Creating Community in Christ
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
Scripture: Galatians 3:23-29
With the aid of social media, it’s easy to get sucked down into the vortex of engaging in stupid political jousting. It happened to me this past week. A friend of almost 60 years, who I believe walks down a political path on the opposite side of the street from me, forwarded a disparaging comment about our current President. I felt irritated so I wrote a brief comment questioning – shall we say the intelligence - of the people who agreed with this unkind and negative assessment and this string included my friend. I shut down the site and walked away to deal with other tasks – but after about 10 minutes I had second thoughts about my posting. Was it really worth it to potentially offend my friend? This is not a discussion we will likely have face to face because we live hundreds of miles apart – so I sheepishly walked back into my home office, brought up Facebook again and deleted the comment. Did she see it before I pulled it down – don’t know – will never know. I do know with certainty that my friend is a believer in the salvation which comes from Jesus.
In our second reading today, Paul did not have a grand plan for social justice. He was not interested in trying to reform Roman laws, institutions, or culture with respect to slaveholding, gender roles, or religious observance. Rather, Paul was focused on creating communities that were outposts of life “in Christ.” He imagined assemblies of people relating to one another in a way that was in accord with Christ’s anticipated full return as in the “Day of Christ.”
Paul’s ministry was to prepare the people in his assemblies to relate to one another as though they were in the very presence of God, when they gathered in Christ’s name. The reconciliation which Paul teaches is brought about by the cross of Christ. This vision presented by him invalidated the conventional social distinctions of this time, as the people he was addressing understood them, within these churches: the distinction of God’s regard for Jews as opposed to Gentiles; the distinction and social standing among slaves, freed, or free people; the distinctions between the roles of men and women.
Paul is teaching the “new thing” God is doing with Jews and Gentiles showing us that God is making a way for all the peoples of the earth to be in right relationship with God. Paul’s vision is of a world where the power of the cross can abolish the distinctions between people, especially within the newly forming first century Christian communities. But can’t we apply this same teaching today - beyond these walls - to our neighbors of all religious beliefs, skin color, sexual orientation, and political convictions? Most humans are really gifted at making judgements of other people based on some perceived label or visual observations. Because I “think” my friend is on the other side of the political fence I was quick to make judgement of the wrongness of her opinions without ever having a conversation face to face with her.
Maybe, just maybe, if we were to trust in the power of the Spirit to lead us; we could be path builders in the reconciling effects of the cross as we follow it into the world. Path builders who see all our siblings as beloved children of God. Indeed, we need this teaching from Paul, more than ever today, because our country is hurting from the fear of people, personally known and unknown to us, which we humans cling to like a tight-fitting shirt. Boy, do I relate to this perspective having grown up in a bubble which was sorely lacking in diversity of people. But history has taught us that we humans don’t learn our lessons from the easy times of living. We learn and grow from pain and that pain can be excruciating. And today it’s the pain of a world, which in many locations, is wrapped in fear of those different from us in skin color, belief systems, or lifestyles. As we can see, from the point of view of our twenty-first century democracy, Paul’s radical reordering of human relationships before God does not now seem radical enough especially on this Sunday when we honor the freedom from bondage which our sisters and brothers of color celebrated this Juneteenth. We are indeed members of the body of Christ Jesus, who risked himself entirely for God’s purposes. Our Baptism has given us the gift– yes. I’ll say the word – the responsibility as heirs of God, the responsibility to discern the possibility of Paul’s vision of ever-widening circles, preparing the world for the fullness of God’s presence sooner not later. Since the day of the cross, the power of God has been on the move, and we should be part of that movement. We have the choice to lead by the examples of inclusion and acceptance of others in our daily lives. To live each day as an example of Jesus full embracing love of all humanity. Gracious God help us to remember freedom for each other – to grace the image of creation in each and all. Amen.