Yesterday’s sermon from Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Each week we print readings for the coming week on the back of the worship folder.These readings come from the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a schedule of readings for each week in the church year.
These readings are compiled in such a way that they support and undergird each other which is helpful for planning worship, and they also tell the story of God’s work in the world, of Jesus, the church and Jesus’ relationship with the church. We are now in the season after Pentecost where Jesus’ relationship with the church is explored through scripture.
As I was selecting today’s sermon text from the 4 readings to choose from (usually 2 from the Old Testament and 2 from the New Testament), two themes emerged: following the leading of the Holy Spirit, and love. These two themes together were most pronounced in this passage from Galatians, so here we are with another wordy passage from the apostle Paul.
This wordy passage offers depth, meaning and encouragement to us as we look for ways to live out our faith in love, guided by the spirit of Christ. Paul begins with this statement: “it is for freedom that we have been set free.” Paul’s message hinges on this fact, that Christ has set us free so that we can live, free. Paul tries to help readers understand what he means by this by explaining the difference between the Law of Moses and the law of Christ.
The Law of Moses, based on the 10 commandments is a set of guides, rules and rituals given by God to God’s chosen people – commandments that keep the people in relationship to God and with one another.
The Law of Moses is a type of covenant. Paul shows us that we, the followers of Christ, are under am expanded version of this covenant. Just as the Law of Moses was designed to protect and guard hearts, minds and lives of the people of Israel through acts of worship and devotion to God, Jesus’ law, the new covenant is also designed to protect and guard our hearts, minds and lives by showing us a way of living that is guided by Christ’s example of love, and by the leading of the holy spirit. A new covenant that continues to keep us in relationship to God and with one another.
For freedom we have been set free. The freedom is an unburdening of our lives from things that get in our way of following the way of Christ, like some of the things Paul lays out for us here. Idolatry keeps us pining after things that lack spiritual substance.
Lust lures us into false feelings of human intimacy and connection, however shallow these connections may be. Greed keeps us hungry for control in our lives, as we swim the waters of a scary, scary world which is largely out of our control.
Freedom from these things leads us to peace, which comforts us in our lack of control of the world around us. Gentleness lets us connect with the people around us in meaningful ways, joy fills us with spiritual resilience. These are the fruits of the spirit: the produce that grows from lives that have been set free.
But, our freedom in Christ is not a freedom to just do whatever we want. It is a freedom to be in community the way Jesus was in community with his followers. It is a freedom of relationship and connectedness, rather than a freedom of individuality free of entanglements.
Entanglements make freedom meaningful. Most often these entanglements are our relationships with one another; relationships modeled after our relationships to Christ. Relationships both flow out of and create meaningful opportunities for freedom in Christ.
These relationships which are based in and create freedom are relationships built on love: the love of neighbor and the love of self. Self-love is not self-centered or selfish love. When we love ourselves as Christ loves us, we become free of selfish or self-centered interests that only benefit us, and we become liberated to love ourselves with a grace that guides us through mistakes, to offer forgiveness to ourselves and gumption to keep going – keep pursuing faith each day.
Loving ourselves in this way frees us to love others in the same way. When we love ourselves as Christ loves us, we begin to love our neighbors as Christ loves them. This is good news for believers who want to be a part of God’s work in the world.
And this is good news for people who need believers to live out faith through love on their behalf. People who are poor, people of color, indigenous people, all people who are looked down on for any number of reasons that create barriers to their humanity being recognized and affirmed.
We are freed from the old law of self-righteousness and piety, and bound to the new law of Christ: to love.
It is a paradoxical bondage of freedom.
We are preparing to celebrate freedom on July the 4th. On this day, thank a veteran or active soldier for their service and sacrifice – their willingness to lay themselves aside for our freedom in this country.
On this day, remember the high, involuntary cost that first nations paid for us to be here, and the work of people enslaved against their will who built a lot of the things we take for granted.
On this day, pray for asylum seekers and refugees who also long to be free.
On this day, give thanks to God for freedom and give hearts and hands to God for continued grace and courage to let faith work through love.
This congregation is among the most loving and spirit – seeking groups of people I have ever been privileged to know. You let your faith working through love be known in such a way that it looks as effortless as breathing in and breathing out.
The beauty of this is, it’s not effortless at all. You know this. And yet, you have made a commitment to the way of Christ, to live in freedom by being bound to love and the Holy Spirit of Christ.
The heart of this group of believers beats with the freeing love of Christ, and this makes this congregation a gift to others in this building, the surrounding community, and the world.
We welcome everyone. We give of ourselves. We long to do ministry.
These are gifts of faithful love and service we offer to God. This is because we believe God’s spirit and works among us. God’s spirit has guided this congregation in the past, continues to guide us still, and will always be there to illumine our way ahead. Verse 25 of this passage says “if we live by the spirit, let us also be guided by the spirit.”
Let’s speak this verse together. “If we live by the spirit, let us also be guided by the spirit.”
Let us be guided into bravery: to build relationships and expand our comfort zones, as we continue to engage with First Baptist and beyond.
Let us be guided into dreaming: of new possibilities, and hopes for continued ministry.
Let us be guided into gratitude: for freedom and blessing, and Jesus’ example of love.
Let us be guided into faith: a faith working through love.