Communion: breaking slavery
This sermon follows on the theme of "freedom in Christ" which Paul has been writing about throughout this letter. Hope it meets your needs.
f you think following Jesus will mean first place in life, think again. In 1993, Mike Deleavo, a cross-country runner was one of only five who did not miss a turn at the NCAA championship in Riverside, California. None of the five who took the longer, correct course, challenged the final out of respect for the in-state opponent Adams State College who won its second consecutive title. Delcavo told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "If I had stayed on the wrong course, I would have finished respectably. But when you read the official results, I'm 123 out of 128 runners" (Articles. latimes.com).
Yet, our goal as a follower of Jesus is to follow him, go the right way, no matter where the world ranks us. The Galatian’s were falling prey to a group who demanded Jewish ritual rules including circumcision. Paul clearly tells them and us that when we sacrifice such human designs for God’s perfect plan we cut ourselves off from the grace of God and the salvation through Jesus.
As Israel faced their rebellion, God, through the Prophet Jeremiah, pronounces the judgment we read earlier. Happiness, gladness, celebration, will end because of the people’s sins. Was it the breaking of the laws? Yes, of course, but at the root of that breakage was their “stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to God” v.12.
Freedom vs. Slavery
Let me quickly speak of the slavery that we risk when we remain tied to the world and the religious rule keeping that these Jews were pushing on the people. I say quickly because we’ve gone over this before in Galatians. Here is what God does when we put our faith and trust in something other than Jesus. This was God’s promise in Jeremiah, “I will hurl you out of this land into a land …and there you shall serve other gods day and night” v.13. Let me say that I think many Christians are going to be caught up in cultural idolatry by worshipping their pet ideas, politics and beliefs to the exclusion of Jesus. And God just may let our faith rise or fall on those beliefs. What sort of things am I talking about--good ideas, commendable futures, and concepts which are biblical. But, because our trust is in what they promise we lose sight of the Grace of God through Christ.
Freedom not License
One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride and one of the great lines have to do with Vizzini’s overuse use of the word, ‘inconceivable’. Finally Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” (The Princess Bride). I want to apply this line to the word that is often used today—freedom.
The U.S. Constitution declares people “have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (U.S. 1776). The freedom which our nation perceived as originating with God has taken a strange turn throughout the years. But the problem isn’t from a liberal or conservative Supreme Court, legislature, government bureaucracy, or taking prayer out of school. The problem stems from us.
It seems that freedom has morphed into individualism. Freedom has become the right to do whatever I want when I want without limitations. And if I don’t like it, get offended, upset or bothered, I am free to sue, disparage and attack others.
Freedom in Christ allows no “opportunity for the flesh” which means falling back into sinful selfish behaviors. If that’s not clear enough, Paul immediately gives us the positive aspect of freedom. “Through love, serve one another”.
Robert Bella, professor emeritus at U.C. Berkeley and not sympathetic to the Scripture understood how American adults became “caught up in the myth of the individual” (McKnight). What was linked too and flowed out of a biblical and civic responsibility took off like cancer and stripped itself of all moorings to others and started to claim the word ‘freedom’ for itself.
Bella describes, what passes for freedom, as “doing what I want,” and “finding oneself…In some sense … freedom to be left alone is a freedom that implies being alone” (Bellah).
What passes for freedom, even among Christians, is “independence, autonomy, and personal sovereignty” Dr. McKnight continues,
“Theologically, such a definition of one’s personal ambition smells of profound sinfulness. This view of life defines freedom as the absence of limitations and the presence of self-sufficiency and power” (McKnight).
Our getting in touch with ourselves, discovering who we are, becoming emotionally healthy and the rest isn’t bad. But it isn’t enough. “Mental and psychological health is not biblical freedom any more than eliminating racial prejudice is the Millennium” (McKnight).
Freedom in Loving
“For, the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v.14). There is a very important difference between keeping the law and fulfilling the law.
It may surprise you but verse 14 is not a command but a statement. When we love our neighbor as ourselves we fulfill the entire law. It’s not keeping the special days, eating kosher and making that fulfill God’s law but when we do the unexpected and live as Christ’s person (Dunnam and Ogilvie).
Yet it isn’t us that do this loving of others. It is Christ’s love (that’s the passive voice) which is already poured out from the cross and which continues (the perfect tense) to be shown forth in our acts of love for others.
I ran across a pastor who said he posted on Facebook the question, "What makes it hard for you to serve other people?" Some of the answers he got included:
"Serving is hard when it doesn't fit in to my schedule or plan. It's hard when their need seems endless. I don't want to risk helping/serving because I may get sucked in. Being swallowed up in the serving and not getting to be the me I think I am or should be (Miller).”
Then he says, “But my favorite answer was this one: "What makes it hard to serve others? Others” (Miller).
Loving others, does not equal first place as Mike Deleavo discovered but it is in line with God’s will and fulfills the purpose of His love since before time began and we celebrate it this morning at His table. Let us pray.
Articles.latimes.com. 'A Race Full of Confusion: Despite Costly Wrong Turn, Cross-Country Results Stand'. n.p., 2015. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.
Bellah, Robert N. Individualism & Commitment in American Life. New York: Perennial Library, 1987. Print.
Dunnam, Maxie D, and Lloyd John Ogilvie. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
McKnight, Scot. Galatians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995. Print.
Miller, Kevin. 'Facebook Question: What's Hard About Serving Others?'. Preaching Today. n.p. 2015. Web. 3 Sept. 2015.
The Princess Bride. 2015. DVD.
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