This is the second sermon in a three-week mini series from the Narrative Lectionary on Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29. Paul supports his argument that we are justified by faith and not by the works of the Law by looking at God’s Promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. Through faith we are one in Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing.
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Have you walked into a room and knew you didn’t belong? Turn to your neighbor and tell them when that happened.
This happened to me this past week.
It’s been a weird week. A week ago Thursday my brother-in-law died. My wife and one daughter and I flew out to Denver on Wednesday and I was asked to officiate the funeral on Thursday. My sister-in-law told me that, because Joe was a casual guy, the family wanted the service to be casual. So, I left my clericals at home and showed up at the service in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. When I walked into the chapel I was shocked. The whole family was dressed up. His sons had on suits and ties. My sister-in-law was wearing a beautiful gown with a string of pearls around her neck.
I honestly felt like I didn’t belong…and I was the preacher.
Do you ever wonder how often that happens when people walk into our churches?
I remember the first time Lona and I walked into a Lutheran church.
We didn’t know what to do, when to stand up or sit down. It was like we had a sign BAPTIST pasted across our forehead, and the way some people looked at us it felt like it said LOSER.
Today, we conclude our Easter series with the Theme DO SOMETHING TO BLESS OTHERS.
How can we be a blessing to other people with the way that we are church?
We get this theme from our text in Galatians, so I’d like to dive into it and see what the Apostle Paul has to say about this question.
let’s review a little bit.
Paul wrote this letter to a bunch of churches in a region called Galatia, which is in a place that today we call Turkey.
The people in these churches were Gentiles, which means they were not Jewish. There were a group of Jewish followers of Jesus who had come into these Gentile churches and were trying to convince them that the only way the Gentiles could be true followers of Jesus was if they became Jewish first.
The Jewish people had fallen into a common trap. They huddled together and formed a rigid boundary around themselves so that they could clearly determine who was “in” with God and who was “out” with God.
The way they could tell who was in and who was out was by the practice of circumcision and following the rules laid out in the Law of Moses.
We learned last week the Paul was trying to counteract this movement.
He suggests that the only thing that determines if you belong to the church is if you are centered on Christ, not by the rules you follow.
He reminds us that God’s love is for everybody.
Today we come to the middle section in the letter where Paul lays out an argument to prove his point.
Let’s read the first section out loud together.
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
He’s making a logical argument. He says, look, we know two things are true.
- You are Gentiles, not Jews.
- The Holy Spirit is active in you.
So…if this is true, did the Spirit come on you because.
You followed the Law of Moses?
or because you simply believed in Jesus and that God loves you?
Now let’s read the next section together,
Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.
Here we need a quick history lesson reminder.
The founding stories of the Jewish people begin with a guy named Abraham. God made a promise to him. I will bless you and make you a great nation. Through you all nations will be blessed.
Abraham, you are blessed to be a blessing.
Will you say that out loud with me. “Blessed to be a blessing.”
That happened in Genesis chapter 12. It wasn’t until chapter 17 that God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision.
Then it was almost 600 years later that God gave the Law to the Abraham’s descendents, after they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years.
Paul is saying that God made the promise to Abraham.
that was enough.
anyone who believes, like Abraham, is his child.
Then Paul continues. Let’s read,
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
This is the Gospel, the Good News, and the Promise.
The Narrative Lectionary skips over a really long section where Paul asks a natural question.
Then Why give the Law in the first place?
Good question. What’s the point of the Law?
Paul makes an argument that the Law is good and necessary. We need Law in order to be a good society.
But, Laws change. The Law of Moses was given to those people for that moment in history.
The Law of Moses is not for Gentiles.
We are not under the Law of Moses.
God has given us the laws of Dakota County and the United States, and those are the laws that shape our lives.
But, ultimately, Law condemns us all, because no one can obey the law 100% of the time.
So, he goes on to say, let’s read…
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.
In Christ, you are ALL Children of God through faith.
Now, let’s read the final section. These are earth shaking, culture changing words.
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.
Think about the barriers and social strata that divide us in our society today. Look around this room and notice who is not here and who might not feel welcome.
In Christ, those distinctions disappear. We are one. We all belong.
I’d like to share a story I recently read…
Our middle daughter had been previously adopted by another family. I [Timothy] am sure this couple had the best of intentions, but they never quite integrated the adopted child into their family of biological children. After a couple of rough years, they dissolved the adoption, and we ended up welcoming an eight-year-old girl into our home.
For one reason or another, whenever our daughter’s previous family vacationed at Disney World, they took their biological children with them, but they left their adopted daughter with a family friend. Usually — at least in the child’s mind — this happened because she did something wrong that precluded her presence on the trip.
And so, by the time we adopted our daughter, she had seen many pictures of Disney World and she had heard about the rides and the characters and the parades. But when it came to passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, she had always been the one left on the outside. Once I found out about this history, I made plans to take her to Disney World the next time a speaking engagement took our family to the southeastern United States.
I thought I had mastered the Disney World drill. I knew from previous experiences that the prospect of seeing cast members in freakishly oversized mouse and duck costumes somehow turns children into squirming bundles of emotional instability. What I didn’t expect was that the prospect of visiting this dreamworld would produce a stream of downright devilish behavior in our newest daughter. In the month leading up to our trip to the Magic Kingdom, she stole food when a simple request would have gained her a snack. She lied when it would have been easier to tell the truth. She whispered insults that were carefully crafted to hurt her older sister as deeply as possible — and, as the days on the calendar moved closer to the trip, her mutinies multiplied.
A couple of days before our family headed to Florida, I pulled our daughter into my lap to talk through her latest escapade. “I know what you’re going to do,” she stated flatly. “You’re not going to take me to Disney World, are you?” The thought hadn’t actually crossed my mind, but her downward spiral suddenly started to make some sense. She knew she couldn’t earn her way into the Magic Kingdom — she had tried and failed that test several times before — so she was living in a way that placed her as far as possible from the most magical place on earth.
In retrospect, I’m embarrassed to admit that, in that moment, I was tempted to turn her fear to my own advantage. The easiest response would have been, “If you don’t start behaving better, you’re right, we won’t take you” — but, by God’s grace, I didn’t. Instead, I asked her, “Is this trip something we’re doing as a family?”
She nodded, brown eyes wide and tear-rimmed.
“Are you part of this family?”
She nodded again.
“Then you’re going with us. Sure, there may be some consequences to help you remember what’s right and what’s wrong — but you’re part of our family, and we’re not leaving you behind.”
I’d like to say that her behaviors grew better after that moment. They didn’t. Her choices pretty much spiraled out of control at every hotel and rest stop all the way to Lake Buena Vista. Still, we headed to Disney World on the day we had promised, and it was a typical Disney day. Overpriced tickets, overpriced meals, and lots of lines, mingled with just enough manufactured magic to consider maybe going again someday.
In our hotel room that evening, a very different child emerged. She was exhausted, pensive, and a little weepy at times, but her month-long facade of rebellion had faded. When bedtime rolled around, I prayed with her, held her, and asked, “So how was your first day at Disney World?”
She closed her eyes and snuggled down into her stuffed unicorn. After a few moments, she opened her eyes ever so slightly.
“Daddy,” she said, “I finally got to go to Disney World. But it wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours.”
It wasn’t because I was good; it’s because I’m yours. ((story from https://storiesforpreaching.com/because-im-yours-the-little-girl-who-ginally-went-to-disney-world/))
Repeat these words with me again.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
Now, go, do something to be a blessing today.