Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sermon Cliff Note: Stewards of the Gospel -- It’s Love, Dammit!

Preaching Galatians 1.1-12

We human beings are stewards, caretakers, of many things during our time on this earth, for God has given us the duty, privilege and challenge of taking care.
Paul has established churches in Galatia with the gospel of The Risen One.  It is a simple gospel.  All one need do to accept Christ is . . . accept Christ.
Some other folks taught that  accepting Christ means accepting a whole host of old rules.  Paul proclaims that a gospel that adds more rules is no gospel at all, for the only gospel is Jesus . . . the only law is love.
The central message of the gospel is found in Paul’s opening words of greeting in Galatians: grace and peace.  As receivers of this divine grace and peace, we are become stewards, caretakers, of it.  It matters that we get it right.
Here is the center of the conflict: what is the authentic good news about the Jesus event?  Is the purpose as far as the Gentiles are concerned that they be able to become Jewish?  So some teach.
But relationship with God, Paul reminds, is not to be found by a shower-room inspection of body parts.  Besides how silly it is, to reduce all that Jesus has done to this, to make the gospel about not what God has done but about what we must do is to defame God and make an idol of our idea of God.
So whose approval are we to seek?  As Paul says, if I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  We can hear Paul today two ways: (1) to please God through Christ is and will ever be displeasing to other people and (2) to please, to serve, Christ, is to be unmindful of the good opinion of others.
Both are true: when we serve Christ, there will be people who are offended and not all of them are outside the church.  And when we are in servanthood mode in our relationship with Christ, our own personal reputation won’t mean much to us.
Some say that the claim of grace, grace, nothing but grace is a cheap and easy religion.  My only answer to that is to try it.  There’s nothing easy about it.  But it’s not about easy.  It never was.  It’s about faithfulness.  It’s about joy.  It’s about love.
When we stop holding back, when we quit worrying about how others judge us, when we focus our sights on God and God alone, service to God and others may not be easier, but it is clearer.
The question for the early church was who are we and why are we here.  It’s the same for us today.  Who we are is God’s.  And why we are here flows from knowing whose we are.
Thus might we begin by understanding ourselves as stewards of the gospel, as called out by God to take care of the divine message and proclaim it truthfully, faithfully, with our own lives.  The only way we might even come close in doing that is to fling ourselves into the divine grace which Jesus calls love, claiming and reclaiming ourselves, all ourselves, as the beloved of God.
The second step, which flows always and only from the first, is to allow our hearts to be opened like the petals on a spring flower in bloom – opened to all that God has to provide, to give, to open ourselves to receive that which will change us beyond our wildest imaginings, change us into the very gospel we proclaim.

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