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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
June 23, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Central Passage
Galatians 3:23-29
Pentecost 2C

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: June 23, 2019—Pentecost 2C

Galatians 3:23-29; Luke


Who Are We?


              “Mommy?” Daisy stood in the hallway leading to the kitchen. Hands on hips, lower lip firmly jutted out. “I love you and Daddy, but I’m running away.”

              “Oh?”, said Daisy’s mom. “Where are you running away to?”

              “I’m running to the North Pole. I’m going to help Santa feed the reindeer and I wanna see the elves. I love you Mommy, but it’s time I tried to live on my own.”

              “Okay, sweetie. You know, it’s a long trip to the North Pole. How are you going to get there?”

              “I got my sled. I’ll walk till I get to snow, then a reindeer will pull me the rest of the way!”

              “What are you going to do for food? There aren’t many McDonald’s between here and the North Pole.”

              Daisy’s eyes shifted. “Um, I’m sure I can get some food somewhere.” Daisy paused for a moment. “Could you pack some food for me, Mommy?”

              Daisy’s mom smiled, “Of course, sweetheart! Come with me!”

              They went into the pantry just off the kitchen. “You’ll need a lot of food to get you to the North Pole and keep you warm. Get me those bags, honey, and hold them open for me.”

              Daisy’s mom packed several bags of canned food. Beans, peanut butter, Spam, vegetables, you name it, they packed it. Daisy’s mom then said, “You’ll need some warm winter clothes, too. I know it’s summer here, but it’s always cold there. Let’s pack your suitcase.”

              They packed Daisy’s suitcase, including her beloved stuffed giraffe, Fluffy.

“Okay, let’s get your sled,” Daisy’s mom said. “I’ll bring everything down.”

              Once they got to the garage, Daisy’s mom set the bags and suitcase with the sled. “Goodbye, honey! Don’t forget to write me when you get there!”

              “I won’t Mommy! Uh, Mommy?”

              “Yes, sweetie?”

              “How am I going to carry all this stuff?”

              “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Goodbye!” Daisy’s mom had just turned back to the house when Daisy loudly changed her mind and began running into the house after her.


              Sometimes freedom is just too much for us to handle.


              Take the Galatians. They believed the Gospel when Paul first preached it to them. They experienced the power of the Holy Spirit for themselves. Paul even says that the Spirit’s power enabled them to work miracles.[1] They experienced so much of life lived in the freedom of Christ. But like Daisy, they found that freedom too much to handle. Too scary. Too burdensome.


              They found it scary and burdensome because some people, probably from the Jerusalem church, came to them and said that they weren’t real followers of Christ. They weren’t real followers of Christ because they weren’t following the rules. Didn’t they know that they couldn’t eat certain foods? Or that their men had to be circumcised? Or that they had to observe certain social distinctions in their community? Didn’t they know this? If they followed these rules, the Galatians would know that they were right with God. What a comforting thing that would be! They would know who they were.


              Except defining oneself according to the rules is always a false self. For Paul, the rules were never intended to be used this way. They were never intended to be a righteousness gauge or a holiness dipstick. Quite the contrary. Like the classic English nanny, the rules of the Torah were designed to keep us in line. To keep us disciplined. God’s rules weren’t given to us because we were so good. Good people, after all, don’t need rules. No, they were given because of how messed up we were. Paul writes, just before our reading, that the Law was given “because of offenses.” [2] It “locked everything up under sin, so that the promise based on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ might be given to those who have faith.”[3] In his letter to the Romans, Paul goes even farther. The Law wasn’t given to mitigate our failure. It was given to amplify it.[4] To make our sin something unbearable. Something that only the faithfulness of Christ on our behalf could take away. The Law was like Daisy’s mother. “Oh, you want freedom? Well, you better carry this and this and this.” Daisy’s mother amplified Daisy’s failure to run away from home before she could seriously hurt herself.


              But just as Daisy’s mom knew that Daisy would grow up and no longer live under her rules, Paul knows that we must grow up as people saved in Christ. To be who we’re made to be. Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 4:15, when he exhorts the people to grow in every way into Christ. And when we grow into Christ’s image—the image we put on in our baptism—we no longer live according to the old rules. We live according to the rule of Christ in our hearts and in our community of faith. That, by definition, doesn’t mean doing whatever we want—if we’re really living according to Christ, there are certain things we will and won’t do as a matter of course. But it does mean that we can no longer measure how righteous we are. We can’t use the rules as a series of steps to get to God. We can only act in response to God’s mercy shown to us through the crucified and risen Christ.


              And in responding to God’s generosity, we see that former distinctions—even those that are still part and parcel of this earthly realm—no longer count for anything in God’s eyes. Imagine how Galatians 3:28 sounded for Paul’s hearers. “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Their entire world and its rules were nothing in the sight of God. There’s no distinction! None! To God, no one is better than anyone else. Not even the demon-possessed man in Gerasene country in our Gospel, the most unclean of the unclean. He’s not from the chosen people. He’s possessed by demons. He wears no clothes. He sleeps with the dead. Strike after strike after strike after strike. And yet, Jesus treats him as a human being. He frees him from the demons, and even afterward, when the man wants to bind himself to Jesus, Jesus turns him back. He lets him keep his freedom. Jesus will not let this man turn him into another possessing agent. “Go home and declare how much God has done for you.”


              Freedom in Christ is not another kind of servitude. Rather, it means being the person God made us to be. Christ is not another lawgiver. He won’t possess us as everything else in this world threatens to do. He gives us our very selves. And who are we at the very center of our being? Not white. Not American. Not Willmanns or Walkers or Strobles or Clammes or Hughses or Schmidts or Youngs or Coys or Hiles or Stanleys or Fleeners or any other family. Not teachers or farmers or lawyers or engineers or even retirees! Not male or female, gay or straight. Not parents or children or grandparents. We’re not even Lutheran. No, we are defined by our freedom in the one whose seal we bear on our foreheads. Jesus the Messiah, today, yesterday, and forever. Amen.


© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.


[1] Gal. 3:2-5.

[2] Gal. 3:19.

[3] Gal. 3:22.

[4] Rom. 5:20.