Sermon Archives

Who Is On Your Team? ~ Galatians 3: 23-29

You’re an Indians fan? Child of God. Heights fan? Child of God. Golden State fan? Child of God.

This morning, we read the scripture from the CEB, or Common English Bible translation. That translation has around a 7th grade reading level. In comparison, the NRSV which we typically use is 11th grade, the King James Version is a 12th grade level.

This is what the same scripture sounds like in the NRSV:

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

As you continue to study the bible, reading multiple translations like this can help when you’re talking with all ages and backgrounds.

Now that you’ve heard both translations, I want to point out one more thing. In the CEB, the law is a custodian, in the NRSV a disciplinarian. I have one more translation for you, school bus driver. The law is like a school bus driver, picks you up, takes you to where you need to be, and then lets you off with everyone else.

Enough teaching about translation, let us pray together.

Prayer: May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Clothed with Christ

Because it’s Father’s Day, I can’t help but tell a story about my dad. When I was growing up, he was my slo-pitch softball coach. There were a few infamous years playing for the team CCI Printing. We were young, little girls in hats and shirts too big for them. I remember a 32” bat that was my favorite.

Now, we weren’t the best team in the league. By a long shot. For some of us, this was our first time playing softball.

As it turns out, that year we lost to every other team in the league. This was, in part, because my dad had a philosophy that we should all be learning how to play different positions and get practice batting. Pretty good thought when teaching kids, not the best strategy if you’re trying to be competitive.

But there was redemption for the CCI Printing softball team. Because although we lost to every team, we also ending up beating every team. Including the undefeated team of the league.

I remember that game. But more than that, I remember that team. I remember that we all got a chance to try new things. And more importantly, no one was left out. That’s what I really remember, that we all were welcome, which is why I’m telling you this story. So thanks, Dad.

We asked this morning that you wear a shirt to represent one of your teams. I’m wearing my college shirt, Baldwin Wallace College. I know there are a lot of Cavs fans here today, but what else do we have represented? Go ahead and shout it out!

Being part of a team matters to us. School colors, team jerseys, mascots–they all matter in showing us where we belong. Just ask the Forest Hill softball team about their new green jerseys. Or ask a Pittsburgh sports fan what color they bleed. Just imagine if I would have shown up in royal blue and yellow this morning–you all might have booed me.

We saw some more team colors this week. In support and love for the LGBTQ community, a sea of rainbows emerged this week. Showing a rainbow became a way to say, I love you, I’m on your team. That’s why we have that rainbow on the front of our bulletin.

We all need to hear that we belong, that we are loved, that we have been chosen, that we are allowed on the team.

This is no different than what is happening with the Galatians.

Early groups of Christians like those in Galatia were trying to figure out who was on their team and where they belonged. Jesus had preached his message in synagogues, to religious leaders. And as Jesus was a Jew, along with other churches leaders like Peter and Paul, it seemed like the newly forming church could be an extension of the Jewish faith.

But there were the Gentiles, or Greeks. These people did not follow the Torah, or law. Yet they were being drawn to the message of Jesus. How could they get on this team? Did they have to become Jewish?

What Paul explains in Galatians is that this new community isn’t for just for Jews or Greeks, but for everyone. Something new was forming. And Paul is clear that there was nothing wrong with following the law, with being a Jew, or being a Gentile. What was clear was that Jesus wouldn’t leave anyone out, and so these early groups of Christians had to figure out a way to be together.

Paul had met the people in Galatia before. He had been with them as they had become a community together. From what we know, it seemed like the Galatians had a great team, not in a small part because everyone was welcome. The church in Galatia had been made up of both Jews and Gentiles.

These distinctions don’t matter to us in the same way anymore. It can be difficult to read Galatians without understanding what is going on with the Jews and Gentiles. But it is easy to see that Paul is very frustrated with the people in Galatia because they have started excluding Gentiles again. The way I see it is this. Paul had been with them and they had found a way to be together, in spite of their differences. But they had lost sight of that. They got tied up in discussions about rules that kept people in and out. It makes sense that Paul is mad.

Paul was frustrated, but he encouraged the Galatians with a message of unity. 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. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

It’s not just a small group of you, Paul says. You all belong to Christ. So don’t go back to your old divided ways. You are a team.

The Galatians are given what I like to think of as their team colors. Above all, they are to be clothed with Christ.

This is a fairly abstract thing to tell a person, but it’s a favorite metaphor of Paul’s. I wonder what the world would look like if Paul would have said something like, “And be sure to wear red because then everyone will know that you are part of the church.” Instead Paul addresses an identity change.

We have something for you this morning to represent that identity that Paul is talking about. Because to be clothed with Christ doesn’t mean just putting on a new jersey. This is one size fits all. It’s about knowing who you are and whose you are. We are all still going to have our differences, but at our core, we can know that we are a child of God. What Galatians tells me is that the church is not about hard and fast boundaries but letting people know that they belong.

You’re an Indians fan? Child of God. Heights fan? Child of God. Golden State fan? Child of God.

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. So take this name tag to be reminded of that.

Over the past few months I have been working with the Discernment Task Force. That’s a very official title for a group that has also been a bible study, a prayer group, a sports analysis round table, a technology class, and a whole lot more. I have been so grateful to be a member of this group. We span in age over seventy years and represent a whole variety of demographics and viewpoints.

It’s a great team. And I believe that there is no other setting but the church that we would have all be brought together in the same place.

Often at the end of our meetings we go around the table and ask how everyone thought our time together has been. This is one of the best things we do. Everyone speaks, everyone listens. And it’s usually in that closing circle that I am reminded that none of us could do this alone.

And when I want to tell people about Jesus, this is what I want to tell them about. It’s a room full of people clothed with Christ, listening patiently to one another. Each one of us bringing our own unique identity, but certain that we are children of God.

My hope for all of you is that this is your experience of church. I hope that when we gather together, you are surrounded by people who are different than you are. I hope that you get to both listen and speak. I hope that you find a team of people that love and support you for who you are.

After a week like this, where violence and prejudice threaten us, that is our message we get to take out into the world and it is so needed. Tell people they are loved. Tell people they belong. Tell people we don’t have it figured out, but we still come together as children of God.
Amen.

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