Scripture: Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39
**Sermons are meant to be heard, so listen along here**
Author, theologian and Yale Divinity School professor Barbara Brown Taylor begins her introductory religion classes by showing people a picture of yin and yang and asking a simple question – which I’m also asking you today:
True or false, this is a picture the battle between good and evil?
We live in world of dualism.
Us and them.
We always find ways to divide ourselves.
Coke and pepsi.
Crunchy and creamy.
Salt and pepper.
Male and female.
Republican and Democrat
Light and dark
Good and evil
Black and white
Christian and Non-Christian
I could go on and on
Because we never stop finding ways to divide ourselves into sides.
This week on twitter someone posted this: I could write “I love puppies” and people would be like “WHAT’S WRONG WITH KITTENS, YOU MONSTER???”
And that about says it all.
This week has been tough.
We turn on our computers, our televisions, even look at our phones, and the ways in which we are different are right there.
Right in front of us.
Either or, either or.
If you’re not with us you’re against us.
If you don’t agree with me then you are against me.
And if you’re against me then you are worthy of my hate.
So I stand here this morning to ask honestly – is this really what we’ve come to?
Is this what we want to be known for?
When 49 people are killed simply for being who they were created to be are we really going to turn it into a way to fight with each other? About everything anything? This is what we’re about?
Dualism is killing us.
Literally killing us.
And Paul got this.
Even thousands of years ago as the church was just beginning to take shape, Paul understood that the things that divide us are what will be our downfall.
The early church in Galatia was struggling, was fighting, was deciding who was in or out based on categories given by the surrounding culture.
And Paul knew that the church would not survive it.
Verse 23: “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.”
We were held captive, under guard by The LAW. This is what Pr Chad referred to last week the have to’s. You have to say this, believe this, do this… and then you’ll be forgiven. Then you’ll be good enough.
The law is what condemns us, it tells us we’re wrong, reminds us how sinful we are, it accuses, and it puts us into a category.
The law is dualism.
In or out.
Us or them.
Right or wrong
Every time you are put in a category, that is the law.
And Paul says what about the law? It’s like a prison. It’s a disciplinarian.
This is no way to live.
In the Gospel today Jesus comes across a man who is known only by a label.
He doesn’t even have a name, but all we know is that he is unwell, and so unwell that people have called him by his malady instead of by his humanity.
He’s been categorized.
Imprisoned by the law that was placed on him.
This is NO way to live.
But – there is something better.
Something that changes everything.
Verse 25 of Paul’s letter to the Galatian church: BUT – (see there it is) – but now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.
Verse 26:for in Christ you are all children of God
No longer subject to a disciplinarian.
No longer under the law – and that means that nothing can stay the same as it was.
The old system, where we divide and categorize and pit ourselves against one another? That is NO MORE.
It doesn’t count. The old system is no longer how we are seen by God.
Jesus has come and created an entirely new system.
A new system.
And here’s how it works:
Verse 27: as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ
Verse 28: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.
Why? Why are there no more distinctions?
FOR ALL OF YOU ARE ONE IN CHRIST JESUS
How did that happen?
When we look at at each other. We don’t see the things that make us different.
We’ve been clothed with Christ.
The Greek there literally means that we are covered, or that we put on Christ.
So when we see each other we see Christ.
Not race, not gender, not sexuality, not political position, not by any of the ways that we have chosen to divide ourselves – but we see Christ.
This is a NEW system.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton wrote a letter this week to address the Orlando shootings and said:
“We live in an increasingly divided and polarized society. Too often we sort ourselves into like-minded groups and sort others out. It is a short distance from division to demonization. Yesterday, we witnessed the tragic consequences of this.
There is another way. In Christ God has reconciled the world to God’s self. Jesus lived among us sharing our humanity. Jesus died for us to restore our humanity. God invites us into this reconciling work. This must be our witness as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The perpetrator of this hate crime did not come out of nowhere. He was shaped by our culture of division, which itself has been misshapen by the manipulation of our fears. That is not who we are.”
This is not who we are.
Prince of Peace.
This is NOT WHO WE ARE.
Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”
We are the body of Christ.
We may be different but we are ONE.
What we do affects the whole.
What you do affects me.
What I do affects you.
We belong to each other.
We can no longer see each other by the things that make us different without doing damage to the whole.
when Barbara Brown Taylor asks her class the question I asked you at the start of the message, they always say it’s true – this represents the battle between good and evil.
But it’s not true.
The YinYang shows balance between light and dark
Not the fight, but the balance.
But notice those two parts are inside of ONE thing.
One solid outline.
See, the things that divide us, those categories, they don’t go away.
They are still there. And they are still going to be the ways that we use to explain who we are.
But in the life of faith – those distinctions have no power.
They have no say
They have no role.
They do not count before God.
Only one thing counts.
For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God.
You belong to Christ.
We are different, but we are one.
Hear me when I say it again – we are different but we are one.
You may have noticed that we didn’t do confession where we normally do it. Have no fear, I didn’t skip it, but just moved it.
Because sometimes we just say it, and don’t think about what it means that we haven’t loved each other as ourselves.
We don’t think about the ways in which we firmly plant ourselves in one category or another.
So this morning, confession is here.
Right before we come forward and hear who we are, and how much God loves us.
But first, we’re going to take time, to listen, to think, and then together, we’ll confess:
(song -Make Us One – Stefan VanVoorst)
(confession then communion)
End of worship Closing:
When Jesus healed the man known only as “Legion” he brought him back to life. And the man asked Jesus if he could be with him, stay with him.
And Jesus replied: Go and declare how much God has done for you.
Jesus sent him away to go and tell.
I think the simple thing is to stay safely in our duality.
Categories are comfortable.
They help our world make sense.
But they are killing us, and it’s time to go and tell.
Look at those around you and see only Christ.
This morning, you were reminded not only of who you are – A child of God – but then you were handed grace into your outstretched hand.
It doesn’t get better than this.
I mean really.
And this kind of grace and love and radical changing of the way things work in our messed up and broken world is what we need to be about.
We are better than duality.
We are one.