Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sermon for May 29, 2016: To KNOW and TO GROW

The following sermon was preached by Rev. Mark T. Peterson, on May 29, 2016, at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Holliston, MA. It is the first sermon in a 6 week series on Galatians, entitled TO KNOW, and TO GROW. I will be making references to a document I produced, of the same name, and that is pictured within this post. 
Galatians 1:1-12
1Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—2and all the members of God’s family who are with me,
  To the churches of Galatia:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
10Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12
for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

I have a new intro today, not really mine I guess, but one I copied, or plagiarized from Paul...but being as he hasn't been around for 2000 years, I think I'm ok. Paul wrote this, as the greeting to Galatians, and he writes similar things in his other letters in the Bible.

Today, we read from Galatians and we will continue reading from it over the course of the next six weeks. For a little background, Paul wrote this letter to the churches of Galatia thousands of years ago. These churches were ones that he had played a role in starting quite a few years before with his message of the Gospel. A message about Jesus Christ and a message that the Bible tells us Paul himself received directly from Jesus. As the story goes, Jesus, who has been raised from the dead and is living encounters Saul with a blinding light, knocks him off of his horse, and tells him to change his name to Paul. Jesus also gives Paul the good news, the saving news about himself, and Paul, an apostle, shared that news with others, like the Galatians.
It had been some years since the Holy Spirit, through the work of Paul, had formed the church in Galatia, and now Paul felt the need to write to them. It seems that Paul's Gospel message, the message of Jesus Christ himself, had gotten a little twisted. So Paul, writes the Galatians a letter, and he writes to them about what they are "TO KNOW" and how they are "TO GROW". 
Paul's themes; TO KNOW and TO GROW, also fits nicely with my own document, my pastoral vision that I call, "TO KNOW and TO GROW", which you all have a copy of. 

Paul wanted the people of Galatia TO KNOW, that they were the Holy People of God, and TO KNOW how they got that way....
Paul also wanted the people of Galatia TO GROW in what it meant to have that holy identity, as the People of God. 

Today, in a different time and place, we are no more or no less the People of God as the Galatians were, and therefore Paul's letter speaks to us as well. We are called TO KNOW and TO GROW.

The first thing that Paul emphasizes, the first thing TO KNOW, is that this Gospel of Jesus Christ didn't come to him from human hands, or human councils, it came to him directly from Christ, and most importantly, this message is not about Paul, but all about Jesus Christ. The message is about God, not about Paul. Paul goes to great lengths to emphasize this. 

This is what we are TO KNOW, even today, that Paul's message, that has been passed on for over 2000 years does not come to us by the power of humans, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a message, a Gospel, about Jesus Christ, that has continued to reveal his presence to humans, right up to, and including today. Though Paul writes the letter, it is the work and Word of God. 

TO KNOW: The Gospel comes to us from Jesus Christ, is about Jesus Christ, and reveals to us Jesus Christ.
The second thing that we are called TO KNOW, is that Jesus Christ came to Paul, he came to this world, he comes to us in this Gospel message for a reason! Paul writes "Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age." Jesus is here with us, because he is doing something for us. He is saving us from our sin and freeing us from this evil age. 

We might not like to talk about sin, thinking that this type of language is a thing of the past, or that if we just ignore sin it will go away. But, our whole reason for needing salvation (from Jesus) is the fact of sin in our lives and world. I like to say that, "The Good News about the Church is that we have a savior. The bad news about the Church is that we really need one."  Jesus Christ is here doing something, and doing something about sin.

The sin that Jesus is doing something about, affects us all, no matter if it is our own sin or the sin of someone else. Sin's effects are apparent through all times and places, and we are confronted with its devastating results as we are about to observe Memorial Day. In our observance, we are marked by the markers of those who have lost their lives in service to our country, as a result of being put into violent situations. As we mark generations of those men and women who have died, we see the continual consequences of war; death, destruction; pain, and loss. Setting aside the issue of being right or wrong, in these losses, no matter who we are, or what times and places we have lived in, WE KNOW that war touches us. WE KNOW that this violence, this sin, leaves its mark, and darkens the lives of us all. Worst of all, WE KNOW that we will join with the mass of humanity that has gone before us, and continue to pass our sin on to the coming generations.

In our memorials, we remember. We remember the role of sin in our lives, whether we choose to acknowledge or not. Truly, sin is at work in our lives, and we don't have to dig hard to see that. Recently, there were bomb threats made towards schools in this area. These threats, thankfully, were unsubstantiated, but that didn't stop them from having an effect on teachers, staff, parents, and even young students; causing fear, stress, and anxiety. This sinful act causes us to wonder; what would happen if the threats were true? and what type of person would do something like that? When these thoughts enter into our lives, they become a part of our very being, causing us to be more afraid of others. These thoughts can cause us to turn inward, looking more and more upon ourselves, and our own protection, security, needs, and desires, and captivating us in fear, so that we forget about our neighbor. Sin, works its way into our lives, and then holds us captive to our own selfishness, however that manifests itself. 

The GOOD NEWS, what God, through people like Paul, so wants us...

TO KNOW: The Gospel comes to us from Jesus Christ, is about Jesus Christ, and reveals to us Jesus Christ.
TO KNOW: Jesus Christ has come to us to give himself for our sins, and to free us from this evil age. 

In my document, "TO KNOW and TO GROW" there is a focus on my calling to preside at worship, because it is in our worship, in our gathering, where God speaks to us the Gospel message that God wants us TO KNOW. As we read Galatians together today, we remember that 2000 years ago the people of Galatia didn't read this alone, in their homes. Rather, they gathered together to hear it, and to be formed by it. The Holy Spirit continues to call us together, into worship, so that we, like the Galatians, KNOW that Jesus Christ has come to give himself for our sins, and KNOW that Jesus does this work in grace and peace. 

The Holy Spirit calls us together in worship so that we can hear God speak to us about the grace of Christ in ways that go beyond words. God speaks to us in water that is splashed upon us, so that we KNOW that we have been made Children of God, so that we KNOW that God has claimed us as his beloved. God speaks to us in the bread and wine that we take and eat the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given for us, for the forgiveness of our sin, for the forgiveness of the sin of the world, so that we KNOW that nothing we do can separate us from the love and life of God.

The Holy Spirit gathers us in worship TO KNOW this promise of God, to experience this promise together, and then....the Holy Spirit empowers us TO GROW in being people of this promise. When we KNOW of God's love, it transforms us, so that we may GROW in our own love for God, and love of all whom God has made.
The Holy Spirit gathers us in worship to be formed, TO GROW, in our holy identity, and the Holy Spirit gives to us many spiritual gifts and practices to help us grow, and for today, our growth comes from focusing on a question Paul posed to the Galatians, "Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people?"

KNOWING the Gospel of Jesus Christ. KNOWING the grace it gives to us and KNOWING that it is ours forever, we are given the freedom to ask this question of ourselves, "Are we seeking human approval or God's approval?", and simply in our self-examination, we begin TO GROW in our trust for God, our love for God, and our life together in God. 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen

TO KNOW: The Gospel comes to us from Jesus Christ, is about Jesus Christ, and reveals to us Jesus Christ.
TO KNOW: Jesus Christ has come to us to give himself for our sins, and to free us from this evil age. 
TO GROW: "Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people?"