by Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
Thank you again for being here in our congregation this morning, as we enjoy the blessings that come with summertime: Travel, long days of sunshine, barbecues and visiting friends and family. But one the best parts of summer is the FREEDOM we experience. Summer was the first taste of the freedom we so desired each day as we sat at our desks. Summer – in my childhood -was three months long …with no schedule! As the school year finished, as that last bell rang, suddenly our days were empty – there were no plans, no appointments, no meetings, no chores, no jobs or duties. We could PLAY ALL DAY LONG! (At least, that was my idea….)
This past Spring, one of my childhood neighbors passed away. Maralyn Tipping was the mother of my best friend and she was present and active in a lot of my childhood and growing-up years. When I was about eight years old, after a few weeks of summertime, I recognized that I was having a lot of conflicts with my parents. They had a very different idea of how I should spend my days. They expected me to continue doing my chores; they expected me to clean up my room, pick up my toys, help around the house, come home when they wanted me to, take a bath, and go to sleep when they thought I should! So I came up with the perfect solution. I would move out and become a part of my best friend’s family. The Tippings lived across the street and I was there all the time anyway, so it wouldn’t be a huge transition. So – when my parents again were demanding so much of me, making me so angry – I told them: “I’m going to move out and the Tippings will be my new family.”
To my surprise, my folks didn’t beg me to stay… they didn’t cry or anything. They actually seemed to think it was a good idea and helped my pack up my things in a bag and escorted me across the street and into the family I had chosen.
The Tippings welcomed me and at first I thought this solved all my problems: No more rules! No more chores! No more demands on my time! No more parents telling me what to do! I am free!
And then, Mrs. Tipping approached me with a list. “If you are going to be a part of our family,” she said, “you will need to help us with the housework. Here is your list of chores. Furthermore, you will not be out after dark. You will have to clean up your toys. You will eat what is prepared for you and you will do what we tell you. We are your family now and these are our rules.”
And then I realized…..I had stepped from one house of rules into another! This was not the freedom I was expecting! I had not just CAST OF the burdens of being part of a family! I had merely moved from one set of rules into a new set of rules.
As we approach our scripture lessons for the day, we are faced with this question: If Christ has set us free, shouldn’t we just be able to do what we want? We’re free. But Paul says, No! It is not that simple.
Let us look at our scripture from Galatians, Chapter 6, verses 1-10: Now here we meet Paul in the midst of his mission, to bring the good news of Jesus to the Gentile world. But he is not the only preacher… there are other missionaries preaching other messages. And Paul is trying to explain the new freedom Christ has given us. “You have a new way of life; a new set of rules now…” But what are those new rules? What is this new Law?
In the previous chapter, Paul explains to the church in Galatia:
1For freedom Christ has set us free.
13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is a new law, says Paul, a new way of doing things. And it is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ You have moved out of a house of laws and into a house of a new law: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ And then he tells us how to do this:
Galatians 6:1 – 10
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. (Take note…)
Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (What is the law of Christ? ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ )
3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads.
Paul says, “Stop playing games. Stop deceiving yourselves. Stop lying to yourselves. Be accountable for your own actions.” As followers of Christ, our value no longer depends on winning, being better than someone else, putting others down directly or indirectly. (1) That is not how we win. We win by following the new law of Christ: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
And this concern for community, this concern with our neighbor is not just something Paul is concerned with, but something that comes from the very heart of Jesus and the very beginning of his movement. In our scripture from Luke, we see Jesus instructing the seventy in their mission. “Go ahead of me, to prepare the way.” He tells them. “And take no purse, no bag, no possessions, no clothes, no money, no things… just go and do the work.” But he did require that they take something – a partner! Jesus sent them out two by two. And this sending two-by-two “may allude back to Deuteronomy 19:15 where two witnesses are required for a testimony to be credible. A more practical reason would be the rigors and dangers of traveling back in those days.” (2) By sending out the workers two-by-two, Jesus emphasizes the importance of having the company of a neighbor to love, one that can love you – to bear the burdens of one another while doing the work of Jesus together.
To the Galatians Paul says, “Bear your own burdens! Take responsibility for yourself. And when you are accountable to yourself, when you are honest with yourself, then you can bear the burdens of others. Once you love and deal honestly with yourself, then you can love and be honest with your neighbor.”
And whatever you put in, you will get in return. You reap what you sow.
These is a story about a preacher who went to substitute preach in a small country church for a pastor who was on vacation. She brought her young son with her and, moved to generosity when they entered the church, she placed a dollar in the box that was labeled: “Give to those who are needy.” After the service, the church council chair approached her, thanked her and apologized. “We are a small church and we can only afford to give you what was given in our donation box.” When they emptied the box, all that she received was the single dollar bill she herself had deposited an hour before. Her young son said, “Mom, you should’ve given more…then you would have gotten more out!”
And this is Paul’s point: We reap what we sow. If we give love and honesty and peace and freedom to others, then we receive those things in return.
9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
When we play our part in this amazing work of Jesus; when we love our neighbors as we love ourselves; when we reach out to others, caring for their needs and carrying their burdens alongside them, as partners in this life – then we are living the Law of Christ. So, let us not grow weary in doing what’s right. Let us not give up. Let us press on, with our neighbors and partners beside us, and Jesus leading the way. Amen.
1. William Loader, First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages from the Lectionary, Pentecost 7, found on http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/CEpPentecost7.htm
2. Brian Stofferegen, Luke 10.1-11, 16-20
Proper 9 – Year C, found on http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/luke10x1.htm