Sermon for March 7, 2021

Speaking of Life 3015 | The Opposite Game

The Opposite Game was used to let students fully understand the contrast and meaning between words. Contrary to our belief that God is distant, Paul emphasizes the gift of salvation through Jesus, and his invitation to join Him in building his kingdom now.

Program Transcript


Speaking Of Life 3015 | The Opposite Game
Michelle Fleming

I used to be a teacher, and one technique I learned that helped kids understand antonyms was the “Opposite Game.” The game involved using flashcards with words like “hot,” and the first student to answer with an appropriate opposite, like “cold,” would get a point. The idea was that by helping students understand what a word was not, they would better understand what the original word means.

In the Bible, the writers sometimes use opposite examples called contrasts, exaggerations called hyperbole, and other literary techniques to make their point. The apostle Paul used “The Opposite Game” in his first letter to the Corinthians to help them understand what God’s wisdom is not—so they could grow in their awareness of what God’s wisdom truly is.

Paul begins by pointing out how the idea of Christ on the Cross seems silly to those who aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with God, but to those who are interested, the Cross portrays the love of God for all humanity. He writes,

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 1:21 (NRSV)

One translator said God was turning conventional wisdom on its head in order to expose so-called experts as crackpots. In other words—opposites.

Paul continues using opposites to show how God’s way is completely different—“opposite”—to the way humanity thinks.  He points out that the Jews were looking for miracles and the Greeks were searching for wisdom in the philosophy of the day. To both groups, the idea of self-sacrificing love on the Cross was not only the opposite of a miracle, it was absurd. Paul shows how God’s way of love, evidenced by Christ on the Cross, helps us think beyond our limited human scope:

but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:24-25 (ESV)

Human beings tend to put God in a box—one that looks like what our human wisdom dictates as reasonable and prudent. God’s love for humanity is the opposite of reasonable and prudent. It is lavish, excessive, and strong—even as it is self-sacrificing. Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the truth of God’s being was the opposite of humanity’s typical way of loving and living.

Learning about opposites helps kids understand the meanings of words more fully. Human love is often finite and self-seeking, but God’s love is infinite and self-sacrificing. Considering how God’s way of moving in the world contrasts with our own helps us understand how deeply we are loved. We are safe in the certainty that God’s “opposite” kind of love will never let us down or let us go.

God’s love, evidenced by Christ on the Cross, is stronger and deeper than anything you can ever imagine.

I’m Michelle Fleming, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 19:1-14 · Exodus 20:1-17 · 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 · John 2:13-22

The theme for this week is God’s priority is people, which contrasts with our typical human tendency to misunderstand what’s important. Our call to worship Psalm shows how God is communicating what’s important through nature. Exodus 20 features the Ten Commandments, offering wisdom about putting relationships with God and people first. 1 Corinthians contrasts how the truth of God, being seen in the cross of Christ, is the opposite of the way we move through the world. John, which is our sermon text, shows how Jesus displayed in the temple and in his own body that God is accessible to all.

The Location Is You

John 2:13-22

You may have heard the real-estate mantra “Location, location, location.” It means that where a home is located affects its value. Even if you have a really nice home, if it is located on a busy street you might have difficulty selling it because of the high traffic flow.

How does location affect us in other ways? We try to choose a nice place to live, the nicest we can afford, because the environment around us matters. Research from the University of Minnesota shows that our home and work environment can influence our moods and even impact our ability to take action.

For the Jews in Jesus’s day, the location of their worship was important. The temple was where they would worship God through specific rituals and offerings. Jesus also worshipped at the temple, taking part in the rituals and offerings. Until the one time that he didn’t. Let’s read about that:

Read John 2:13-22, NRSV

What can we observe about the text?

  • By cleansing the temple of the money changers and the people selling the cattle, sheep, and doves, Jesus stopped the corrupt practices associated with taking advantage of people bringing in animal sacrifices as part of their worship. The money changers were making worship more difficult by inserting themselves between the people and worshipping God. They were imposing their own rules and requirements and taking advantage of people. They had turned the temple into a trade market.
  • Jesus said in verse 19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” While they assumed he was referring to the physical temple, he was referring to his body (v. 21). We could take this as a prophecy of his resurrection, as the disciples did (v. 22), and it is, but we must also realize that Jesus isn’t just talking about his body being a future temple, but a temple already.
  • We see in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. The Son of God entered a new temple—a human body. Through this human body, Jesus is showing a new intersection where God and humanity meet, one that wasn’t dependent on location.
  • This human body (Jesus’s body)—where humanity and God met—shows us how much God values human bodies. Our embodied experience is our way of being in the world, and as we seek to integrate the truth of our being (who God says we are in Christ—loved, treasured, held) with our way of being (how we move in the world), we also become temples—places of intersection where the divine and human meet. Paul makes this point in his letters to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus.

Application:

  • Recognize that Jesus wants to clear out anything that keeps the way we move in the world from reflecting the truth of who we are in Christ. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and just as Jesus cleared the temple of anything that was preventing full, unobstructed worship for all people, so he also wants to cleanse us of anything that keeps the way we live our lives from matching the truth of who we are: beloved, valued, worthy. What limiting beliefs keep you from believing you are treasured by God?
  • Value yourself and others as temples of God. No longer are we tied to worshipping at a set location, as if God could be confined to one spot. Instead, as we move in the world, we are never separate from the Holy Spirit. We are so valued by God that the temple has become us. Consider the beauty and the care that was taken in the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 36) and Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6). While these were symbolic of God’s presence, Jesus embodied flesh to show that God wants to dwell in and with us, not in a building. People are valuable, made in God’s image, and filled with God’s Spirit.

Location is everything in real estate. It also is important in our spiritual lives when we realize that no matter where we find ourselves, God is there. Where we worship together, God is with us. When we have to be separate because of a pandemic or other issue, God is still with us. Whether we can be together in person or on Zoom or other social media, we are evidencing the presence of God with humanity. As we love and care for one another, we show love and care for the temples of God.

For reference:

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/your-personal-environment/how-does-your-personal-environment-impa#:~:text=Your%20home%20and%20work%20environment,behavior%20and%20motivation%20to%20act.


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • In the Speaking of Life video, it talks about how God’s ways are often “opposite” to the ways our human world works. Can you think of some ways that this is true? What examples come to mind that illustrate a difference between how God views people and how people view other people?
  • Access to worship was not always available in Jesus’s day. For example, most Jews would only travel to the temple during the holy days in the spring or fall. Women were not permitted to worship except in certain areas of the temple, and their monthly cycles also kept them isolated from worship activities. How does Jesus as the new temple broaden our ideas of access to worship? In other words, if location is no longer important, then how are our daily lives a part of worship?
  • Have you considered that your daily routine, your job, and your care of your family constitute worship because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you? If so, how do you approach these day-to-day activities?
  • Many people struggle with embracing their place as God’s beloved child. If one of your children questioned their value or their worth to God, how would you explain to them their preciousness in God’s sight?

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