Sunday, 13 June 2010

Because Jesus loves me

Pentecost 4 year C Sermon  Galatians Series part one

Someone in this church is a sinner
yet this person has a deep and abiding faith in Jesus.

This person would
like to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly… they don’t want to keep doing the things they do…they’re truly repentant when they offend…
but they..
just don’t seem to be able to change.

Should we allow them to continue to identify themselves with this church…with us? Or should we distance ourselves from them …refuse to speak to them after the serviceforbid them to come to coffee morning or prayer group… should we ask them to step down from leadership…
Maybe it would be a good idea… not to be seen with them or have them over for teawe could be judged guilty by association. Or worse…our own efforts to live a good life… could be weakened by contact with them. [pause]

Someone in this church is a sinner…yet this person has a deep and abiding faith in Jesus.

Why do they keep
coming Sunday after Sunday? What should we do about this…Maybe we could encourage them to start their own church or go somewhere else to worship God.
Have you guessed who I’m talking about?

Of course I’m talking about myself…and I do keep coming back don’t I…

…because Jesus loves me…

and gave himself for me. 
To believe anything else… says the apostle Paul
is to set aside the grace of God.

So if I
can’t be perfect… and I still want a relationship with God and this wonderful faith community of ours…
all I can do is do what
Paul did… if I can’t be perfect

I live by faith in Jesus
and what does this mean exactly? Paul explains…
it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

And you could well ask …if Christ… lives in you shouldn’t that mean you won’t sin… at all? Or maybe it means Jesus is ok with it… when you do?

not what it means… Paul says.
What it
means is…When I fall or fail or offend against God’s will for me …and I doevery day in some way…
it doesn’t mean Jesus
approves… it means

I [simply] demonstrate… that I’m a lawbreaker….I’m a transgressor…a sinner

Paul reminds us…our relationship with God can’t be based on perfect obedience to the Law. Our justification
right relationship with God…can’t be based on perfection. We’re all likely to offend God from time to time.
but the good news
Jesus brought is that we are still loved.

So I for
one…am grateful that you still allow me to be your minister…still invite me to dinner…still pray with me…and I am deeply grateful that you still come to me and even confide your own imperfections… to me

glad the price of admission… to this community of faith… isn’t perfect obedience to the Law… or even perfect faith…because here in our church…it seems to me that wanting a loving relationship with God and with others is more important than perfection.

But it wasn’t
like that with in the Roman colony of Galatia…two thousand years ago…Jewish Christians were starting to regard their gentile
brothers and sisters in the
church as unclean…
if they weren’t adhering strictly to the Jewish Law.

So Paul shoots off an angry letter to them...that’s
not what being a Christian is about…those of you with Jewish heritage…had better clean up your act…

Yes we are Jews…but we’re Jews who know something
We know a person is justified… not by the works of the Law… but through faith in Jesus Christ.
Having encountered the risen Christ…Paul believes with all his heart… that faith in Jesus… is sufficient

But the
Jewish Christians in Galatia aren’t so sure
it seems they’ve been persuaded to..
separate themselves …to distance themselves…from so called unclean ‘gentile sinners’… who also happen to be Christians.

They don’t like Paul’s
teaching and because they don’t like it... they’re questioning his conversion… and his right to call himself an apostle…even his relationship with the church in Jerusalem.

At the time Paul writes his letter to the Galatians… the Christian movement has only been around for fifteen years or so…and Paul is really worried this controversy will weaken the church…even split it.

He’s convinced their
unity in Christ…
is their greatest
strength…in getting people to take Jesus’ story seriously…

Paul is constantly putting out fires… that threaten to destroy the infant church… and he doesn’t hesitate…
to pour cold
water on what the Jewish Christians are doing.

You foolish Galatians! He writes…
Who has
bewitched you? Just tell me one thing.
Did you receive the Spirit by observing the
law, or by believing what you heard about Jesus

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit,
are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 

Don’t you know it's a relationship thing…didn’t Jesus show us in the way he lived…and died…
forgiving even on the cross. Didn’t Jesus promise us the Spirit would be poured out on everyone?

Didn’t our sacred texts foresee that God would justify the Gentiles by faith… and wasn’t this good news announced in advance to Abraham…that all nations will be blessed through his Seed… 

Listen you crazy peoplePaul is saying
The law was introduced 430 years after God’s covenant with Abraham. So that covenant couldn’t have been based on the law that Covenant depended on God’s promise
A promise God gave in his grace to Abraham
And Paul tells them…Jesus is the Seed to which God’s promise refersJesus is the way
‘All nations will be

and Paul says…this
is the good news we are all children of God through faith in Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…
for we are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to God’s promise.

Our relationship with God through faith in Jesus and our relationship with each other …is much more important than all of that other stuff.  So live and let live…
Paul is saying…if it’s not about Jesus and his teaching …then let it go…be friends… play nice…
keep the family

We are supposed to be a movement of people who have faith in…and follow the way of Jesus. [pause]

Almost every schism… every rupture in the
history…whether Jewish and gentile Christians in the first century…or Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians in the sixth…whether between Catholics and Protestants a thousand years later…or Presbyterians in the 20th century…taking sides over infant or believer baptism… and the ordination of women…and others who are different.

In every conflict which threatens to separate brothers and sisters in Christ from one another… Paul’s saying we take our eyes off the ball…we lose our way… and cause harm to the body of Christ

When we take our eyes off Jesus we lose the plot… we forget that faith in Jesus is sufficient…we forget that in Christ there is

neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
When we keep our eyes Jesus and our shared relationship in Christ…when we remember the grace and forgiveness he offered… even on the cross…at that very moment
surely we must stop
condemning ourselves and others and start loving…

And you know much
later in his ministry Paul summed it all up much for the Roman church in similar conflict to the Galatians…he said the kingdom of God isn’t a matter of following some religious code of practise,
but about

justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
and Paul says…
anyone who serves Christ in this way… is pleasing to God and deserving of our approval.

To believe anything else Paul reminds us…
is to set aside the grace of God.