Narrative Lectionary for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year Three
May 28, 2017
Lessons: Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29 and Luke 1:68-79
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people find their unity and freedom in Christ.
Key Scripture: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Sometimes a little history lesson is in order to help folks understand the present and live into a better future. And, sometimes more than a little lesson is needed to get the point across.
Paul is doing some serious review with the Christians in Galatia. Somehow they’ve taken what he taught originally, and gotten the story all mixed up with a right royal combination of their own past and context combined with an unhelpful and punitive version of the good news from some “old school” leaders. The good apostle Paul is not a happy camper about their confusion, either. Do yourself a favor and read Eugene Peterson’s rendering of the entire third chapter of Galatians in The Message as you prepare to teach and preach this week. Peterson does a masterful job of capturing Paul’s frustration and dismay over the situation he has encountered.
Why is it that we humans always seem to prefer the divide and conquer method in life? I understand that stereotypes–the broad categories we sort folk and situations into—function to keep all the sensory data manageable, but this human tendency also runs quite counter to Jesus’ way of organizing. Instead of division, Jesus was all about multiplication and addition. If only Paul can get this group of folks to believe it and live like it!
I wonder how we today might behave like the dear saints in the Galatian church? After all, it seems the more thing change, the more they stay the same, at least when human nature is involved. How do we bind ourselves and others with narrow and grace-starved interpretations of God’s law? It seems we tend to focus on a few key points and refuse to see the bigger picture. Do we do that out of fear? Because of some misguided notion that we have control? Are we trying to follow some paint-by-the-numbers law-based play book that will ensure our salvation? What do you think?
Fear serves only to bind us and prevent us from seeing fully God’s purpose and provision. If we think we can control the Divine will and way, we have another think coming. That’s just pure foolishness (right, Paul?). If, by chance, we’re aiming for that paint-by-the-numbers law-based play book, we’d be much better served by getting messy with some gospel-based finger paint creative living.
Paul knew the good news of Jesus Christ will not, indeed cannot, be bound by our narrow, impoverished human limits. Instead of pulling away and dividing, Paul is trying to get the Galatians to understand, to live into, and to celebrate their unity in Christ.
We are one in Christ—then, and now, and always. It is that simple and that impossibly complex. Just as Paul needed to teach a history lesson to his audience, so, too, might we today. Have a little faith folks, even when it’s impossible to do so. It’s what helps set us apart as God’s beloved people. Celebrate the reality that in baptism you put on Christ, and that makes all the difference in the world while ushering in a unity that cannot be broken. Yes, we are free indeed, but we are also bound together in a unity that lasts. Thanks be to God.
Consider choosing a hymn that speaks to Christian unity. You might even choose to weave the verses of the hymn into your sermon. Remind the congregation that although we are all different in many ways, we have many more similarities. Best of all, we are all baptized in water, claimed by Christ, marked with the sign of the cross, and “heirs according to the promise.”
Invite the congregation to find ways to promote unity in the midst of diversity. If your congregation does not appear to be very diverse on the surface, explore how they be diverse in unexpected ways and how the gifts of the diversity make it possible to be more strongly one in Christ.
Just how connected and unified is humankind? After all we in the United States and other western countries take pride in our individualism, in our differences. Watch this video with your youth and see how strangers from around the world find common ground in their very DNA. Talk about how we can find unity in Christ by focusing on Galatians 28-29. There is so much more that binds us together, and we have the power to say “NO” to whatever would seek to drive us apart.
One in Christ
If you don’t have many children in your congregation, you may want to make this a project for the entire congregation. Construct a simple loom with a large picture frame (yard sale treasures work well here) or make your own. Use yarn, twine, hemp, or other suitable material to create the warp through which you will weave individual pieces of weft. Take bright strips of cloth, thick ribbon (anything on which you can write with a sharpie) that are slightly longer than the width of your loom, and let each child (and adult if you wish) pick one that they find appealing.
Talk about the differences in the fabrics, the colors, the textures, and the weights of cloth. Invite the children to tell you why each piece was chosen, what they liked about it. Have them write their name on the fabric or ribbon strip. Tie all the strips together. Now, instead of individual strips, they have become one. However, they still aren’t all that they can be. Have the children help you weave the long, unified strip through the warp. Tell them that we are one in Christ, just like the warp is helping to weave a work of art from our individual strips of fabric. In Christ we become more than we could ever be alone. In Christ we are stronger together, no longer separated by our differences but made whole.
Note: If you don’t have enough people to finish the frame, consider talking about this being a work in progress—that there’s always room for more people to be part of Christ’s body, part of the process, part of the becoming something wonderful together. Be sure to display this work of art somewhere prominent in your building, along with a description of what it means. Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the unity we find in Christ.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
As stewards of the good news of Jesus Christ we are called to find common ground, at least according to Paul in his letter to the Church at Galatia. What things threaten to drive us apart? What can bring us together? What work do we need to do to really live as “one in Christ Jesus”?
Stewardship at Home
Paul reminds the Galatian Christians that there is “no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Sure, this sounds great! It’s true. But do we really live like it as God’s beloved people? Think of one way this week you can get to know someone who is different from you but who is also a sister or brother in Christ. Maybe it’s someone on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Perhaps it is someone from a different denomination or from a non-denominational congregation. Maybe God will call you to have a deep listening congregation with someone who is “de-churched” or who has been bruised by the church.
Part of being a steward of the good news is taking time to really deeply listen to others, to gain understanding, and get to know one another. When we really get to know our neighbors, it sure becomes a lot easier to love them!
Photos: FrancisTeresa and Johnny Silvercloud, Creative Commons, and © cienpiesnf – Fotolia.com. Thanks!
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