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      Sunday sermons 

      Each week Pastor Keith Cardwell’s Sunday sermon is posted on this site. Several other recent sermons are also available here. You can go back over it to review what he said — or if you cannot come to church, you can still enjoy his sermons.

      ‘God Called Me
      Through His Grace’

      Galatians 1:11–24
      June 5, 2016

      IF THE APOSTLE PAUL had possessed a business card, this might have been printed on it. It is a common refrain from Paul:

       “God called me through his grace.” 

      He has been called by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:1). He’s not bragging. He didn’t apply for this job. He didn’t fill out a job application for an opening in the evangelism department. Paul was perfectly fine where he was, doing what he was doing. He wasn’t looking for a change in his life. He was perfectly fine being a Jewish zealot raging war against followers of Jesus.

      If anyone knows how to interpret Torah, it would be Paul. Before he knew Christ he exceeded his peers as an exemplary Jew. He was a fanatic for his faith. Today, in terms of his “pre-Christ” days, he might be called a “religious terrorist,” one who seeks to destroy people whom he believes are opposed to the ways of God.

       † † † 

      ALL THAT CHANGED. God “was pleased to reveal his Son in me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.” The change was dramatic. Paul once tried to destroy Christianity. Now Paul is a Christian. He went from Jewish legalist to Christian convert; from executioner to evangelist. Paul had nothing to do with this. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to switch sides. God acted. “God called me through his grace.” God did the work of conversion and calling. This is a dramatic transformation — from persecutor to preacher. The hand of God was at work in his life.

      This fundamental conviction — that God has visited him; God has converted him; God has called him — anchors Paul’s faith story. It anchors Paul’s ministry.

      Other people may question his credentials, but Paul knows he’s been called by God through faith. He tells his story to remind the Galatians of their own experience of “the one who called you in the grace of Christ.”

       † † † 

      I UNDERSTAND PAUL. When you are called by God’s grace, you can do no other than be obedient to that call. No matter how undeserved that call might be.

      Way back when I was in seminary, I suddenly was forced to decide between leaving school/ministry or remaining married. Marriage is a sacred bond. But it was that declaration, “I have been called by the grace of God” that made a difficult decision easier.

      It was that same affirmation over the last year of school as a single parent, a full-time student, a part-time employee that sustained me and kept me going.

      “I have been called by God’s grace” was the mantra that kept me going when some churches refused to interview me because I was divorced. It is that affirmation that enables me to carry on in ministry when I’m fatigued and weary and have brief longings to work at Home Depot or count the months until retirement.

       † † † 

      “GOD CALLED ME through his grace.” Each of us has been called by God’s grace to life in Christ. Not because of our race or gender or nationality or economic status or social standing. Each of us has been called, not because of our goodness or badness or indifference.

      Each of us has been called by God’s grace to life in Christ and service in his name. Not one of us is more worthy of God’s grace than another.

       † † † 

      THE BOOK Take This Bread is the story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion. Sara Miles lived an enthusiastically secular life as a restaurant cook and writer. She was “a self-proclaimed blue-state, secular-intellectual, lesbian, left-wing journalist with a strong skeptical streak.” Then early one morning, for no earthly reason, she wandered into a church.

      The journey from skeptical secularist to devout Christian was long, complicated, and often convoluted. Listen to Sara’s story:

      “One early, cloudy morning when I was 46, I walked into a church, ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine. A routine Sunday activity for tens of millions of Americans — except that up until that moment I’d led a thoroughly secular life, at best indifferent to religion, more often appalled by its fundamentalist crusades. This was my first communion. It changed everything.

      “That impossible word, ‘Jesus,’ lodged in me like a crumb. Eating Jesus, as I did that day to my great astonishment, led me against all my expectations to a faith I’d scorned and work I’d never imagined. The mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer at all, but actual food — indeed, the bread of life. In that shocking moment of communion filled with a deep desire to reach for and become part of a body, I realized what I’d been doing with my life all along was what I was meant to do: feed people.”

       † † † 

      AND SO SHE DID, compelled to find new ways to share what I’d experienced. She started a food pantry at the church. On Fridays the sanctuary is turned into something like a farmers market and literally tons of fruit and vegetables and cereal are piled around the same altar where she first received the body of Christ and given away.

      She organized new pantries all over her city to provide hundreds and hundreds of hungry families with free groceries each week. She recruited scores of volunteers — many from those who were served and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      Listen again to Sara:

      “I stumbled into a radically inclusive faith centered on sacraments and action. What I found wasn’t about angels, or going to church, or trying to be ‘good’ in a pious, idealized way…. I was, as the prophet said, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the poor, the despised and the outcasts are honored.

      “And so I became a Christian, claiming a faith that many of my fellow believers want to exclude me from; following a God my unbelieving friends see as archaic superstition.”

       † † † 

      GOD CALLED and commissioned Paul through his grace.
      God called and commissioned me through his grace.
      God called and commissioned Sara through his grace.
      God calls and commissions you through his grace.

      — Keith Cardwell
       

      “That impossible word, ‘Jesus,’ lodged in me like a crumb. Eating Jesus, as I did that day to my great astonishment, led me against all my expectations to a faith I’d scorned and work I’d never imagined. The mysterious sacrament turned out to be not a symbolic wafer at all, but actual food — indeed, the bread of life. In that shocking moment of communion filled with a deep desire to reach for and become part of a body, I realized what I’d been doing with my life all along was what I was meant to do: feed people.”

       † † † 

      AND SO SHE DID, compelled to find new ways to share what I’d experienced. She started a food pantry at the church. On Fridays the sanctuary is turned into something like a farmers market and literally tons of fruit and vegetables and cereal are piled around the same altar where she first received the body of Christ and given away. She organized new pantries all over her city to provide hundreds and hundreds of hungry families with free groceries each week. She recruited scores of volunteers — many from those who were served and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      Listen again to Sara:

      “I stumbled into a radically inclusive faith centered on sacraments and action. What I found wasn’t about angels, or going to church, or trying to be ‘good’ in a pious, idealized way…. I was, as the prophet said, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the poor, the despised and the outcasts are honored.

      “And so I became a Christian, claiming a faith that many of my fellow believers want to exclude me from; following a God my unbelieving friends see as archaic superstition.

       † † † 

      GOD CALLED and commissioned Paul through his grace.”
      God called and commissioned me through his grace.
      God called and commissioned Sara through his grace.
      God calls and commissions you through his grace.

      — Keith Cardwell

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       http://saramiles.net/take_this_bread
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEhZ43A73cY

       

      Sara Miles, author of City of God, on her Faith & Background

      Sara Miles’ powerful new account of venturing beyond the borders of religion into the unpredictable territory of faith. CITY OF GOD is a beautifully written ...

      YOUTUBE.COM

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      • Presbytery of S. Alabama
      • Synod of Living Waters



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      Swift  
      Presbyterian  
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                   —————
      23208 Swift Church Road
      Foley, AL 36535
      Phone: (251) 943-8367
      email: swiftpc@gulftel.com