At Park Central we believe
the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God. We stake our practices and
beliefs on the idea that we will “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent
where the Bible is silent.” We do this through a process called hermeneutics, which is a .50-cent word
for explaining what the Bible says. It is our understanding that God has
directed us in one of three different ways.
First we believe that we must
follow the commands of God. The command or statement can either be specific like Acts
2:38 where we read, “Peter replied,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Or general Matthew 28:19-20 where we
read “Go therefore and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have
commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Specific commands are just that,
specific while general commands include the things necessary to carry out the
Next we believe in following
the examples of Christ or the Apostles.
This is the example of the practice of the New Testament church under the
guidance of the apostles who in turn taught and practiced what they received
from the Lord. It’s what we find in Acts 6 when the church choose deacons to
work with the poor so that the Apostles could continue their responsibilities of
preaching and teaching.
And finally we believe in Natural Inference – or common sense. A
necessary inference or implication is something that is not expressly stated but
implied or inferred by the language used. A good illustration of this is Hebrews
10:25, not neglecting to meet together,
as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you
see the Day drawing near. In this passage an assembly is commanded. This
verse does not mention a place to assemble but one must necessarily infer that
people cannot assemble without some place at which to meet.
Now with that being said this
morning, I want to show you one of the most over-looked, under-practiced, and
least considered commandments in the inspired word of God. And it occurs not
once, not twice, but five times in the New Testament.
Peter 5:14, "Greet one another with
a kiss of love."
Thessalonians 5:26, "Greet all the
brothers with a holy kiss."
Corinthians 16:20, "Greet one
another with a holy kiss."
13:12, "Greet one another with a
holy kiss." They had to be told twice
16:16, "Greet one another with a
Five passages, two apostles,
one command. Right now some of you are thinking, "All right! I was hoping
to find a friendly church and it looks like my prayers have been answered.
Welcome to Kissing Church of Christ."
And some of you are thinking
last week he said that the Bible teaches we should respond if everything was
going good, and I thought he was a little off his rocker, but now I know he’ s
just plain crazy. Looks like it's time to find a new church."
Before you commit too
quickly to either place membership or renounce it, let me set the context for
these commands. Look with me in Romans 16. We'll
read verses 1-16. (Read text)
This is what I call one of
those phone-book passages; on first glance it's about as compelling and
meaningful as reading a list of names from the phone book. It's just a bunch of
hard to pronounce names. Theologian Emil Brunner, however, said, "Romans
16 is one of the most instructive chapters in the New Testament because it
encourages personal relationships of love in the church."
Despite it's rather dull first
impression, this text has a lot to tell us about how we are to treat one
another, and the importance of the body.
First we must understand
that We live in an isolated Society
Mobility was just as much a
feature of life in first century Roman culture as it is in ours. The travel was
obviously more primitive, but they got around. When Paul wrote the letter, he had
never visited the Roman church, but he seemed to know so many people there.
That is because the Roman society depended on mobility much like we do today.
In the face of that mobility
and the long distances that separated him from people he loved, Paul was able
to forge deep, meaningful relationships with his friends. Now you don't need a
theology degree or a Ph.D. in psychology to figure out how relevant that
ability is for us. How many of you are in a social network like Twitter or
How many of you use email on
a regular basis?
How many of you have cell
How many of you have voice
mail or answering machines at home?
We have more ways to stay in
touch than a shark has teeth. And even with all of that accessibility we are
more isolated and alone than ever. Our relationships have been reduced to a
series of zeroes and ones streaming along high speed cables roughly at the same
pace of our lives. We are more electronically connected than ever, yet more
relationally disconnected. We send and receive more messages, but communicate
So when we encounter a
command that orders us to speak to one another, to touch one another, to slow
down and greet one another, we've encountered something that can change our lives.
Secondly we see that Greeting One Another Is A Big Deal
You see when I read in
Romans 16:16 Greet one
another with a holy kiss. My eyes naturally gravitate to the word
kiss. But that’s not the important part
of the passage. In the first century a
kiss was a symbol of acceptance, much like we shake hands today. And the kiss
had different meanings depending on who you were addressing.
If you were on equal terms
then you would offer a kiss on the cheek.
If you were close friends then you would offer a kiss on both cheeks. If
a child was addressing a parent or a student addressing his rabbi it was
customary for the greeting to be a kiss on the hand.
To neglect this ritual was
the equivalent of ignoring someone.
Imagine if Trista and I invite you over to dinner Friday evening at
7:00. Friday comes and you arrive promptly at 7:00. When you drive up in our driveway you notice
the back door is open. You knock but we don’t come to the door. You hear us
talking in the house so you open the door and come in. When you enter the living room there we are
sitting on the couch watching TV. We
don’t acknowledge that you have arrived, we don’t get up; we don’t turn the TV
down, we do nothing to acknowledge that you are there. Would you feel greeted?
Would you feel welcome? Or would you just walk out?
So with apologies to our
young men here today this is not the kissing verse but the greeting verse,
because greeting one another is a big deal. Greeting is important because
People are important. I think that there are many things we can take with us
today from just the names in Romans 16.
For one thing, they represent a rich racial mix.
It is very important for us
to realize that the list includes both Jews and Gentiles. And racially you
don’t get farther apart then these two groups. Even though most of us here
today are from gentile lines we don’t have that problem today but we still have
ways of separating ourselves from others don’t we?
When Trista and I were
discussing the possibility of moving to start this work with you one of the
things that we considered was your accents. Now most of you are saying what
accent, we sound normal. And for South East Texas you do, but the problem is not
everyone talks like you do. You see being a Southerner, we have a certain drawl
or inflection to our words. A few years ago I was in Seattle, Washington and I
was asked on more that one occasion if I knew Larry the Cable guy.
In every part of the country
there is always that desire to put someone else down because they don’t look,
sound, or act like us. I believe that Paul's
command to the Romans to greet one another was a way of breaking down the
racial barriers that divided those Christians. A way of physically showing them
that at the foot of the cross we are all equal.
Next this list shows that Christ is greater that social
Many of the names in Paul's
list were common slave names. Ampliatus (8), Urbanus (9), Hermes (14),
Philologus and Julia (15).
Some, however, were from a
different social class. Narcissus was a rich and powerful man who exercised
considerable influence over Emperor Claudius. Rufus is thought to be the son of
Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus' cross to Golgotha. Aristobulus is thought by
many to be the grandson of Herod the Great and friend to Emperor Claudius.
Paul's command to greet one
another was a way of breaking down the social barriers that divided those
Christians. A way of physically showing them that at the foot of the cross we
are all equal.
And Thirdly this list shows that a greeting is more
important that gender differences
Did you notice that nine of
the twenty-six names are women, and four of them are commended for their hard work?
Phoebe, in fact, probably delivered the letter.
In a society where women we
considered worthless, Christ and His teachings showed how very valuable these
women were and are to the work of the body. Paul's command to the Romans to
greet one another was a way of breaking down the gender barriers that divided
those Christians. A way of physically showing them that at the foot of the
cross we are all equal.
I want to give some entrepreneur
here an idea for a bumper sticker and if you use it to make a million dollars,
all I ask in return is that you remember the mission fund. Here it is: World peace begins with hello
Now I'm not telling you that
all we have to do is say, "Hi," to each other and nuclear disarmament
begins to break out everywhere. But what I am saying is that without that first
step, nothing more will or can happen. Greeting people is the first and most
important step in breaking down barriers.
I believe that The Bible is
telling us that Park Central has got to be a church that values people. And for
that to happen every one of us has got to be involved. You've been to unfriendly
churches. Remember how do you felt when someone wouldn’t even speak to you? Rarely do we go back. Apparently, so had Paul.
So he says, "I don't want yours to be that way. I want you to develop a
warm, loving, engaging, touching church."
I was privileged to be able
to grow up in a house with a woman who truly knew how to greet people. Every
time we entered a room, or more importantly tried to leave a room my mom was
surrounded by a group of people. From watching her I have learned the three
secrets to effectively greeting one another. And I want to close with them
Mark tells us that Jesus
touched the man with leprosy. Luke tells us Jesus laid his hands on the
children. It is truly a gift but like every other gift God has given us, we've
turned touch into something it wasn't intended to be. Peter and Paul both put a
very important qualifier in front of the word kiss. They called it the holy
kiss. And I believe that we can begin to redeem human touch by making it holy
I am a touchy person so if
you want to come and pick me up off the ground squeeze me and shake all of the
change out of my pockets that’s fine with me.
But I also realize that not everyone is like that, so I try to read
everyone. Sometimes I am right and
sometimes I am not but there are some touches that are always safe.
There is the preachers
handshake, you know the two handed body shaking type, a pat of the back, a hand
on the shoulder. Just quick, safe, holy
touches that don’t violate anyone’s space. But make a warmer church.
For some of us this is
harder than others, but I believe that it shows people how valuable they are to
us personally. If you forget it is OK to
ask their names again, or do like my mom does and call every woman ladybug, and
every man sir.
Which once again for some of
us is harder than others. That’s it. I
believe that if we are going to fulfill this commandment then we must be people
who are willing to touch, remember names, and speak.
Right now you might be
wondering why we spent an entire sermon on something so simple and so
apparently unimportant? I mean is it really worth this much time to talk about
something that isn't going to make that big a difference?
Well, in the Fall of 1991 someone
greeted me with a handshake and an introduction. I was a freshman in College,
away from home for the first time, a little afraid, alone and intimidated. This
guy walking past my dorm room stopped and said and in a shaky voice said,
"Hi, I'm Wayne Dalrymple I’m from Boaz, and I'm scared to death."
At least once a month I talk
with Wayne, just to check in. Wayne knows my secrets. He's heard my
confessions. I've heard his. That relationship began with a simple greeting that
has made all the difference in the world.
I'm asking you to go out
there this week and do a very simple, but very powerful, very Biblical thing.
Greet one another. Every time you enter a room your attitude says one of two
things. Here I am! Or, There you are! I'm asking you to go out there this week
with a "There you are," attitude.
That's how God wants to
greet you. There you are. I've been hoping we'd meet and there you are. That's
the most important greeting you will ever receive and it is waiting for you.
How would you describe your
What makes them so special
How did that friendship
Do you struggle feeling
What contributes to those
feeling of isolation?
What originally attracted
you to this church?
Is it easy or difficult for
you to be a greeter in this church?
If it is difficult, how can
you improve the temperature of this body?
How can you touch people in
a holy way?
How does Luke 6:31 fit into