Our Faith Has Made Us One
Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
June 19, 2016
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Galatians 3:23-29The Message (MSG)
23-24 Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.
25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.
In Christ’s Family
28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.
Our faith has set us free! Whoop! Whoop! Our faith has set us free! Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sounds powerful, doesn’t it? So when we hear this, how do we respond? How do we act?
I chose the translation from The Message this morning—something I rarely do, because it is a transliteration—but this morning in this text it is seemingly powerful for our day and time. Sometimes, it is just much easier to understand.
We hear this morning the high point of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia. This is the “high point” of Paul’s letter, the high point of Paul’s message. It is what I call the “pep talk” of Paul. It is the unleashing of Christ in the new creation of being, the creation of us as people who are “one” in Christ!
This is not what some call a “marshmallow text” of encouragement but rather the swift ploy of rapid and sharp encouragement.
What makes us strong? Encouragement! Sometimes the push to take the risk to be strong, to go against the violence and hatred in this world. Roy Pearson tells us about the famous painting entitled, “The Monarch Comforts His Soldiers.” In this painting the King’s troops are on the charge and the King is behind them pushing them with the point of his sword!
Comfort here is understood as making strong! Comfort in the gospel in the New Testament does not always equate to rolling around on a nice, soft, quilted comforter on a king size bed. It may come at the point of a sharp instrument.
We are told in the New Testament many times that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to prod us into action and to move us to live in the form and function of a life lived out of grace, even when moved into battle with a world that we don’t agree with! Therefore it becomes necessary for us to take our mission policies and church memberships into battle as directed by Paul.
Paul had to be excited, you know he did! A new Christian, addressing a group of rather new Christians (who were still struggling, imagine that?) helping them live out their vision! Helping them to be proclaimers of the Gospel in a world that was severely divided, much like our world today.
This text this morning is a text of proclamation, a text of witness, and truly a text that motivates us to action! Paul is not about “words” here, my friends; Paul is all about some action that will change the way the world sees Christendom (or simply Christ). Paul, a people person, from the get-go was one who intended for the world to be changed because of Christ’s presence in the world. Christians had to have an impact on a world that was split, divided, run over, crushed, and descriptive words could continue.
Paul was all about the church living out the purposes of the crucified and risen Christ. Paul was all about making a difference in the world that was in such a torn up state. We hear this in his comments about division and the bringing together of such divisions. Paul wanted a church that was motivated to be different, motivated to be “one with Christ.
You see my friends, the church has to work, the church has to be an instrument of love in a world that has been dominated by hate and anger in such numerous ways. G.K. Chesterton in his book, What’s Wrong With The World? writes these words, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” The question that faces us today is when will it be found less difficult and tried? That is the question that greets us everyday!
Unfortunately it takes an event like happened in Orlando to cause us to sit up and take notice. Don’t worry; it was no different for Paul. It took a civilization divided by slaves and slave owners, Jews and Greeks, and men and women that were quarreling over which was more important. It took Paul, as a spokesman for Christ, for the Church, to say, “there are no divisions!” We are all “one in Christ Jesus!”
But the real problem comes when we experience what I call “down time”, the time between catastrophic events. The time when we, as twenty first–century Christians, lounge back in our recliners and say to ourselves, and to other people, “We shall overcome, someday.”
The problem is “someday” is today! Paul and Jesus both do not afford us the option of “someday.” We are only given the command of today!
My friends, Paul’s words are anything but polite and offertory. They are commanding, inviting, and expressing in a way that should make all of us who proclaim Christianity sit up, stand up, and act differently!
Beverly Gaventa, in one of her commentaries, says, “Paul manages to offend virtually everyone.” Yet it becomes clear to us that this offense that Christ would have us absorb becomes the amazing grace that will set us free. But in order to be set free, we must act! We must be “agents for change.” That is what Paul is calling us to be in the reflection of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We must be the proclaimers with the same energy that the Apostle Paul had in his life and in his heart. We must be the ones who proclaim that “everyone” is “one in Christ Jesus,” that there is no division among humans! We are all God’s children and loved by God! But again, in order to be set free, we must act as children of the living God.
Therefore, let us come to the Table of The Lord and be energized in order that we may act on a day to day basis, proclaiming the good news that “all are one in Christ Jesus!”
AMEN & AMEN