2 Pentecost 2013
Galatians 1: 1-12
Pastor Chris Enstad
Carrie and I joined about 150 other people for a truly blessed moment on Friday night. Brooke Boon, the founder of Holy Yoga, was in Minneapolis leading a conference and so we went to Christ Presbyterian Church for worship and Holy Yoga. It was a blessed time, preachers are not often ministered to. But Brooke did something at the beginning of her sermon that I am going to bring in here today and that is to bring an awareness of breath into even sitting still listening to someone else speak and so we are going to do that right now. Let’s take two deep breaths and on each exhale, a sigh. Do that with me.
There. Do you feel it? It is good to settle into an awareness of our selves and now we can take that awareness and apply it also to our awareness of God.
And here’s what I know.
You can not be something apart from who you are. You are who God created you to be. It can take a lifetime’s journey to become comfortable in one’s own skin. Or not. Either way, you are who God created you to be.
You can pretend. You can work really hard to change. Some of those changes will work. Some won’t. And you’ll learn from your failures and you will try again.
But your core identity has been set. Your code was downloaded into your heart when you were baptized at the font in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And your identity as a child of God was sealed with the sign of the cross.
You cannot be, any longer, something apart from who you are.
But other voices will tell you otherwise. They will give you cause to question your identity in Christ. Life will happen. Life. Man, if life hasn’t given you cause to ask questions about your faith and Jesus Christ then you are either really really lucky or you haven’t been paying attention.
Voices in our culture will tell you otherwise. What do you need from God? You can worship God, if you even think you have to believe in him, out here with us in the world. Or why even give time to faith? What difference does it make in yours or anyone’s life?
The Galatians were running the risk of living into the identity of someone other than who they had been called to be. Professor Mary Hinkle Shore likens it to when you are driving into a car park how the spikes in the ground drop out of the way when you are going the right direction but if you try to reverse they will shred your tires. The Galatians were about to shred their tires.
Galatia is a region in the center of Turkey. The Roman govenment put it together from people that were not related to each other. The southern towns were put together with the country folk to the north.
It was the country folk who we believe Paul ministered to along with Silas. And they weren’t even really Galatians... these were Celts who had been part of the invasion of Greece by Brennus some three hundred years before Christ was born. These were the people that Paul was writing to. The Celts.
Celtic spirituality was an easy thing for Paul to work with because the Celts Gods did not live up on Mt. Olympus like Zues. Celtic spiritualty from the earliest days believed that the divine and the human exist with only a thin line separating them. A liminal place. Modern day seekers who experience faith in this way will often talk of liminal places those places where night is about to change to day or where we can sense that the spiritual and corporal worlds are interacting. I’ve experienced that liminality along the north shore of Lake Superior but also in the city dump of Juarez, Mexico. The key is to have eyes and hearts that are aware of just how close God is.
The Celts were ready, then, for the message that in Jesus Christ God had been made incarnate in man. Ok. Great! We can do that. Paul was there to preach not Gods but God, the God who created the whole kit and caboodle and the Celts in Galatia were converted. And Paul left.
And new teachers showed up. Paul said what? Him? But he wasn’t even with Jesus or even the disciples? By what authority can he say those things. No, if you want salvation you have to do it by first becoming Jews. We have the law, we have Moses, it is to the Jews that Jesus preached. Trust us.
And when he received news of this Paul tried to jump in front of the car as it was about to reverse over the spike strips. NOOOOO.
Paul reminds the Galatians that God alone is incarnate in Jesus Christ and the Gospel that Jesus preached is the only word that one need hear or heed. No extra rules, no ceremony other than what Jesus commanded.
We can receive it wherever we are at and be transformed by it. But the unique way in which any person is caught up by the Gospel is going to look different. There is no one story that brings a person in God except the story of Jesus Christ however that story is received. You cannot be something other than what you are.
And Paul reminds the Galatians, as he reminds each of us here today, we are woven together in the story of Jesus Christ not despite our differences but because of them.
Jew or Greek, male or female, Norwegian or Swedish, white or black, gay or straight, those differences should not be cause for alarm or even surprise but can now be received as evidence of just how majestic and amazing and diverse the Gospel was, is and will be.
Now breathe. Breathe again.
On the seventh day, God rested. He allowed creation to just be creation.
Let this Word, this Gospel good news, be. Whoever you are, whatever brought you here, whatever awaits your return when you leave this place, you are God’s children. A family of unique, different and beautiful people that spans the ages.