By Verse : 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Topic :

Feb. 4,18
Today we have reached the final day of the football season. Throughout the day all things about the Super Bowl will be expressed on TV and radio. The programing will begin early and end late. There is the half-time spectacular show with Jason Timberlake, as well as all those special Super Bowl commercials that people will talk about on Monday in the office, on the floor of a factory, and on every TV news and sports shows. You’ll see those commercials over and over again. All the hoopla of this event will come down to what will go on, on the field. Two teams who have had their ups and downs will meet in the middle of the field for the coin toss. The favorite Patriots, and the mighty Eagles will go head to head, toe to toe for one hour, grunting, taunting one another, even perhaps a snarl or two, but hardly any slaps on the back, or on the helmets, at least not the until game is over. Their head coaches will bring those razzle-dazzle plays never used before, and some concocted just for this game. It’s mighty Goliath trying to take down its foe from Philly, against the flying Eagle looking to pounce and devour its prey from New England. When they first line up after the kickoff you will see the intensity of both teams as the ball is snapped for that first play. Throughout the game there will those who will stand tall because of a tackle made, or a super catch, or a run that picked up lots of yards as the runner points his finger down the field to say, “first down and we are on our way.” The two quarterbacks will be at the center of it all calling plays and trying their best to figure out the defense… the offence scrutinizing the eyes of the quarterbacks.
Whatever it takes, these two teams, the final battle of gladiators with their full armor on, will meet in battle for those 60 minutes. At the end of that time one team will be full of joy and smiles, while the other will be full of sadness and tears. One team will don the caps of Super Bowl Champs, and take turns kissing and holding the trophy up high, while the other will trudge to the dressing room wondering what went wrong, what could they have done better. And after a speech of encouragement that the losing coach gives his team, they will shower, get dressed and head home maybe with the cheers from the winning team’s fans still ringing in their years thinking it should have been us. The vanquished have fallen short this year, but they can at least rejoice that they out did all the other teams and made it to the game of games. And for that coaching staff, the thought will be, whatever it takes, we’ll be back next year.
It all happens every year, in all sports when the seasons draw to a close and only two teams are standing ready to face off to become World Champions in their sport. Whatever it takes, they will do it in order to get there so they can hold that trophy in their hands and one day see their names engraved on it.
In just a few days we will have others who have done what it takes to get to the Olympics. All the work, all the sacrifices, all the time devoted to practice and traveling. When they lace up those skates, put on those pads, get into that bobsled, leave the starting blocks of a ski event, they will do whatever it takes to represent their country, hopefully, taking home a gold, or a silver or even a bronze medal. They’ll stand proud and watch their flag being raised, many with tears in their eyes remembering this day for the rest of their lives.
What does that have to do with this morning’s message? The Apostle Paul went about the world of his time telling others about God’s love. He worked very hard and did many things to let others know about the gospel, the good news of God’s love. Whatever it took to get the message of hope across, Paul did it with love, with enthusiasm. He did it for the sake of those who were lost.
Looking at his past, the Apostle Paul, before BC, that is before Christ, did all he could to destroy those who had begun their journey to follow the risen Christ. He was so set in his ways and believed at that time that he was right and those who followed Christ were wrong, that he became a persecutor of those who believed in this Jesus. Whatever it took, he was going to do to destroy them. This couldn’t be their Messiah, for Jesus didn’t fill the mold that the Jewish teachers believed in. He didn’t come into Jerusalem on a white horse like a leader. He came on the back of donkey, like a peasant. He didn’t enter the city with his troops, nor the spoils of war, but entered the city followed by 12, might we say, rag-a-muffin men, some fishermen, another a hated tax collector that he called disciples. The Messiah was not to die a humiliating death on a cross. He was to lead his people to freedom. Jesus was not the model of the one the Jews were looking for.
After Pentecost, after Peter’s fantastic sermon, after thousands upon thousands became believers and the church began, Saul, as he was known then, set out on his mission to destroy those believers. Whatever it took, he would do, so off he went to Damascus with letter in hand that gave him permission and the authority to arrest, jail, persecute those folks that called themselves followers of Christ.
But God had other missions for Saul. And on that Damascus road Saul met the risen Christ and his life was changed. His heart was strangely warmed. His heart was set free, he went forth to follow the same Christ that he had been speaking against.
With whatever it took, with the perseverance he once had against Christ and his followers, he began his many mission trips to tell others about salvation through Jesus, stopping along the way to witness to his new found spiritual freedom. Wherever he went, whomever he talked with he spoke about changed lives in Jesus. And he was tossed out of synagogue after synagogue because he spoke of Jesus, but that did not deter him. In fact, when you read about Paul in the Book of Acts and his missionary journeys you see how he was beaten, left for death, imprisoned and all that. But that did not stop him. For now, it was whatever it takes, he would deliver his message of hope, joy, faith, forgiveness, salvation to people all over the world. Even while in prison his faith did not waiver. He wrote letters, and people he touched shared their faith with others. He marveled at what God had done, could do, through this new way of sharing the good news. Even being chained to a guard all day long, he had a one-on-one four hours to talk about the one who had set him spiritual free.
To this Corinthian church who were having some difficult times living up to their new-found faith, he reminds them that he became all things, in order to promote faith in Christ. “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” Further down in that section of chapter 9, the last part of verse 22, Paul sums up the mission God gave him. This is the heart of this message. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Let him who has ears, hear God’s voice of wisdom this morning.
“Whatever it takes,” is the theme. When I was pastor at the Trinity UMC in Paris, Il there was a group of people who belonged to the WCTU. Now for most of you, those letters mean nothing. They were members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in our church, and they were part of a wider group in Edgar County, and this state, that tried to help the church and community understand the things wrong with drinking, gambling, and much more. They asked me to support them, and I did, and we became members. This unit, and many like them, for years did their best to promote abstinence to all things that were harmful and really not helpful in the Christian life. You know, things that destroy themselves and their families. This unit, and others at that time, did whatever it took to get the word out of how harmful things like alcohol and gambling and drugs really are. Some of you may snicker, because all that seems acceptable these days, but they are still harmful, even though many Methodists do them, our social stances are still against those things. That hasn’t changed just like the Bible hasn’t changed on what the definition of sin is. I say this because one of the former pastors at that church was seen coming out of one of the local bar rooms one day. Some thought it was awful. However, when they spoke with him, he basically said he went in to leave tracks about the harm of alcohol and spoke to whoever would listen, offering them a better way. He, like Paul, was doing whatever he could to help someone who might have a drinking problem perhaps change their ways through faith in Christ. He was willing to do whatever it took in order to get the message of God’s love across to whoever would listen, even to the point of having people think bad about him.
Don’t we read that the teachers of the Law were appalled that Jesus ate with tax collectors and other sinners? Weren’t some amazed that Jesus would go eat with a tax collector name Zacchaeus? He was a sinner, hated because he cheated people. When Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus had to climb a tree, and go out on a limb to see Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he called him down and invited himself to lunch at his house. Could we not say Jesus became all things for the sake of his message? In other words, he went where the sinners were, even though this shocked some, But, though he associated with sinners he didn’t do as the sinners did.
How many of you have done whatever it takes to care for your family, or your parents, your kids? You do whatever it takes because it is the right thing to do. For some who have not been fortunate they work two jobs, or even three in order to make ends meet. Some do whatever it takes in order to get a college education, like doing classes on line, so they can work besides in order to pay for those classes and maybe even take care of a family. Some even enter a rehab place trying to get straight so they can live a normal life free of drugs and alcohol and whatever has bound them.
And today when we look at the elements that are before us, God did whatever it took to change the hearts and minds of sinful people. If there was another way, he would have taken it. But there wasn’t. He did whatever it took so that the world could find hope. He did it so that folks like you and me could find peace within, and forgiveness for our troubled souls. For God, it cost him the ultimate, it cost him his son. But he was willing to do whatever it would take to bring salvation and hope to those whom he loves, and that includes us.
So, this morning as you enter this time of communion, remember the cost that happened so that you could have a life free of that sinful nature that keeps you chained.
So, may it be this morning as you come to the table of grace to be empowered to do whatever it takes to follow Christ.






Happy Birthday Lori Finley

Happy Birthday Val Milner!

Happy Birthday Val Milner!


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