I work really hard to keep sport analogies and illustrations out of my sermons because they are so overused. However, my friend Joe Chambers (@josephochambers and Field Notes on the Jesus Way) posted some thoughts on his Facebook page that got me thinking. If one wanted to, it would be fairly easy to preach a series of sermons based on the four football games of the NFL Wildcard Weekend.

  1. Laces Out–This sermon is from the Vikings perspective. Sometimes you do almost everything right, but things fall apart at the end. Things like character, determination, and community are what get you through the hard times.
  2. Keep Your Cool, Don’t Bungal it–The Steelers/Bengals game is the picture perfect example of losing control of your life.
  3. Wide Left–When you get what you don’t deserve, it is called grace. The real life story of the 2015 Seattle Seahawks.
  4. That Awkward Moment When . . . Racism–Sometimes culture lulls you to sleep and you find yourself forgetting to be transformed. This is what happens when we root for the team from Washington and yell out racial epithets that we don’t even think about.
  5. Frozen–The flames of hell can be frightening, but it is hard to move around when your relationships are frozen because the temperature (of the heart?) is below zero. Another possible sermon here is “Mission Trips to Minnesota in January Might Not Be A Good Idea.”
  6. Houston, We Have A Problem–The sermon, of course, is about being a poser. Some people/institutions/churches look like the real deal, but when it comes crunch time, they produce a goose egg, at home.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Steel–The Steelers may have won, but everyone saw their soul (and yes, I Remember Super Bowl XL )
  8. It’s Just A Game–Some people get too wrapped up in sports, and really need to go for a walk or read a book. Never feel sorry for people who make a living playing a game. Remember, most of those athletes on the field are people who picked on and bullied you in high school.


There you–those are free of charge to anyone who wants to use them.


Romans 11 has an elegant simplicity to its argument, but Paul takes a lot of verses to make it.

Theological Notes:

The line of thought in Romans 11 goes something like this.

  • God has not rejected his people, genetic Israel.
  • What he is doing is using their failures to save the whole world.
  • When they come back (and they will come back) to grace and faith, imagine what it will mean for the whole world.
  • It is a complicated plan, but who can understand God’s ways–certainly not us.

In addition to this outline, there is buried within the chapter a strong, terrifying tone exemplified in a warning.  It is a warning that most people don’t notice and that most Calvinists simply ignore.  Verse 21 teaches us that if God wasn’t squeamish about cutting off parts of his chosen people, genetic Israel, neither will he hesitate to cut off us gentiles.  It is a terrifying warning that should cause all of us sober reflection.

Translation Notes:

In verse 3, most English translations use helping verbs,  “have killed, have dug up” but the verbs are aorist (past) tense, so I kept them that way.  No helping verbs needed.

Verse 12 ends with a difficult rendering. The word is usually written as “fullness” and is translated various ways in this verse. I prefer here, given Paul’s comparison of Israel’s past behavior, to use the word ‘success’ as a polar opposite of failure.

The word “irrevocable” in verse 29 is such a weird word for the modern ear. Perhaps irreversible or unchangeable would have been better for reading, but in the end I decided that the older, legal word was better especially given the context of a discussion about covenant.

Romans Eleven
1. Am I, therefore, saying that God rejected his own people? Never! For I myself am an Israelite, the family of Abraham, the tribe of Benjamin.
2. God has not rejected his people, whom he foreknew. Do you not know in the Scriptures what it says of Elijah, how he pleaded with God about Israel?
3. Lord, “They killed your prophets. They dug up your altars. I alone am left, and they seek my soul.”
4. What did the oracle say to him? “I have left myself seven thousand men who have not bent the knee to Baal.”
5. So now, in this time too, a remnant has come to be by the free choice of grace.
6. But if by grace it is no longer by works, since the grace would no longer be grace.
7. What then? Israel pursued and did no obtain, but now those chosen attained it, while the others are hardened.
8. Just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear until today.”
9. David says, “Let their table became a trap, a snare, a stumbling block of payback to them.
10. Let their eyes be darkened, not to see, and their back always bent.”
11. I ask, therefore, did they stumble so as to fall? No! Instead their lapses lead to the salvation of the gentiles, who then made them jealous.
12. If their lapses are riches for the world, and their failures are riches for the gentiles, how great will their success be?
13. But I say to you gentiles, that even though I am an apostle to the gentiles, and it is a ministry of honor,
14. nevertheless I will make some of my people jealous and will save some of them.
15. For if their rejection is reconciliation of the world, what can acceptance be except life from the dead?
16. If the first pinch is holy, so also is the whole batch of dough, and if the root is holy, then so are the branches.
17. If some of the branches were broken off, but then you wild olives were grafted in, you became sharers in the root of faith on the olive tree.
18. You branches should not boast. The root sustains you, not you the root.
19. You will then say, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”
20. True, the faithless were broken off, but you have stood by faith. Do think highly of yourselves, instead, be in fear.
21. For if God did not spared natural branches, neither will he spare you.
22. See then, the goodness and severity of God. Severity upon those having fallen, but upon you the goodness of God to preserve you in goodness. Otherwise, you would be cut off too.
23. Even those, if they do not persist in unfaithfulness, might be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
24. For if you naturally wild olives were cut off and against nature you were grafted onto a tame olive tree, how much more will those be grafted back into their same old tree?
25. For I do not wish you brothers and sisters to not know the mystery, and then think yourself wise, because a hardening upon part of Israel has come until the full number of gentiles should enter in.
26. Just as all Israel will be saved, exactly as it is written, “The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn ungodliness away from Jacob.
27. And this is my covenant to them, when I might take away their sins.”
28. On one hand they are enemies of the gospel because of you, but on the other hand they are chosen because of their beloved forefathers.
29. For the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.
30. It is the same way as when you disobeyed God, but now you found mercy because of their disobedience.
31. Thus, they now disobeyed for your mercy so that they themselves might find mercy.
32. For God linked together everyone in disobedience so that everyone might find mercy.
33. O the depth, riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God! His judgments are inscrutable and his ways are untraceable.
34. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, who has become his advisor?
35. Who has given to him that he should repay?”
36. For everything is from him, through him, and in him—to him be the glory in eternity. Amen.

Click on the links below to read other chapters from the Book of Romans.

Romans 10

Romans 9

Romans 8

Romans 7

Romans 6

Romans 5

Romans 4

Romans 3

Romans 2

Romans 1


Yesterday I did not preach.  That is hard for me.  I am, by nature, a preacher—that is my main vocation and so not preaching is like asking the starting quarterback to not play.  It’s just hard.  But, I was blessed in it because we had Mark Bradley from Golden Gate Seminary up to preach.  He preached about “Grace and Truth,” a sermon which jumped off from John 1:14.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


The passage says Jesus was full of grace and truth and Mark made the case that we, as Christ-followers, ought likewise to be full of grace and truth.  He went on to describe that some of us are more “grace” oriented and others are more “truth” oriented.  As he taught this, I discovered that I can go both ways; but it depends on my mood.  What I don’t do very often is strike the perfect balance of grace and truth.  So this morning I’m thinking about the kind of scenarios where I might do better.


Scenario 1—A woman walks into a room where I am, perhaps at church or someone’s home and I notice immediately that her dress is hideous.  The cut is wrong, the colors are giving me headaches and her shoes do not match.  How do I respond?

  • Grace:  “That dress is curious.  Where did you get it?”
  • Truth:   “Your dress makes me vomit.  One of us must leave.”
  • Both:    “Your dress is interesting and commands my attention, but I don’t know if it works for me.”


Scenario 2—A man from my church posts on Facebook that my sermon on a particular Sunday was boring and he did not get anything out of it.  How do I respond to their internet insult?

  • Grace:  Comment, “Thank you for the constructive criticism.  I will attempt to do better next time.  Please pray for me.”
  • Truth:  Comment, “I may preach better next time, but you’ll always be ugly and stupid.” 
  • Both:   Don’t reply at all.


Scenario 3—A pastor comes to me seeking my advice on his/her church.  After a long drawn-out conversation in which he gives me the blow by blow of the problems I decide that the real problem is him. 

  • Grace:  Say, “Maybe the denomination can help you put the pieces together and figure out where to go from here and how to put things back together.”
  • Truth:  Ask, “Have you ever thought about a career selling insurance?”
  • Both:   Say, “Perhaps you might want to ask the Lord to reveal how this might all be your fault.”


The thing I like most about Mark’s emphasis on “grace and truth” is that it affirms what I’ve always believed; I cannot control what other people do or say, I can only control how I respond.  Being a Christ-follower demands that I respond in ways that are honoring to him, regardless of how I might feel about it.  At the same time, I must respect people and not inflict undue harm.