Monday, June 21, 2010

How do we live free: Galatians 5:1,13-25

Greetings to any and all readers,
I took a week away from this blog and most other activities for Vacation Bible School. It was a week imagining being on a High Seas Adventure while studying the Book of Acts.
Back in the routine I looked back to what I'd written before about this week's readings; but as Jesus makes clear, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” ( Luke 9:62 NIV) You can read my comments from 3 years ago about Luke 9:51-62, if you'd like, but I'm looking in a different direction.
I'd like to push into different terrain this week, Christian Freedom. Paul wrote, "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 NRSV

Paul's letter to the church in Galatia is a message of hope for the people Jesus died to set free. Paul put it simply, " were called to freedom.." (Galatians 6:13) Our freedom is a gift that starts with Jesus. But reading on in Galatians 5:1,13-25 we see the challenges to our freedom defined. Martin Luther wrote,

This is the freedom with which Christ has set us free, not from some human slavery or tyrannical authority but from the eternal wrath of God.
Where? In the conscience. This is where our freedom comes to a halt; it goes no further. For Christ has set us free, not for a political freedom or a freedom of the flesh but for a theological or spiritual freedom, that is, to make our conscience free and joyful, unafraid of the wrath to come (
Matt. 3:7). This is the most genuine freedom; it is immeasurable. Luther's Works, Vol. 27 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6, ( ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1964).
Luther had a troubled conscience. His ministry spread the same Good News that brought him peace: the total freedom that comes as a gift to those who follow Christ. But Paul warns us not to surrender the gift. The price of our freedom was Jesus body and blood; and we sell that very same body and blood bought freedom very cheaply. Paul even warns his readers

the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idoolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,envy,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NRSV.

Temptations of all kinds assail us; that's the enemy at work to undercut our freedom. Jesus says we are to follow him and not look back. Paul knew first had about what we give up when we follow. And he knows that it is only in letting go of everything that we might claim as our own in the past, present, and future that we will be free. Paul says we are to live by the Spirit. It only sounds simple. May God help us to live by the Spirit free as he intends. AMEN.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's Christ who lives. Galatians 2:15-21

Paul told the church in Galatia
"it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 NRSV
I saw this reality in action twice this past weekend.
On Saturday I went to a funeral for a man named Albion who died at 91.
On Sunday my beloved, our girls, and I attended the baptism of a 2nd cousin's baby girl, Mariah.
It was wonderful to see God's place, the families place, and the churches place in each of these events and the way that God, life, family, church, death, and baptism overlap. Baptism is about death first and then about life. It's hard to admit it really works this way because we deeply care for earthly life; but we as Christians are already dead because of baptism and we are alive now because of Christ.
Seeing Albion's funeral and Mariah's baptism reassures me that these two events are really connected. The pastor at Albion's funeral told a story about the Wednesday night after worship when Albion came to him as he was gathering up the communion elements. Al was singing the final hymn of the night as a question, "How can I keep from singing." The framed copy of the Beatitudes that hangs on my wall from Al reassures me that Al had faith and hope in the power of God's love. And in faith and hope he hasn't stopped singing.
The promise of Baptism assures me that Mariah's just begun to sing and that her singing and the singing of all who trust in Christ will not end.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jesus said, "Rise" Luke 7:11-17

Jesus' ministry began to attract great attention; not because of his teaching at first; but because of the miracles. The miracles drew in the crowds who would be willing to listen to him teach. The miracles were proof of Jesus authority.

Sickness, sin, and the daemonic were not too much for Jesus. He healed, forgave, and exorcised. But there's another great enemy that we humans can't conquer on our own: death. In this story we see Jesus take on death. He reacted in sympathy to a widow who watched her son's body carried out for burial.
It happened fast. Jesus stepped in front of the funeral procession. Jesus turned to the mother. "Stop crying" He touched the bier that held the body and said, "Young Man, I say to you, arise." The man rose.
The crowd was stunned. They'd seen this son of a carpenter step in between a dead man and the procession to his grave. They's seen something big happen and the news of the man's healing spread.

Throughout history rational thinkers have been drawn to Jesus as a prophet. Thomas Jefferson, famous for his presidency and role in the establishment of the republic known today as the United States wrote the The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The book is all about Jesus; but saddly Jefferson's book makes little mention of the miracles. Without them Jesus had no authority as a teacher and would have had no crowds to listen. With them Jesus made it clear that he had power to act; not just wisdom to share.