“You Gotta Serve Somebody” was a sermon preached by Pastor Pam Schaefer Dawson on the weekend of May 21, 2023 — the 7th Sunday of Easter. The text upon which it was/is based is Romans 6:1-14. To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20230521
You Gotta Serve Somebody
Bob Dylan wrote a song in 1979 that would appear on the album, “Slow Train a’Coming.” The song is titled, “You Gotta Serve Somebody.”
You may be an ambassador to England or France.
You may like to gamble; you might like to dance.
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world.
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed.
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
The apostle Paul may or may not have liked Dylan’s music, but I’m sure he would have agreed with the lyrics!
God’s liberating work is done. Jesus died… and our sins died with him. He was raised, and we who have been baptized into his death are raised with him. This is good news!! And, it leaves us with a choice; and it’s a choice we make daily, hourly, moment-by-moment: Who are we gonna serve? “The Devil or the Lord?” as Dylan puts it.
We are, as Paul put it, dead to sin. Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus,” and, “so that we too might walk in newness of life.” These are beautiful words, and we treasure them. But just how do we go about living them? Just how do we walk in newness of life?
Well, you gotta serve somebody… We are still living in a world where sin seems to reign. We ourselves still sin. How do we, day by day, moment by moment, choose whom we will serve?
The power of the resurrection is not just over our deaths, but over our lives as well. God is calling us to live a resurrected lifestyle. He’s ushering us into a resurrection culture. In Jesus’ death, we have been set free from sin and death; in his resurrection, we are called and empowered to live a full, forgiven, and grateful life.
We are not stuck in a spiritual waiting room suffering from spiritual sickness. We are already receiving the necessary healing that allows us to resist sin and to live in gratitude, sharing God’s love with others. In Christ’s death, we have died to sin, an in his resurrection we are being made new.
We live like Jesus. No, not as a carpenter, speaking Aramaic and living on the road for 3 years. But key events in Jesus’ life become ours. It’s not just that we believe what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross, but that we are actually living his life: his life becomes our life, and that changes everything for us.
We experience that freedom in today’s reading from Romans. God’s redeeming actions through Christ have set us completely free! This freedom is so thorough and so all encompassing, we’ve basically been made new, every part of us. We’ve been born anew!
In our baptisms, we died to sin. We were buried with Christ in his grave. His death was bestowed on us in Baptism. As we went down in those waters, we died with him. And as we arose from those waters, we became like Christ stepping from his grave on Easter morning. His new, resurrected life became ours that day, too. We were resurrected into new life.
So, sin has lost its grip on us. We’ve been restored to God in perfect harmony. All this was made possible by Christ’s actions! Nothing remains to be restored, not one thing remains to be done. No, EVERYTHING has been accomplished by Christ and his redeeming actions. And the effect that has on us is perfect freedom. It’s summed up for me by the phrase “There is nothing you have to do.”
There is NOTHING you have to do.
There is nothing YOU have to do.
There is nothing you HAVE to do.
There is nothing you have TO DO.
No matter what word you emphasize, no matter how you say it, there is nothing you have to do! All has been accomplished through Christ Jesus your Lord! His redeeming actions on the cross point the way to this remarkable divine love. God’s love is for you!
This is radical stuff! All the weight of regrets, they all died with you there in those baptismal waters.
So, sin has lost its grip on you and me. And not just on you and me, but all people for whom Christ has died. So, from now on, Christ has become our lens. And through his vision, we no longer regard anyone from a human point of view. We see them as Christ sees them!
• No longer do we make distinctions based on race.
• No longer do we divide people based on their age.
• No longer do we calibrate people in regards to their mental and physical limitations.
• No, no longer according to gender or gender identity, either.
• No longer do we regard them from a human point of view.
We see them through Christ’s eyes. This gospel, this love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord, validates and lifts up each and every soul.
In every age, Jesus’ apostles are faced with a difficult decision. There’s a temptation to water down this radical gospel of divine love. Do we preach good news to the poor and marginalized? Do we call out and cast out the demons that oppress? Or do we choose the safer path and not rock the boat? Who are we gonna choose?
There are days when we feel defeated by the enemy. There are times when evil seems to be gaining the upper hand in our country when we see violence, racism, abuse, and corruption and lies among leaders. We listen to the news day after day, and we can get swept up in all of the things that seem to be going wrong in our country, in our state, in our town, in our own families, and even in our own lives. It seems that evil is winning and we are going down.
But then we have forgotten that Jesus won. He disarmed the rulers and authorities. We are here in a spiritual battle and the victor is already declared – it is JESUS CHRIST. We know the end of the story, and He wins. No matter what the courts decide or the authorities or the laws of a nation. No one gets away with injustice because there will come a reckoning day from the Lord.
I picture a gravestone with my name on it “Pamela Sue Schaefer Dawson,” and underneath: “Buried with Christ.” And I imagine that my old life of sins, and failures, and shame is buried there. When I sin and fail, I can repent and return to this grave and say: “Lord I’m so sorry I went back to living like that person who is dead and buried. I know that you have made me a new creation. Forgive me!”
Or sometimes I go back in my mind and remember what I did a few years ago (or a few days ago), or what I said, and I start to feel so ashamed of myself and separated from God. I need to go back to that burial and remember – that person is dead! Those sins are gone and buried with Jesus when he died. Don’t dig things up! I died with Christ with all my sins.
What about you? Have you died with Christ? Your sins are ALL buried and put to death. Confess them and leave them there!
The real question is this: where are you today? Are you IN Christ? Are you going off on your own? Is his life yours today?
You’re gonna have to serve somebody…
Be filled with Christ.
Put off the old life as he did on the cross.
Bury your sins with Christ.
Walk with Christ in newness of life.