Refresh My Heart in Christ
By James Wiese on September 3, 2022
The Sermon for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost September 4, 2022
Text: Philemon 1,7-21 CW-21 Series C 22:2341
Theme: Refresh My Heart in Christ
(Imagine yourself back in the time of the Roman Empire & Paul.)
He was a runaway slave. No one could possibly be more friendless and more scared than he. You see, in Roman times if you were a slave, you had no will of your own. Your master’s will was yours. Even if you were a faithful slave, you had no rights of your own. Your master could beat you, torture you, or even kill you in a fit of rage if he wished, and no one would punish him. Still, many masters were kind at heart. As long as you performed your work faithfully, they would treat you well. If God gave you a kind master, and if you worked hard, you could at least expect food and shelter. Sometimes it even happened that a master gave a faithful slave his freedom. Not often, but you could always hope.
But who is really a slave. “Slave” and “free” are merely words, terms given to people. What is a slave? What is a master? Merely words. How many masters lie drunken upon their beds, while slaves stand by sober? Whom shall we call a slave? The one who is sober, or the one who is drunk? The one who is the slave of a man, or the one who is the captive of his passions? The first has his slavery on the outside. The second wears his captivity on the inside. Many today stand aghast at slavery and seek to wipe its memory out. Yet so often they fail to realize how enslaved they are within to sin without Christ. So, who really is a slave (Chrysostom)? But I digress.
Our subject was not just a slave; he was a runaway. The law imposed severe penalties on such a one if he were found, and on those who might lend him a hand. Even a kind-hearted master typically felt that he must make an example of a slave who had run away from his obligations. But this slave, Onesimus, was in even worse straits. He not only ran away, but it appears that he ran away with his master’s, Philemon’s, money. Thief as well! The tortures that awaited such a slave were worse than death itself. Where could Onesimus go? Who would help him? Where could he hide? Many a slave’s only hope in those days was to run to Rome and lose oneself in the crowded streets of that great city. But how to get there?
We can only wonder at that. The city of Colossae in modern-day Turkey, where Onesimus and his master Philemon were from, was 1,300+ miles from Rome. The quickest route was by sea. But boats of the day were small. Little chance that a runaway slave could stow away on such a boat. Even if he could, the trip was long, the weather uncertain, the sea a dangerous place. Paul himself had been shipwrecked on it on his way to Rome. How would Onesimus eat all those days at sea in hiding? And how could he get off the ship at Ostia, Rome’s port, without being noticed?
It would be less likely for Onesimus to be captured if he traveled by land. But that was a trip even longer and harder than by sea. It lay across the cold mountains to the north. Could a man without means and without friends make such a trip? Only God knows the answers to these questions. The Bible does not tell us how Onesimus got there. But the amazing thing is that God Himself was following the travels of this friendless runaway thief and was directing his path.
Our times are in His hands (Ps.31:15). As the psalmist says, “You, LORD, keep track of when I travel and when I stay; You are familiar with all my ways. You have placed Your hand on me…. Where can I flee from Your Presence? …Your hand guides me; Your right hand holds on to me” (139:3ff). Not that Onesimus knew anything about this at the time. He learned all this later.
So, by ways we do not know, God directed the runaway slave to Rome. There Onesimus tried to lose himself in the crowd. He lived by his wits as best he could – so he thought.
There are so many things about Onesimus that I would like to know, but I don’t. Somehow, he came one day to the door of another one of God’s people who was in trouble with the law. He was a man who had already been arrested by the authorities and was a prisoner awaiting trial. When Onesimus saw that the man was handcuffed to a Roman soldier, did he want to turn and run? Maybe he felt that here was someone who could understand his plight. Did the man in chains, the great Apostle Paul who had himself been a fugitive, imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, did his heart go out to this wreck of a man so much worse off than he was? You can be sure it did. Perhaps the very reason that Paul was imprisoned in Rome was so that he could bring the wonderful Good News of the Gospel of Christ Jesus our Savior to this desperate fugitive. Could the Holy Spirit have brought Paul to Rome for just this person? Amazing how God’s grace works! It directed a runaway slave to the one house in that great city where he could obtain eternal help.
Jesus once said, “I tell you the truth: everyone who keeps committing sin is a slave to sin…But if the Son sets you free, youshall be free indeed” (Jn.8:34f). That is the promise of the One who died to ransom us from the captivity of sin to the family of God.
The man in that house, Paul, knew what it meant. Even though he was chained night and day to a Roman guard, he possessed a marvelous freedom in being a slave of Christ. He knew that Jesus had paid for all his sins when He died on the cross. He knew that whatever would happen to him, the outcome lay entirely in the hands of his Savior. He told Onesimus all about this marvelous freedom, which even a slave might possess.
And Onesimus believed the Good News. He repented of his sin, was baptized, counted the cost of discipleship, and became a follower of Christ. It was his joy to run errands for God’s apostle in chains. I imagine he did whatever he could to make Paul’s life more pleasant under the circumstances, and more, to help him in the spreading of the Gospel. Between these two believers, so very different in background, education, and experience, there grew a deep love like that of a spiritual father towards his son in faith. “He is my very heart.” Paul wrote, “He certainly is dear to me” (vv.12,16).
Still, there was one thing that troubled Paul. Onesimus was a runaway slave. His master, Philemon, was also one of those who owed his knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus to the preaching of Paul. “You must go back, Onesimus,” Paul said. “I will write to your master myself and tell him what God has now accomplished in you, even as God accomplished in him. You both, though in different circumstances of life, are now brothers in Christ.”
And so, Paul sat down and wrote this letter to his “older son” in Christ about this “new son”: “I, Paul, an old man and a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you on the basis of Christ-like love. Show kindness to Onesimus. I would have liked to keep him with me, but I would not do such a thing without your permission. So, I am sending him back to you. My heart goes with him. Perhaps this is the reason you lost your slave for a little while, that you might have him back now forever, no longer just a slave, but a beloved brother in the Lord. Whatever he owes you, I will pay back. But don’t forget that you also owe your life in Christ to me, whom God sent to proclaim the Gospel to you. I know that you will do even more than I ask for the grace of the Lord Jesus is with you. Refresh My Heart in Christ.”
Oh, how it refreshes one’s heart to see the Savior at work in the sinner’s life, redeeming him to God for all eternity. How it refreshes one’s heart to see the change that takes over in life when faith is born and goes into action. How it refreshes one’s life to see the family of God united in faith and love through the Savior, amidst their differences. Oh, how God refreshes our hearts in Christ.
What did Philemon say when he read this letter? What happened to Onesimus? Did his master set him free? Did he send him back to help Paul in Rome? We don’t know. These are some of God’s secrets. Someday through the wonderful freedom of faith that we share with Paul, Onesimus, and Philemon, they will tell us the rest of the story. Till then, may the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” to refresh your heart and guide you in all you do through this life to the greater life yet to come, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Zion Lutheran Church of Springfield
(A member congregation of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
4717 S Farm Rd 135 (Golden Avenue)
Church phone: 417.887.0886 www.zionluthchurch.com
Pastor’s cell phone: 417.693.3244 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost September 4, 2022
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27
F o r O u r V i s i t o r s
The family of Zion welcomes you as we worship the Lord today. We encourage children to worship with us. However, if you need to leave with your child, there is a nursery room to the right as you exit the sanctuary. The rest rooms are located in the hallway between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall. Visitors, please sign our guest book to the right, just outside the sanctuary. We’re glad that you are here and pray that through our worship the Lord grants you peace.
U p o n E n t e r i n g G o d’ s H o u s e
“Blessed are they who hope in the LORD. Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous” (Psalm 1).
W h a t T h i s S u n d a y i s A b o u t
Godly Wisdom. Evaluate your Christian life. Much is asked; much is expected. Does it seem like it can be too much to handle?
Have you felt that way yet? That’s when the Savior steps in and graciously provides whatever you need, even in the toughest situations. If He has saved you and made you His own, He won’t let you down because He wants to have you forever. He won’t let you down but will refresh your life in Him.
This calls for godly wisdom to understand, accept and live. So be wise. Study His Word. Ask for understanding. Follow. Count the cost and trust His promise to provide. Then you will be wise.
To that end we pray: Lord, let Your continual mercy be upon us. Cleanse and defend Your Church. Grant us wisdom. And because we cannot continue in safety without Your help, protect and govern it always by Your goodness. Amen.
– T h e W o r d o f G o d f o r T o d a y –
The Old Testament Lesson: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Through Moses the Lord sets two paths before Israel. The one path leads to life; the other path leads to death. It takes godly wisdom to choose the Lord’s way of life. Hold fast to Him and you will be blessed.
The Epistle Lesson: Philemon 1,10-21
Paul appeals to his fellow Christian, Philemon, to welcome his run-away slave back into his service. Through Paul the servant had learned to know Christ and was changed. Paul appeals to his friend to forgive and receive the slave back as a brother in Christ. Such an action called for godly wisdom
The Gospel Lesson: Luke 14:25-35
The “cost” of discipleship is high. The Savior must come first above all other persons and things. Christ gave His all to make us His own. How much will we give in order to follow Him? Wisely consider the cost and the rewards. Then follow.
O u r P r a c t i c e o f H o l y C o m m u n i o n
Out of deep love for the truth of God’s Word and precious souls, we follow the practice of Close Communion in our congregation. This has been the practice of Christians for centuries and reflects the Bible’s teaching on unity of faith in the reception of the Supper (1 Cor.10:17). It does not judge a person’s heart but anticipates agreement in that which God says. Since we do not wish to put anyone in the position of declaring such agreement with us before study in the Word is possible, we ask that only those who are communicant members of this or another Wisconsin Synod or ELS congregation come to receive the Sacrament.
The Organist: Jane Rips The Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann
Point to Ponder: “Those who have the Gospel have the wisdom of God and are wise in and from God. Where you do not find the Word, there God is not present, nor wisdom, but mere folly….Wisdom is in Holy Scripture; it is the Gospel. It teaches you to know God and the counsel of God in His Son made flesh for you. This wisdom is hidden from the world; faith alone understands it.”
— Martin Luther on The Gospel of God: Wisdom Supreme
Outline of Our Worship
Opening Thoughts on the Service
Opening Hymn: #703
Order of Worship: The Service: Setting One with Holy Communion: page 154-160
Prayer of the Day
The Ministry of the Word
The Gospel Acclamation pg.161
Sermon: Philemon 1,7-21 Refresh My Heart in Christ
The Nicene Creed pg.162
Our Response to the Word
Prayer of the Church: pg.164
The Lord Blesses Us
Preparation for Holy Communion Hymnal page 165-169
(Visitors: Please read the box on page 2 regarding Holy Communion)
Distribution Hymns: #576 & 689
Thanksgiving & Blessing Hymnal page 170
The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost – Series C
Old Testament Lesson: Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Life or Death
15See now, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster. 16This is what I am commanding you today: Love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live and increase in number, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are going to possess.
17But if your heart turns away, and you do not listen, and you are lured away, and you bow down to other gods and serve them, 18then I declare to you today that you will most certainly perish. You will not live a long life on the land that you are about to enter and possess by crossing over the Jordan.
19I call the heavens and the earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live 20by loving the Lord your God, by listening to his voice, and by clinging to him, because that means life for you, and you will live a long life on your land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Epistle Lesson: Philemon 1,7-21 – Paul’s Appeal for Onesimus
1Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
7For I have received great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
8For that reason, even though I have plenty of boldness in Christ to order you to do what is proper, 9I am appealing to you, instead, on the basis of love, just as I, Paul, am an old man and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. 10I am appealing to you on behalf of my child Onesimus. I became his father while I was in chains. 11There was a time when he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12I have sent him (who is my very heart) back to you. Welcome him. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might serve me in your place while I am in chains for the gospel. 14But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your kindness would not be the result of compulsion, but of willingness. 15Perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a while: so that you would have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave, as a dear brother. He certainly is dear to me, but he is even more of a dear brother to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18And if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19I, Paul, have written this with my own hand: I will repay it—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20Yes, brother, I am asking for a favor from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 14:25-35 – Count the Cost of Discipleship
25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. He turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, if he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, everyone who sees it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, as he goes out to confront another king in war, will not first sit down and consider if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if he is not able, he sends out a delegation and asks for terms of peace while his opponent is still far away. 33So then, any one of you who does not say farewell to all his own possessions cannot be my disciple. 34Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its flavor, how will it become salty again? 35It is not fit for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV®) copyright © 2019 The Wartburg Project
C a l e n d a r & A n n o u n c e m e n t s f o r Z i o n L u t h e r a n C h u r c h
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Fellowship & Bible Study
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Fellowship & Bible Study
A Brief Bible Study on God’s Word for Today
The human mind is a powerful tool, capable of reasoning its way to success and many great things. The human mind knows how to guard the bottom line. The human mind knows what is most cost effective. The human mind can quickly determine what is the most reasonable course of action. But the human mind, despite its vaunted wisdom, cannot find its way to the cross. The cross is incomprehensible to the human mind. One man, the God-man, dies for the sins of all men? It is only when our fear and trust is in the LORD that we can know His great mercy and love and understand how that affects our life in Him.
The Gospel Lesson: Luke 14:25-35 (answers are found on the back side)
- Does Jesus really want us to hate our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children?
- What motivates us to “hate” our families, to give up everything we have for Jesus?
Those We Remember In Our Prayers: Greg Miller; Lou Schulz; William & Laurie Moon; Pauline Jaeger; Kirsten Jaster (Laurie Moon’s sister); Greg Pierson (the Long’s son-in-law); Libya, Jodi Milam’s granddaughter, diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis; Elizabeth Lisenby; Barbara Long; Lois Wiese; all students & teachers returning to school.
What Do the Following Represent? “Gluttons, clouds without rain blown by the wind, fruit trees with no fruit in the fall, wild waves of the sea, wandering stars destined for blackness.” Join us in Bible Study after the worship service to find out.
Forward in Christ’s next issue for September has arrived. There are plenty of copies for family and friends in the narthex.
The Week in Review
Last Sunday Worship: 31; Bible Class: 20; Midweek Bible Class: 7; Offering: $1,148; Ballou Memorials: $145.
Next Sunday’s Lessons:
Pentecost 14: Hosea 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; Luke 15:1-10 (CW-21, Series C)
Answers to Today’s Gospel Lesson Brief Study:
- We do not hate our parents in the sinful and wicked sense that Scripture condemns. We “hate” them in the sense that we make Christ the first priority in our lives. Our Lord and Savior is to be the number one in all things. No matter what the wisdom of the world says, we always follow Christ.
- “We love because He first loved us.” God showed us incredible mercy and love by sending His one and only Son into the world. He chose us before creation (Eph. 1:4). He adopted us as sons (Eph. 1:5). He “made us alive” (Eph. 2:5). He “raised us up with Christ” (Eph. 2:6), all by His undeserved love, by grace. As children of our Heavenly Father, we take up the cross—appointed for us—and follow our Savior, Jesus, even if we don’t always understand it, even if the world mocks us, persecutes, and hates us for it.