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Pentecost 7C Sermon
Galatians 6: 1-16

July 3, 2016

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us, in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

Many of us grew up reading and learning the stories of the brave people who dared stand up for themselves against the British in the 1700’s and eventually paved the way for our independence. One such person was John Hancock. Hancock was a smuggler and a merchant. As such, he was quite wealthy - one of the wealthiest men in the 13 colonies, as a matter of fact, and he used his wealth to support the colonial cause. He was also a leader in the disputes that the colonists had with the British during the pre-war years. The legend goes that as president of the second Continental Congress, Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. He took this opportunity to write his name so large and clear that King George would be able to read it without his spectacles.

I think about John Hancock every time I read verse 11 in the sixth chapter of Galatians 6, “See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!” In all likelihood Paul, suffering the lingering loss of eyesight from his blinding encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, dictated many of his letters to a scribe to write for him. It was probably a faster process than writing them himself. I picture some poor scribe getting tired as he tries to keep up with Paul, speaking louder and faster as he gets more and more passionate moving toward the climax of this letter. The poor guy was probably asking Paul to repeat what he said about circumcision and uncircumcision, and Paul said, “Oh just give me that!” And taking pen and parchment from him, he writes for himself what is so important to say … and he writes it big enough so that he can see it clearly with his dim eyesight, AND so that the Galatian Christians can see them as well!

It kind of reminds me of emails or texts that I sometimes receive which are written in all caps. When I get them, I intentionally read the words (to myself, mind you) a lot louder to remind myself that the author of this message is strongly making this point! And the point that I think Paul is making as he moves toward the conclusion of this letter is this: it doesn’t matter who is right – those who are pushing for circumcision, or those (like Paul himself) who are encouraging un-circumcision. What does matter is that Christ has been crucified, and that because of his faithfulness we are created new, so that we can work for the good of all. “Neither circumcision or uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!”

As we prepare to celebrate the 140th birthday of our country tomorrow, we remember people like Hancock, Adams, Jefferson and others who were dealing with the same issues of remaining British, or being an Independent country. Many of them probably had a hard time picturing themselves as anything else than subjects of the King. But those people who had the vision to dream about what a new nation could be, they led the way in their passion, and our country was born on the backs of their hard work, sacrifice, and the blood shed by many men and women along the way.
Paul is the one with the vision here for what Christian Freedom is all about. Paul knows how difficult it is for any of us to imagine life not lived under the law as the definer of our worth and righteousness before God. Paul was sharing his dream of the new creation, which God is in the process of making and ushering in, and it all began when Jesus was crucified. And he makes it personal by saying that it begins for all of us when we are crucified to the world – when we put our reliance upon wealth and status, following the rules and being on the right side, achievements and guarding our individual rights to death, and never, ever become weary of doing good. He says, “Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” And as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, God’s desire and intention is that all people equally be included in the family of faith.

We do all of this with full knowledge that we may not see immediate success at what we do – we may not see the bounty of the harvest in which we are called to work – and that is okay. We may not see Satan fall like a flash of lightning from the sky when we work for the good of all, but God is using us to create that which only a few, like Paul, have been able to envision - the new creation.

Sometimes we are surprised later when we find out we made a difference for someone. I told the lesson study group Tuesday about a message I received a few years ago from someone I went to elementary school with named Lynn – I had to think really hard to even remember who she was. Anyway, she told me that her family was gathered in their basement during a tornado warning, and her young daughter was nearly panicking out of fear. She wondered how her mom could be so calm in the face of this impending danger. Lynn then told her daughter about a time when she was in 6th grade at Winterset Elementary School, and the entire school was lining the hallways, crouching with our heads between our knees during a really bad storm. Lynn told her daughter how she was feeling the same way – panicked, wondering if the school would withstand a tornado if it hit us. In the midst of this angst, a classmate next to her put his hand on her shoulder and simply said, “Don’t worry – it’s going to be alright.” And that was what she needed to calm down and to get through that storm. The name of that classmate was Ralph. The memory of that day helped her to help her daughter, so she sought me out online and sent me the message. To tell you the truth, I had forgotten all about that, and I really only vaguely remember it now. Plus I’m a little surprised that a 10 year old Ralph would be serious enough for ten minutes to do that! More evidence that it wasn’t me who was doing it, but God working through me.

Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all – not to put forward our own agenda, cause or fight for our individual rights. The freedom that Paul preaches – and the freedom upon which our nation was founded – is not to be guarded and coddled, but used as a tool, so that God’s new creation can and will be experienced by everyone. May God bless our nation … may God bless our world … and may God bless each of you, so that you do not become weary in doing good. Amen.