Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sermon for June 9, 2013; Galatians 1:11-24

Rev. George Miller
Galatians 1:11-24
“Hustlers Know How to Hustle”
June 9, 2013

Let’s play a game, called “Who Do You Want?”

1st question- who do you want to put out a fire: a fireman or a pyromaniac?

2nd question- who do you want to watch over the town’s children: Mister Rogers or the Pied Piper?

3rd question- who do you want to cook a 3 course meal: Julia Child or Hannibal Lector?

4th question- who do you want hosting your next mahjong excursion: Days Inn or the Bates Motel?

5th and final question- who do you want to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ? A polite pastor with a PHD from Princeton or an overzealous Jew with anger issues and a history of violently persecuting Christians?

Choices, choices, choices…good thing we ain’t God.

Today’s sermon is called “Hustlers Know How to Hustle.” Let me share with you how this title came about.

Back in the 90’s, while living in Mpls, I attended Grace Temple Deliverance Church on 4th Ave South, the part of the city where the highway ran through, streets dead-ended and businesses were shuttered closed.

It was the kind of neighborhood where on Sunday morning you’d drive past people on the corner that were no doubt selling something.

Grace Temple is a church in which the Holy Spirit is always on the move and it isn’t just the pastor who preaches.

Back then, one of the speakers was Brother Babington Johnston, a tall man with a deep bass who had a family, owned a business and was going to seminary.

Brother Babington Johnson gave the first message about Paul that I “heard.”

He called Paul a hustler. He said if Paul was alive today, he’d be one of the guys on the corner with a toothpick in his mouth, baseball cap on his head, saying he was going to “break you off a lil’ sumthin’ sumthin’.”

For the longest time that description of Paul stayed with me. I knew who those guys were. I knew the danger they represented, the force by which they lived.

I could not figure out why God would call someone like that to be the bearer of the Good News. I kept asking myself “Why would God call a hustler?”

Then one day, the answer came, and it was so obvious. “Why would God call a hustler?”

“Because hustlers know how to hustle.”

Just look at what we learn about Paul today. He’s not afraid of moving around. He’s not tied to one spot or a 9-5 job or a family. He goes to Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, then on to Syria and Cilicia.

If Papa was a rolling stone, then Paul was a barreling boulder.

Paul’s a hustler who’s not afraid of some confrontation. Look at verse 11: “I want you to know…that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin.”

Don’t be fooled because this sentence is in the Bible and we like to think of our church forefathers and foremothers as nicey-nice folk, these here are fighting words.

Check out Paul’s in-your-face approach
Vs 13: “You have heard, no doubt…”
Vs. 16: “I did not confer with any humans beings…” And vs. 20: “I do not lie!”

Paul’s a hustler who knows how to use his words and how to sell the heck out of stuff.

Let’s look at three examples.

Vs. 14 “I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous…”

Here’s a guy who isn’t afraid to create his own press release and believe what it says. How do you argue with someone when they tell you they’re the best in their class?

Next, vs. 15 “God set me apart before I was born.” Here Paul is hustling by using the language of well known prophets. Centuries before Isaiah wrote the Lord “formed me in the womb to be his servant.” (Isa. 49:5).

Then there’s Jeremiah who wrote “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you…” (Jer. 1:5)

How do you argue with someone who claims he was hand-picked and set aside by God following a centuries old prophetic model?

I consider vs. 12 Paul’s biggest sell. He states he did not receive the gospel “from a human source…but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Why is this a hustle? Because he compares himself to Moses in a technical, subtle way.

The key word here is receive. He doesn’t say obtain or come by, but receive. Why does this matter? Because words do matter.

Located in the beginning of the Mishnah, a foundational tract used in rabbinic Judaism, which Paul and his peers would have known very well, it states “Moses received the Law from Sinai, and he handed it down to Joshua and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets.”

Paul, the hustler, is telling us he did not hear about the Gospel in any ordinary way, but in the same way in which Moses received the 10 Commandments and the Torah.

Who’s gonna argue with that?!?

Who is this guy? Is he narcissistic? Is he insane? Is he actually speaking the truth?

Who’s to say, and who’s willing to argue with a man who subtly and not-so subtly claims he’s better then all the rest, on the same level as the prophets and shared a similar experience with Charlton Heston…I mean Moses?!?

Paul is a hustler who knows how to hustle, and I don’t know about you but if I needed something done, if I needed someone to stand up for me in court or help me buy a car, Paul is the guy I’d want.

Sure, Paul had some questionable traits; Paul had done some horrible things.

Yet God called him. Jesus was revealed to him. And eventually he embarked on a ministry of proclaiming the gospel and many people glorified God because of him.

Which brings us to today’s lesson: no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, the Lord has the ability to use us for the benefit of God’s Kingdom.

Unlike committees or corporations, Jesus does not call us upon human merit or achievement or how well we’ve polished our shoes.

No matter what we may think, no matter what others may say, the Lord is capable of finding a way to use us, and it may not be in a way that is obvious or always makes us feel comfortable.

But if God has set you apart and called you through God’s grace, the Lord’s going to do his best to make it happen, even if it means sending a giant fish to swallow you up or knocking you off the donkey you are on.

It means that no matter what happened in your past, no matter what you may have said, no matter what you may have done, if Christ wants to reveal something to you, it will be revealed.

God is free, so revelation is unlimited.

Revelation is not limited to studying at the right school, being surrounded by the right people or even doing all the right things.

It’s more about being the right person at the right time and the right place.

It means that the Holy Spirit has a way of moving through and harnessing our passions: those things we truly care about that we’re willing to pour all our time into.

Our peccadilloes: the things we may be ashamed of and try to hide. Our peculiarities: those things that in the past have made us stand-out or bring negative attention.

One never knows how those very things become our ability to reach out to and minister to others.

For example, as a child I was always getting in trouble for speaking too loud. Now where would I be without that trait?

These are just some of the very things the Holy Spirit likes to wrap itself around and harness and use for the benefit of the Gospel.

If God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost does not see or set limits on who, what, where, and when, then why should we, not just with others, but also with ourselves?

We can each take a lesson from Paul’s life and realize that we all have the ability to hustle for the Lord, each in our own unique way, each in our very own style.

Each of us come with our very own story, each of us sing our very own song, but it is our story, it is our song that Christ resurrected is ready to use.

So the question is: are you ready for a miracle? Are you ready for a revelation? Are you ready to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to help others glorify the Lord?

Amen and amen.

No comments: