Monday, June 27, 2016

Sermon for June 26, 2019: To KNOW and to GROW: FRUIT!

The following sermon was preached by Rev. Mark T. Peterson, on June 26, 2016, at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Holliston, MA. It is the 5th sermon in a 6 week series on Galatians, entitled TO KNOW, and TO GROW. 

Galatians 5:1, 13-251For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
 13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
 16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
 22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

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

Today, we are in our 5th week of reading from Paul's letter to the Galatians, and as we read from chapter 5 today, we remember that Paul wrote to the Galatians and to us; so that we can KNOW and GROW. Mostly, so that we KNOW that we are the People of God and so that we GROW in what our holy identity means.

Paul writes today so that we KNOW that we have been called to lives of freedom, and that it is Jesus Christ that has set us free to live these lives. In making this point, Paul also clarifies, that this freedom is not mere self-indulgence. Rather, the freedom that Christ sets us free to live for, runs counter to self-indulgence. 
To help us get the picture, Paul lays before us two lists. The first are those things which are self-indulgent, and merely feed our own desires, or our own flesh, our own condition of doing-whatever-I-wantism. The second list are the things that nurture us, the Fruit of the Spirit. These are the type of things that we are free to indulge in, the things that God has given us as a part of our daily lives, and the things that really do make life worth living. As the People of God, these things are what help guide and fulfill our lives. 

Now, I have a story about one fruit of the Spirit, self-control. I have found this story useful in sharing it with Charlie and trying to teach him about self-control. When I was younger, maybe 7 or 8, I was outside playing and my sister locked me out of the house, perhaps not even the whole house, I think our other door was indeed still open. Regardless, I just really wanted to get into the house through that door. My own self-indulgent tendencies took over, and I was just so mad and upset, and to make matters worse, was that there was full-length window right next to the door. Through that window, I could look in and see my sister, who was making faces at me and teasing me. My own anger level was rising, and much to my sister's surprise and my own, I kicked that window. Thankfully, it didn't just shatter all over the place, but it is etched in my memory how I took my foot out, and all I could see was the hole where my foot had been. I guess the window was only a little broken. But I had really displayed an utter lack of self control, one of the things that really mark us as the People of God. 

My parents were so upset they sent me away, they told me to just leave, and so I went and stayed at my neighbor's house for three weeks. I'm kidding, my parents loved me, and their love is what made me a part of my family, not my own good behavior or ability to show all the Fruit of the Spirit. I'm sure that I got into a little bit of trouble, but I mostly remember the lesson I was taught about self control. This same lesson is one we try to teach to others, one I'm trying to teach to my own sons. This is a lesson we remember and keep in mind as adults, because just like our inner-child, we can become self-indulgent as well. 

These things that things that Paul writes about in his "no" list, in his "don't do these things" list, are things that we all keep on continuing to do right through our lives. They are things we all engage in, even Paul, and of course myself. Enmity, strife, anger, and all the other no-no's are places we like to dwell in, soak in, and feel in. Sometimes it feels so good to let go, and perhaps kick that proverbial window, just as I did. No matter who we are or where we are, we are all subject to the items on the "no" list. 

Today, with the rise of the internet, of social media, it seems as if our self-indulgences are on a whole different level. `With so much opportunity, right there at our fingertips, a click away, it's so easy to post something, or respond, or like something, or do whatever, as the people we are interacting with may not seem like people. They are just a screen and our interactions can lose some of their humanity, and some of their fruit. At the same time, the internet has the ability to connect us to each other in ways that we would have never thought possible years ago. The internet, like everything else that has been a new thing in the lives of humans has it's positives and negatives. The problem, as always, lies with us as humans, and our own problematic inner-child or self-indulgent spirits. In the end, it is our self-indulgences that divide us and work to destroy us. 

Yet, Paul reminds us, and WE KNOW, that we, as the People of God have been set free. We have been set free in the same way that God is free, and as we consider God's freedom, we see that God is also very indulgent, and indulgent over us. God is so indulgent, that God created this whole world, so full of good things, so full of fruit, (so full of sap! but also maple syrup.) so full of things for us to enjoy.  Indeed, our indulgent God has created an abundance of fruit, both metaphorical and literal, for us to share, to dine on, and to live on. 
God is certainly free to create this world for us, and God is free to send us the Son of God. This is a God who would freely live among us, who would be a part of us.

 This morning, we hear Paul warn us, "Be careful, of biting and devouring one another, that you don't consume one another." While we are intent, because of our own self-indulgences, our own sin, of doing just that, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has freely come to us, whom by our sin, we bite, devour and consume. Yet, Jesus, freely acts in giving us his life, and transforming us by his Holy Spirit, setting us free from our sin and making us the People of God. Truly, as God's people we have been set free to live like our God of freedom, to serve like our God of freedom, and to be indulgent over each other and over God, and the world that God has made. By the work of Jesus Christ, we have been freed to love, even though our own self-indulgences seem to never go away. 

We are called to KNOW of our freedom as the People of God, and we are called to GROW in this freedom, not by doing everything right but rather by consuming the fruit that God so abundantly gives. We are called to GROW by coming together, and dining on the life, the fruit of our God; to dine on the Word of God, to hear it, to let it enrich us,love us, forgive us, and free us. We are called to GROW by consuming the Fruit of the Spirit that God gives, so that we may GROW in becoming the fruit that springs forth from the seeds of the fruit that we consume. We consume this fruit that God gives so that we may GROW by the work of the Spirit LOVING us, giving us JOY, bringing us together in PEACE, filling us with PATIENCE and KINDNESS, making us more GENEROUS, by being FAITHFUL and GENTLE to us, and by joining us through God's own SELF CONTROL; the kind of self control that Jesus Christ showed in freely giving his own life, for each of our own indulgences. 

May the Spirit continue to call us together to dine on this fruit and GROW in the freedom that we KNOW we have been given. By the work of the Holy Spirit, may we continue to taste and see that the Lord is good, and as a result, be that fruit for all of creation. 
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Galatians, we KNOW:
That the Gospel message is given to us by Jesus Christ, is about Jesus Christ, and it reveals Jesus Christ.
That Jesus Christ came to do something, to give himself for our sin and free us from this evil age. 
That Jesus Christ comes not to the healthy, but to sinners; sinners like Paul and sinners like us, to transform us and give us new life, to give us his life. 
That we are justified not by works of the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
God didn't make us the People of God to put us into a prison of rules and regulations. We have been made the People of God so that we can love God, love each other, and KNOW how much we are loved. 
It is by the grace and peace given to us by Jesus Christ, that has made and formed us as that People of God, and that it is through the waters of baptism where we are clothed in Christ.
We have been made the People of God to live a life of freedom. This freedom is not self-indulgence, but a freedom to be indulgent over God, others, and all that God has made.

and we GROW:
By considering the question that Paul asks about who we serve, and whose approval we are seeking. Is it the approval of God, or is it humans? 
By learning to trust in grace, and not our own human abilities and ways of doing things. We wrestle with the words of this quote from H. William Gregory. "Trust, and not rigidity is what defines the will of one converted by Grace." 
By opening ourselves to the presence of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, in our lives, and allowing him to live in, with, and through us.
By realizing that our pain and suffering, our shame and guilt, that our shortcomings, our sin, is an affliction that we all share.
By coming out to God's grace, and remembering that it is not how we act that makes us a People of God, but how we are loved.
By coming together to consume the Fruit of the Spirit, through dining on the Lord’s Supper, and feasting on the Word of God which is full of love, joy, forgiveness; ETERNAL LIFE.