’t become something that you’re not. You become someone who receives and benefits from the power of God. It is the root that supports you.
You were grafted in. The root supports you. I used to ride around with little boys on my head like in the picture, and they would pull on my ears to steer me where they wanted me to go. This is the image that Paul gives us from these chapters. We are grafted in, and it’s like we’re riding on the Father, riding on the Father’s shoulders. But we are led and guided by the Holy Spirit. The better we’re able to listen to the Holy Spirit, the better we are able to navigate our path in this world, but the power comes up from our roots into who God is, who God has always been, what God has always done. And this is how we walk. Please pray with me.
Lord Jesus, we come into this world, but then in a magical and beautiful way, we are grafted into all that you have ever been and done and said. We receive the blessing of a covenant with you that empowers us, and in that grafting, because we believe that you rose Jesus from the dead, because we call out our decision that we wish for Jesus to be our Lord, all of a sudden, power begins to flow into us.
We are not different people. We’re still golden delicious people, but we have resources that we did not have before because we’re connected to the roots of our faith. We have guidance that we did not have before because the Holy Spirit leads us forward, and so Lord, we walk by faith, not by the written law, not by the striving to keep the rules of faith, but because we are connected to you.
Lord, it’s not that we don’t have the law. It’s not that we don’t understand that there are rules. It’s not that we don’t have an awareness that there is right and wrong, but it is your grace that makes our life so filled with your presence and makes everything so different. So Lord, strengthen our faith. Strengthen our willingness to call out and to call out for you to be Lord and Savior of our lives. Amen.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?
What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.