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Sermon for Ordinary 12 - Proper 7 - Year C
Galatians 3:23-29
"Now, One In Christ"
- by Rev. David Jagger -


READING:  Galatians 3:23-29
SERMON :  "Now, One In Christ"

Rev. Dave Jagger (djagger@golden.net)
Submitted:  23 Jun 95 07:55:18, SERMON_SWAP (40

   This week we present a guest sermon for the "Upcoming 
   Sunday".  The following Sermon was written by Rev. Dave 
   Jagger of the United Church of Canada in 1995 and is 
   reproduced with permission.

   
A READING FROM GALATIANS 3:23-29 
    (NRSV)  Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded 
    under the law until faith would be revealed.  Therefore the 
    law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might 
    be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no
    longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you 
    are all children of God  through faith.  As many of you as 
    were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
    There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or 
    free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are 
    one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you 
    are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.


SERMON:  "Now, One in Christ"

Introduction
I want to look with you today at the passage from Galatians which we heard
read.  It contains a fairly well known verse, 

   "There is no longer Jew or  Greek, there is no longer slave or free,
   there is no longer male and female;  for all of you are one in
   Christ Jesus."

This has implications for us as a church and as individuals and I
hope we'll explore them later.

First, some background.  Galatians was written by Paul to the churches in
the Roman province of Galatia.  Paul had a hand in establishing those
churches, so he is writing to people he knows in places he has already been
at least once.  As always, Paul writes to address a problem.  It seems that
these churches are made up of different ethnic groups.  Included in the
churches are many Gentile converts to Christianity.  There are also Jews.

Now Paul preached to them all a gospel of justification by faith in Christ
Jesus.  We are justified, made right, forgiven, by our faith in Christ
Jesus, which leads us to live a life based on the way Jesus lived: ethical,
moral, sacrificial.  All we need is faith to enter into this new life of
the Christian.

However, some people arriving later, taught otherwise.  They taught that in
order to become a Christian, you first had to become a Jew; with all of the
requirements of the law that included.

Paul disagrees vehemently.  The law never saved anyone, he claims.  Only
faith in Christ can do that.  Why be slaves to a bunch of rules and
traditions, which don't accomplish anything, when you can be free through
the life of the Spirit which comes through faith in Jesus Christ?  It's
within the context of freedom vs. Law, that this passage comes.

Let me read it for you again.  [Read Galatians 3:23-29]

Can you feel the two sides?  Before and after.  
At one time, but now.  Old and new. Before and After?

Before
Law: by the time Paul was writing, the Law was a very complex set of
instructions governing virtually every part of daily life. It was seen as
the way to live as God wanted.  If you followed the law, to the letter of
the law,then you were a good person and were looked on with favour by God.

Restrictions: of course living by the law placed a lot of restrictions upon
you.  You had to act certain ways at certain times and in certain
situations. If you didn't, then you were breaking the law, which was
equated to sinning, and you were cut off from God until you had made up for
it, by doing what the law required in order for you to be restored.

Divisions: The law was also very good at setting up divisions between
people. Who's in & who's out is obvious.  Natural, genetic Jews were in
first place. Converts to Judaism were next in second.  Gentiles, that's
everyone else, was last, out.

After
freedom: No longer being chained to the rules.  No longer being held
hostage emotionally and spiritually to the law.  Imagine the freedom of
finding out that if you break a law, you aren't finished.  That God still
loves you.  That you are OK because of your faith.  You still have to live
a moral and ethical life.  You can't just do whatever you please, but when
you do sin, God is waiting with open arms to forgive you.  How refreshing!!

Heirs: No longer are those people who are not genetically Jewish left on
the outside.  Through faith all are heirs to the promises of God.  That's
especially important for those Gentile Christians Paul is writing to.  They
are just as included as the Jewish Christians in the Kingdom of God.  All
Christians are "One in Christ."

unity in diversity: Now the old distinctions don't matter anymore. 
Instead, the Christians can focus together on their new relationship with
God.  They don't have to expend energy on who's who and who's in and who's
out.  They can work on living a Christ-like life, instead.

Turning Point
The turning point between before and after, according to Paul, is Baptism. 
At baptism we are clothed in Christ. We put on Christ.  We are changed;
given new life; and expected to live for Christ there after.  Baptism is
the entry into the Christian community and as I said the other week at
Confirmation, no one is the same afterwards.

Warning!
Now with this new freedom, and in this passage there is also a warning. 
You have changed.  Don't go back to the old ways.  They didn't work.  They
didn't bring you to where you are now as a new creation in relationship
with the one true God.  Faith and grace did that.  Hold onto them.  Let God
do the saving and justifying, not yourself.  As hard as it may be, don't go
back!!

Present - Us:
That was Paul's message to the churches in Galatia around 1990 years ago. 
What does it have to do with us today? 

Well, we can identify with certain things happening in Galatia.  We don't
have people here trying to convince us that we have to follow the Jewish
law.  We don't have a terribly mixed congregation in terms of Jew and
Gentile.  Those are terms that don't mean much to us here.  But we do have
a "Point of Identification."

Baptism
We too are "clothed in Christ."  We too experience baptism and re-birth. 
Baptism was the entry point for each of us into the church and the life we
call Christian.  We have a sense of "Before and After."  We too have a
before & after

No longer...
Under the "law."  Not a Jewish Law, but a society's law.  An unspoken,
hidden law.  A Law that says, you are most important and your needs must
come first.  A Law which says spend, spend, spend.  A Law which places
personal freedom and "rights" above all else.  Think about our society as
reflected in the media and around us.  Peer pressure to conform.  Marketing
ploys to get your money.  Traditions and "proper ways" to act.  People who
don't follow those unwritten "laws" are quickly, either pushed into line or
forgotten.  You have to dress the part, or you aren't taken seriously.

Now...
freedom in the Spirit
Not free to do whatever you want
Free to live for God
free to love your neighbour as yourself
free to bear another's burdens
free to be helpful and do good to all people

Free to forget about protocol and tradition when need be and instead to
focus on Christ-like behaviour.  Loving our neighbour, when everything we
are told by the people around us indicates otherwise.  Free to give, when
society says hoard.  Free to inconvenience yourself for the sake of someone
else.

No longer...
Like the well known passage about Jew & Greek, Slave and free, we are also
no longer to focus on our distinctions and differences.  Maybe for us that
verse should read, "No longer...
   Rich and poor?
          City and rural?
                Farmer & businessman
   Lay and Clergy?
        Young and old?
                Male and female?

Now...
We are equals and more.  The old distinctions are still there, but they
don't matter.  We don't dwell on them and get caught up by them.  It's not
"who's  who" that matters, but "Christ in me and Christ in you."  Now we
can deal with each other on a new level, as "One in Christ."  That implies,
respect, listening, honesty, trust; real equality.  The old has gone,
everything is made new.

We too face a warning...

Don't go back to the old ways!!  They don't work!  Don't spend all your
energy trying to justify yourself and live up to society's requirements. 
You can't do it, anyway!  Instead, hold to the faith & grace.  Cling to
Christ.  Live in the Spirit.  Love freely.

For all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28b)
For all of us are one in Christ Jesus.

Pushing Ahead
1.  Who do you know that you have a hard time treating as "one in Christ?"
2.  What tempts you the strongest to revert back to the "old" ways?
3.  Where are the "new" ways of love and Spirit manifest in your life?

AMEN. 
        

copyright - Rev. David Jagger, 1995, 2001, 2004
            Page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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