Sunday Recap Vol. 2.10

FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR

Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap! 

The Sunday Recap includes an assortment of items to help keep the Gospel in front of you throughout the week. Most are from the previous Sunday while a couple look ahead to next Sunday. As you read consider these questions. Did anything land with you during worship? What did it make you think? How did it make you feel? What did you find especially sweet or challenging from God's word? What did we sing, read, or pray that left an impression on you?

Food For Thought:

The Bible is the one Word of the one God about the one way of salvation through the one Savior, Jesus Christ. – Graeme Goldsworthy
 
Hoping does not mean doing nothing… It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it His way and in His time. – Eugene Peterson

For next Sunday:

Sermon Text: Joshua 2
Note: During Advent and Christmas we are going to look at the 5 women of Christmas from Matthew's genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1. Who were these women? Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab (Joshua 2), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and Mary (Matthew 1). Why does Matthew include these women in Jesus' genealogy? That's the question we will be trying to answer as we listen in on the story Matthew is telling us about Jesus who came to save his people from their sins (Mt. 1:21).

O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Advent
Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates - Advent
Friend of Sinners - Grace
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Response
Savior of the Nations, Come - Communion

Suggested Resources:
Some of you may remember Alton Hardy. He came to preach at RMC back in August. Alton is the pastor of Urban Hope Community Church in Fairfield, a sister congregation of RMC. The work Alton is doing in Fairfield was recentlyfeatured in connection with Celerstory, a nonprofit here in Birmingham some of you may be familiar with.

On a related note, I wanted to list several resources I have mentioned in recent months in connection with Hope For Birmingham. If you are interested in learning more about how to love our city well here are two resources I would suggest starting with.

1. When Helping Hurts
2. Generous Justice

Also in the new year we will be starting a new series of lunch time conversations called "Lunch & Learn: Public Faith in Action." RMC member JB Ward will be leading these discussions using Miraslov Volf's book called Public Faith in Action: How to think carefully, engage wisely, and vote with integrity. If you would like a primer on public faith I would strongly recommend the prequel to Public Faith in Action called A Public Faith: How followers of Christ should serve the common good.

Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free; 
From our fears and sins release us, 
Let us find our rest in Thee. 
Israel's strength and consolation, 
Hope of all the saints Thou art; 
Dear desire of every nation, 
Joy of every longing heart.

Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)

Prayer of Confession
Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven. We have tried to work off our guilt and shame; to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins. We have tried to change through our own efforts. When this doesn’t work, we turn to denial and distraction, leaving some of us arrogant and the rest of us anxious and depressed. Forgive us for thinking we could save ourselves rather than resting in the merits of Jesus Christ. Forgive us for our pride. Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
 
Words of Grace
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
 
1 Peter 2:21-24

Hearing From God (2 Timothy 1:8-12)

Sunday's Sermon: "Tamar"

Sermon Text: Genesis 38:11-30
11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father's house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father's house.
 
12 In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
 
20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her. 21 And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’” 23 And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.”
 
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.
 
27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

Sermon Outline
  1. Tamar's Predicament
  2. Tamar's Trap
  3. Tamar's Legacy

Sermon Summary
This past Sunday we began a series looking at, what I am calling, "The Five Women of Christmas" taken from Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. While it may not strike us as unusual, it was very unusual to include women in a genealogy. In the ancient world only father's and grandfather's mattered in the eyes of many when describing a person's heritage. But Matthew breaks from that convention and he does so in the most striking way. He doesn't include the women we might expect like Sarah (Abraham's wife) or Rebekah (Isaac's wife) or Rachel and Leah (Jacob's wives). Matthew doesn't include the matriarchs of Jesus' family line. He includes the outsiders, the nobodies. Why does he do that? Well that's the question we are attempting to answer by looking at "The Five Women of Christmas." This week we looked at the story of Tamar in Genesis 38.

Who was Tamar? She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, Jacob's fourth son. Judah was a cold, callous, and calculating man when we meet him in the story. He was the mastermind behind getting rid of his younger brother Joseph while making a profit without any hesitation to deceive his Father in the process (Gen. 37). Furthermore, he turned his back on his family and his God, choosing instead to make his home among the Canaanites (38:1-5).

This is a story full of disobedience and deception. It's a story of biblical people acting badly. It's a story that epitomizes what we today call a dysfunctional family. However, we need to remember this story appears in the context of a much larger story. A story outlined for us in Matthew 1:1 and God's promises to Abraham and to David. In Genesis 12:3 God says to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." And in 2 Samuel 7:16 God says to David, "Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever."

Read in light of this great story two questions emerge. First what comfort and hope can we draw from this story? Matthew wants us to know that Jesus comes from a broken and dysfunctional family just like we do. Just knowing Jesus comes from such a background offers comfort to those of us who struggle mightily with our own history and family background. But there is also hope. This story tells us that no amount of dysfunction or brokenness can thwart God's plan to rescue humanity in order to bless us in and through Jesus Christ. No amount of dysfunction or brokenness can prevent God from working in and through you for your good and the good of others.

Second what are we to make of stories like this? What do they teach us? Are they, as some suggest, proof that the Bible condones all kinds of behavior and therefore people should be free to live as they think best? Or, as others suggest, are they negative moral examples about how not to live? Both approaches misread the scriptures because they assume the bible is primarily about human morality. But rightly understood, the Bible isn't primarily about us and our performance. It is primarily about God and how he works in and through human disobedience and deception in order to bless us and right the worlds wrongs.

Matthew includes Tamar in Jesus' genealogy not because she is a moral exemplar but because she shows us how God works even through desperation, deception, hurt, and injustice to bring blessing to others. God uses Tamar and her loyalty to Judah's family to awaken Judah to his sin which leads to a total transformation in Judah's life (38:26; 44:18-34; 49:8-12). God uses even Judah and Tamar's immorality to carry on the line of Judah from which would eventually come the true King in God's Kingdom! In doing so we see clues to God's greatest work in sending Jesus to suffer and die on the cross. Tamar and every story like it in the bible tutors us in the ways of God, to see how God works, not through the strong and the powerful, but the weak and the powerless. God's kingdom doesn't come like the kingdoms of this world in power and might. God's kingdom comes in meekness! God works in totally unexpected and unconventional ways, that often take much longer than we would like. But as Matthew tells us, God always keeps his promises! That's why Matthew includes Tamar in Jesus' family tree because her story gives us a glimpse into the upside-down way God works in and through Jesus to bless us!

Reflection Questions
  1. What was new or compelling to you? What stood out to you from these verses?
  2. What questions do they raise for you?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. How does this story tutor you in the ways of God when read in light of Matthew 1:1?
  5. What comfort and hope do you find in this story?

Confession of Faith: Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?
 
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.
 
Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
 
A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism, and the Lord’s supper. (re: Mt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-34)