Galatians 1:1–12 (NRSV)
1 Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the members of God’s family who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
There Is No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul’s Vindication of His Apostleship
(Cp Acts 9)
11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
This week we begin to look into the letter that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia. To begin with it is important to give a brief history of the area because for the next few weeks we will be considering the words that Paul was inspired to this group of people, it is important to know as much as possible about who they were prior to coming to Christ so that we can understand how to relate to the words that Paul speaks to them.
Galatia is an area of present day Turkey that was inhabited by a group of Celtic people that moved across Europe from the west, most likely from the mountainous region along the border between Spain and France. This group which were predominately from three tribes, actually invaded Rome and pushed on toward Greece, where they were defeated so they turned around and then went on west into Asia Minor. Where they eventually settled. Though they were a defeated people, the nations around them were afraid of them because they were fierce fighters since they settled in Asia Minor, they also become coveted allies because they sat at the gateway between empires.
Though they lived in this gateway where the east and the west meet, they were very independent in the ways that they thought. They were a Celtic people, so they held a system of beliefs more similar to the ancient Irish than the Greco-Roman culture that has dominated western civilization. They lived by a different code, often worship differently than their neighbors, and often were characterized by the same stereotypes we have of their Northern Celtic relatives.
If we think of these people as being more similar to the Irish than the Greeks we might be able to understand why Paul wrote this letter. These people, even though they were established tributes of the Roman Empire, maintained self-rule. Which was a thorny subject for many who thought their way of life was better. They were less patriarchal than most ancient cultures, they remained a tribal community lead by the collaboration of chiefs instead of a singular monarch, and their primary expression of faith was to worship nature. The people differed from those around them, they observed the world from a different point of view, and everyone around them tried to convert them to their way of thinking. The Greeks wanted them to behave more like them, as did the Romans and ultimately those that derived their cultural heritage from Jewish influences. This is really what the letter Paul wrote to them refers, and Paul writes it from a different perspective than most. He does not condemn their cultural heritage but embraces the redemption of not only their souls but their culture in much the same way of St. Patrick who ministered to the Celtic tribes in Ireland.
Paul speaks to them a bit differently than he speaks to the Romans or the Corinthians. He takes a different approach then he took with the people of Athens, because these people have a different cultural perspective. He begins by speaking of his calling which came from the Father through Jesus, who had power over death. This is similar in most of the letters Paul wrote. But in this introduction the wording is a bit more to the point, as if Paul is saying, “I am writing to you as directed by God, through Jesus, the one that orders of nature cannot contain.” Then there is the second part of his calling, “and from all the members of God’s family who are with me.”
This second part is unique to Galatians. In all of the letters he says that he is called by God, but only this one also says that he is sent by the family of God, the tribe so to speak. He approaches the people of Galatia using language that speaks to their redeemed cultural perspective. This is important because it shows us that the Apostles made adjustments in the way that they presented the gospel to those around them. Paul knew enough about the culture to know how to best speak to them. He observed them, listened to them, and understood that to convey the Gospel to Celtic people he must approach them from the understanding of tribal families instead of monarchy.
We live in a world that has cultural shifts. The way many of you came to faith in God is different than the way my generation and those that follow will come to faith. When you were newly coming to faith a text message was a letter delivered to you by the postman, where today that same message instantly appears on our smart phones usually accompanied with some sort of hashtag. Which to be honest I don’t understand. If we are to share the gospel with those in our community we need to be able to understand the ways they speak and interact with one another so that we can bear witness to the gospel in a language and manner that can be seen and heard.
Consider that for a moment as you contemplate the world in which we live. Do you recognize the differences? So often as culture shifts we jump to the conclusion that chaos has taken hold and the end is near. But could it be that we have just neglected to listen properly?
After Paul sends his greetings and bestows his blessings onto the church, he dives right into the meat of what he is inspired to say. Again I want us to remember who he is speaking to, this is a group of people that is very unique to the area. They are foreign not only to the Jewish culture but also to the Greco-Roman cultures. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Talk about a slap in the face. Paul does not hold back but jumps right in. There is a reason for this which we will elaborate on in the coming weeks. But what we need to understand is that Paul visited these people early in his ministry. They embraced the gospel, repented of their previous life, and began to walk in a different tribe. They were a community that took on a different lifestyle than the other tribes around them yet they remained Celtic Christians, a unique expression of the kingdom. After Paul’s initial time among them others visited to teach among them. They came in thinking that their understanding of the Christian life was the most proper and insisted that these Galatian believers conform to their ways.
Paul presented the Gospel within their cultural context, where these others brought their culture with them and attempted to remove all previous cultural identities. This is a common theme throughout history. It is a concept of colonization, which is in many ways at the root of many of our nations’ current international struggles. To remove the previous cultural aspects and replace them with the ones we see as being better or more righteous. It is a common theme throughout history, the Greeks attempted it, as did the British, and even the United States. We see our culture as being the right culture and everyone should conform to us. This way of thinking divides. It causes tension because people are acting in ways that they are not accustomed to and eventually the tension breaks and wars break out.
Paul is writing this letter to them because he can see that tension is on the rise. There is a division within the newly formed tribe of Christ. Those caught in the middle are choosing sides and instead of encouraging one another judgement is being cast. There is a perversion of the central message. Instead of maintaining a proper focus on the essentials of the faith people are being pulled into a battle of religion. Instead of blessings being giving, curses are thrown.
I am astonished at how quickly you deserted. What a prophetic statement. Because we can quickly be swayed if we are for a moment distracted. We can get caught in the webs of issues and be consumed. How quickly we desert and can begin to regard other perspectives as being absolutely wrong. We see it in the battles between traditional hymns and praise choruses, or even which translation of the bible we should be reading. Just so you know God probably does not care what we sing to praise Him only that we sing, and that none of the translations of the scripture are more sacred than the others only some are older translations. This can even go deeper is the gospel a personal faith or a community faith?
Paul is astonished at how quickly they turned from the gospel. What would he say about us? Jesus came and presented the gospel, the good news. When he taught he said that the kingdom of God was at hand. Which means that God is all around us calling us to return to him. This return is made possible through Jesus, who lived among us because of his great love. Who showed what a life with God in the kingdom would look like and exemplified it in the rhythm of life he shared; a life of worship, prayer and service to others. He then made the way for us to fully embrace that lifestyle by taking on the wages of our sin or rejection of God by dying on the cross. He then overcame the wages of our sin by defeating death through his resurrection. God so loved the world that He took all this on himself, for us. And he is calling us to follow him. He isn’t calling us to follow a tradition or a sect but to follow him. The various faction within the church are important only because different people speak and express themselves differently, some need exquisite beauty to help them center on Christ, some need music, others need ceremony, some need rhetoric, while others need silence. It doesn’t matter how as long as we follow.
That is the gospel the God that can overcome nature is calling us to be part of his family, and as members of that family we are called to encourage others to return to God. It is a beautiful message that so often gets perverted or skewed. God loves you and wants you to return to Him. He wants you to come home and live with all the members of not just His family but yours. Will we return and simply follow?
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, I encourage you all to reflect on Christ; his life, sacrifice, and glory. Reflect on what that means for us personally and also what it means for us as a community. I also encourage us to consider the culture around us and how we are encouraging those that may not fully understand the gospel; are we speaking their language?
Galatians 1:3–5 (NRSV)
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Romans 5:1–5 (NRSV)
Results of Justification
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
This week’s passage is filled with ideas from which the study of theology grow. There are several key words. Words like Justified, peace with God, grace, and glory. Theology is a word many of us tend to shy away from. It a big scary word with deep implications. It is the study of God.
For most of the history of Friends we have said that we do not have a theology, which is to say we do not wish to debate finer aspects of theological points of view. But we do delve into theology all the time. Because theology is the study of God. Who is God, how can God relate to me and how can I relate to God are all theological questions. To be honest every time we engage in prayer we participate in some sort of theological quest. I say this because theology and relationship are connected.
These words that Paul speaks to the Romans are saturated with relational and theological meanings. “Since we are justified.” Let us sit with this for a moment. To be justified is to be declared righteous. This term or concept is from the legal aspects of society, because it is linked to justice. To be declared righteous means that the sentence has been fulfilled and the debt is paid. If then we are justified that means we are the ones who have had the charges filed against us, judgement has been declared, and justice has been restored. We have been justified, meaning we are guilty but somewhere along the way someone took care of the sentence for us.
We have been declared righteous, yet we are the ones standing guilty before God. We have opposed His ways and turned our backs on Him, yet as he pronounces our sentence he continues to speak saying he no longer has anything to hold against us because all debts have been paid. We are declared to be right with God.
Simple as that, Paul says in one short phrase that all penalties and judgement are over, we are at peace with God, through one thing faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting how he words this, because it speaks volumes. We are justified, declared righteous, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Did you happen to catch that? All the justification and peace is made through Jesus, and we have access to this through our faith in Him. And Paul includes a title with this statement Lord. This is a word we through around in church, but do we really know what it means? To be a lord, we have authority and power, and the means and as well as the position to exercise that power. We at times struggle with this term because we live in a culture based on democracy and equality. Of course this is not always practiced but it is the central idea of our society. We have a voice in our culture because we are a people who have decided that every individual has within them the right endowed by our Creator. This system of government has not been widely practiced in the world. Throughout most of human history only a few people were given the authority to speak. And if you had an issue that needed justice you would go before those few people and they would make an appeal on our behalf.
Paul is telling us that we do not have the authority or the means to stand before God on our own merit. No matter how righteous we think we are, not matter how strong we perceive ourselves to be, before God we have nothing in ourselves. We can be the greatest person on the earth at this particular moment yet before God we are nothing. That is unless we have an advocate speaking for us.
But Jesus has the means to speak on our behalf. He knows the realm of Heaven because he came from it to the earth, He also knows the earthly realms because he walked among us. He is the only one that is fully God and fully man. He can speak both languages, he understands where both are coming from, and because of this He can speak on our behalf. But there is more to that than a simple translation. We are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus we have justification and peace with God. When Jesus was born he took the entirety of humanity onto himself. He became mankind. He is not only a good example of humanity, He is humanity. He is the fullest expression of mankind to us as well as to God. So He speaks on our behalf not just to say I have your back but He stands before God the Father as us. He takes our place for us so literally the Father says there is peace because all of humanity stands in Jesus.
This is all wonderful right. We are nothing before God, unless Jesus stands for us, but does that really help? Jesus did not only become human for us before God but He is the embodiment of God to mankind. I have been listening to a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as I travel to and from work. It is a fascinating story of a man who pursued theology with great passion and then attempted to live according to the things he observed. Bonhoeffer emerged into the field of Theology during a time where the vast majority of people in the field took a stance that Christianity was simply a great moral ethic and not much more. Bonhoeffer did not agree with this stance. Most of the theologians of his day were looking at the church through the eyes of man, and the conclusion that they came up with was that there could be no real God. Dietrich said for the church to exist there had to be a holy other and for us to even begin to know this holy other it would have to reveal itself to us because we do not exist in the same dimension as it. Jesus reveals God to us.
So if we want to know God, if we want to have any intimacy with Him, we must look first at Jesus. In Jesus we get a glimpse of the character of this Holy Other we know as God the Father. Jesus shows us that God is not a wrathful being of vengeance seeking to blot out humanity if we give him a chance. God is a merciful God that does not wish to destroy but to redeem. We see this countless times throughout the Gospel: Jesus Heals the lame man, He speaks to the woman at the well, He heals the servant of the Roman Centurion, and He turns the crowd away from the woman caught in the very act of adultery. Mercy followed by Mercy, he listens and he acts. But he does not leave them where they are but encourages them to embrace a different life and lifestyle.
God is merciful as we see in Jesus. God wishes to walk with humanity and enjoy the very creatures he created. He loves us to such a degree that he sent his son to us. God came to humanity through Jesus, and Jesus is humanity before God.
This tells us a great deal. It speaks to us and gives us a glimpse of the reality of who we are. But God is not done. If God became man, and if man became God in Jesus all we have is hope for life to come. This does not help us in the here and now. Jesus came to reveal God to us, but he also came to show us who we are as well. He became human so that we could become human. This is where the hope of the Glory of God comes in.
When our first parents fell, the reality of what happened was that we lost our identity. When we turned our backs on God we did die, just as God said we would. This means we as humans lost track of who we were created to be. Jesus came to become mankind to God, to restore that relationship between the creature and the divine. He also came to bring God back into relationship with humanity. That in itself is amazing, but it is not the full Gospel. Jesus also brought humanity back to humans. He came to show us and become the embodiment of humanity in the truest form. This is the glory of God.
Redemption, Justification, Grace and sanctification are all loaded theological words that attempt to explain and reveal something quite simple. All of these attempt to reveal the Glory of God. That glory is the restoration, or the return of all of creation back to this holy other so that we can again live in communion. These are all loaded words that simply state God created us out of his overflowing love and wants to restore us to that state again. Or as Jesus put it, “your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What all this boils down to is this. God loves you, God want you to live your life to the fullest, and to find what that means we need to return to Him. To make this possible He stepped out of Heaven and took on human form so that we could be lifted into that glory which comes through faith in Jesus. Not just faith but the entrusting belief that our lives are fully left in the hands of Jesus our Lord. All of theology, the meaning of life and everything boils down to one thing, Jesus.
Are we willing to allow Jesus to be Lord? The early Friends made it a point that they did not have theology, but they instead sought to see and encourage that of God in all people. They believed that Jesus was our ever present teacher and guide, who would speak to us directly if we would stop and listen for His leading. We listen by reflecting on the life of Jesus as revealed to us in scripture, all of theology from the beginning of time to the end is wrapped in Jesus. All of our understanding of ourselves and of God comes through the relationship we can have with the one who came down from heaven to live among mankind. Are we willing to listen to him? Are we willing to contemplate on His life and seek how that would look in our world today?
Paul says that we will share in His glory, but not only that but we will boast in our sufferings, knowing that though our suffering we will have endurance which produces character which produces hope, and hope will not return empty because God’s love has been poured onto us through the Holy Spirit. Paul like the early Friends and so many other religious orders encourages us to look at Christ. To follow him, to walk his pathways. To eat and drink with our greatest teacher. To take on his lifestyle or worship, prayer, and service to others so that we can share or experience true life with God. Are we willing to let Jesus be Lord? Are we willing to let him stand for us both on earth as he does in heaven? Will we take his lifestyle on in our own lives so that we can be declared justified and at peace with God? Or are we going to stand for ourselves? As we enter into this time of open worship and communion in the manner of Friends let us consider Jesus. And who we are in Him.
Romans 8:14–17 (NRSV)
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Today is the day of Pentecost. Today is the day that we celebrate the birth of the church. It was on this day approximately 1,983 years ago the disciples of Jesus had an experience that totally took them by surprise. As they gathered together in a room to wait and pray a great wind come over them and the fire of the spirit rested on each of them. It was on that day that Peter gave his powerful sermon that brought approximately three thousand people into the journey that has lead each of us here today.
I want us to think about that for a moment. What was started one day nearly 2,000 years ago directly relates to each of us being in this meeting house on this very day. The Spirit of God empowered Peter and the other apostles to move forward in faith, their faithfulness encouraged others to follow that same spirit, which caused others to question their own lives and they too began to turn and journey toward the kingdom of God. Each generation gathering people for the kingdom, and with each progressing generation more. Until one day someone was faithful in their own lives to listen to the leading of the Spirit and they met with us and because of that day we are included in this great lineage of faithful. Let that sink in for a moment.
While we have that idea in mind, consider also the word of Paul to those of Rome. “For all who are led by the Spirit are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adaption.”
Imagine this for a bit. You have been held against your will. Chained. Your arms and legs having limited mobility and you are forced to do things for others against your will. Your will. That is a funny thing because you really do not realize that you have a will, you have been born into this condition, born a slave. Conditioned to fear. Fear, do not think do not question only fear. If you begin to question then you will be punished. If you begin to think and try different method you will be flogged and made into a spectacle. You were born a slave to walk lock step with everyone around you, human cogs in the machine.
Slavery is a terrible thing. Slavery is the most inhumane and dehumanizing practice anyone can participate in. By the very definition it is dehumanizing because those that hold others in bondage do not see them as human. They are simply cattle, animals to use to assist in the production of goods. To hold one in bondage is to say I am greater than other, and to allow one’s self to be sold is to say that I am less than human.
The sad thing about slavery is that it is a practice that continues to this very day. Millions of people live in exploited situations. Millions of women, children and even men are forced into lifestyles where they are forced to labor with little hope of profit. They are trapped in a downward spiral of exploitation where the only known options are to continue in bondage. Prostitutes, sweatshops, mines, coffee fields and chocolate production, most products we buy contain the sweat of the exploited within. They are trapped. They were sold, forced, or manipulated in some way to enter this lifestyle. But all exist simply to fulfill the desires carnal desires of other. The lusts of the flesh or the pockets of the greedy. And they are too afraid to think or even consider the possibility of thinking.
Fear is a trap. It holds us in bondage limits our perception and activity. Fear paralyses our ability to dream or imagine. It tells us that we are less, we are not worthy, and we must listen only to others. Fear is a power tool. Those who can master this deadly weapon can rule the masses. And if you are the one that can place the fear into people you hold the key and the chains.
Paul tells these people of Rome that if you are led by the Sprit you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. For most of us we are unable to fully grasp these concepts because slavery is no longer openly practiced. But for most of human history slavery was common. It affected all people in some form or another. And is a practice that will most likely continue for centuries. Because people will always be lead into and held in bondage by fear.
The wife of an abusive husband is little more than a slave. Children of abusive parent are often easy prey for those that wish to exploit. Those that are hungry can quite easily be manipulated into servitude by the promise of bread. Some do not even have a threat, but someone tell them that their lifestyle is threatened and suddenly they are afraid of losing their job or their values and they too will give all their freedom to others with the empty promise of security.
We did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Jesus tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. Fear is an emotion of bondage, where the emotions of love empower. Consider the story of Samson. Samson was a man who was to live his life fully devoted to God. Often we see that he was forced into this lifestyle, but no the life of a Nazirite was one of choice. To live a life set apart in such a manner you must choose it. Men that took on this life would be deeply devoted to God. They ate, drank, and lived life fully engaged in the will of God. Samson did not fully understand his positon. His strength came from God. He believed that the strength came from the religious practices, the Law of not eating or drinking certain foods, by not cutting his hair, by living a pure life. He was able to do amazing things as long as he focused on God. But he began to allow bondage to set in. His wife, who was from a nation at war with Israel, was able to place fear in Samson. She made him believe that if he did not confide the secret of his strength to her she would leave. The very thought of losing his wife distracted Samson from God, and his love for God. The spirit once coursed through his body making him unstoppable when he pursued justice for his people, but the thought of being left alone scared him. So he told her that his strength came from his hair. What he was saying was that he had strength because he fully relied on God which was testified by the fact that he would not cut his hair. So when the blade touched his hair, when Samson desired his wife over God, when Samson allowed fear to rule instead of God, he became weak, and was held in bondage. You might think I am reading all that into the story, but hear me out. Samson was afraid of losing his wife, because of his devotion to God so he turned away, and in the end that fear held him in bondage. Only when he again trusted in God, and again rededicated his life to his ways was he able to regain the strength he once had to overcome the enemy.
Fear holds us in bondage but we are not given a spirit of slavery to fear but we are given a spirit of adoption. Adoption is the opposite of slavery. Slavery rejects the humanity of others, where adoption reestablishes it. Adoption welcomes the stranger into the family. It brings them in as equals. Those that were fatherless in ancient times faced two avenues, either someone took them in as an equal or they would be sold into slavery. They were sold so that the basic necessities of life would be taken care of in exchange for their undivided devotion. When the fatherless were adopted it was a great thing. The child would be well taken care of as well as having hope for a future.
When Paul says that we were received the spirit of adoption he is saying quite literally that fear is no longer an option for us if we live by the Spirit, because we cannot be a slave for we are children. Whatever the father has is ours as well. Consider that. Everything the Father has is ours. What does the Father have? He has everything because he created it all.
So what do we fear? There is only one thing that we have left to consider. In ancient times inheritance was done a bit differently than today. Everything went to the eldest son when the father died. The eldest son would then take on the role of care giver to the family. How this care was provide was up to the eldest brother. This is a generality because there are exceptions to this in scripture, like the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors. So if Jesus is the Son, and we are adopted we are God’s children, siblings of Jesus, and our inheritance is Jesus. He is the first born, or the eldest and because of that our inheritance is wrapped up to his will. So when we consider the spirit that we received when we are being led by the Spirit of God, our understanding and our relationship with Jesus dictates how we live our lives.
What do we fear? Jesus called us to follow him, to enter into a life and lifestyle which he showed us. He showed us how to live devoted to God. He made it his custom to worship in the meeting places, He withdrew often to isolated places to pray, and he ministered to the needs of others. This is the personality of Christ, and He is the one that oversees our inheritance. Just prior to His ascension to Heaven to become our advocate at the right hand of the Father, just prior to Him going to the Father’s house to prepare a place for us. He told his disciple to do one thing. Wait.
He told them to wait for the Spirit. He told them to pray and to seek direction and understanding. He told them to meet together in corporate prayer because the Spirit would come and meet them there to empower them to do even more than He did while he walked among them. He told them to wait so that they could become more. When we wait, and when we seek the leading of the Spirit it does not come back to us empty. If we perceive that it does in many cases it is because our voice has drown out the voice of the one speaking to our very souls. The Spirit will speak to those that wait, and the Spirit did speak to them. The Spirit rushed upon them like a mighty wind and tongues of fire rested over their heads. Giving them the power to continue what Jesus started.
That day nearly 2000 years ago, one person was empowered to live fully devoted to the lifestyle of Christ, and they spoke in word and deed to someone. That person saw the value of this alternative lifestyle that Jesus exemplified for us lived through one of those that experienced that miraculous day and thy too decided to live according to the lifestyle of Christ. Person by person the kingdom expanded. But as time moved on those that were strengthened by the Spirit began to look at the beauty of the world and they became afraid that they would lose what they loved of it so they allowed the world to cut off their hair and they became bound again, like Samson. They allowed their eyes to drift from life with God as sons and became like the younger son of the Jesus’ parable. They spent their inheritance with fast living and the desires of the flesh. But what does that give us? We were once living life in abundance all that the father had was ours but now we have nothing. What do we fear?
Jesus did not call us to fear, but to live. He did not call us to slavery but he called us to live as brothers and sister, as friends of God. Knowing the will of the Father because we have a relationship with Him. That is our inheritance, but are we afraid to reach for it? I have to admit that often I am afraid. When John Harkness and I first came to this community we were filled with excitement and goals that we hoped to see fulfilled. I will say that we have made a start toward those goals, but they are still a long way off. And to be honest the longer I have been here the more afraid I become that those goals those hopes that I felt that God placed in my heart would not be established. Yet there is glimmers of hope. I hope that we as a meeting would be fundamental in the encouragement of planting five churches in the Kansas City Metro area. That Willow Creek would be a center for the training and encouraging of apostles to be sent out into the surrounding communities to minister to the needs of those around us. We have made steps toward that goal. We have resources that we can use that will assist in that goal. But after five years we as a meeting have not made much progress.
Why not? Part of it is because I myself am afraid. I am afraid that I will not have the strength to lead, that my family will not have the resources to survive so I go back to plan B. Peter went back to plan B once too. After Jesus died and rose Peter during the 40 days of waiting between Easter morning to the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven got up off the mat gave up on praying and said I’m going to go fishing. And by saying that he was saying I give up, I’m going back to my old life. But Jesus met him on the beach and cooked breakfast for him. What do we fear? Are we afraid that Jesus will not do what he says he will do? Are we afraid that God will not provide? The answer is yes that is exactly what I fear.
If I do not have control then I am afraid. The first step is to wait, to pray to seek the direction that God has for us. The second is to listen and respond when we hear that calling. The third step is to boldly go not as slave but as brothers and sister of Jesus, God’s first born child, because Jesus our elder brother is saying this is your inheritance. Will it be easy no, Jesus did not promise that. But it will be glorious. If we boldly go with hope, faith and love we will see greater things then even Jesus showed his disciples. But as Paul reminds us the greatest of these is love. As we enter into this time of open worship and communion with God in the manner of Friends, let us hope, and let us dream, let us wait and receive the power and strength of God’s Spirit to boldly move forward into our future and our inheritance. Let us remember that we have nothing to fear, because we are children of God, children of the King, joint heirs with Jesus the Lord of all creation whose kingdom is to come on Earth as it is in Heaven.