Sunday, June 24, 2007


Sermon Texts:
Galatians 3: 23-29
John 17: 20-23

When I was 14 years old, a beautiful and mysterious song by U2 came out on the radio that remains to this day one of my favorite songs. I found it echoing in my mind as I read over Paul’s letter to the Galatians this week. Though the song “One” is open to interpretation, and Paul’s letter is written quite directly, I hear them saying very similar things: namely, “We’re one, but we’re not the same, we’ve got to carry each other.”
The story surrounding the creation of this song is that while recording the album “Achtung Baby” in Berlin, two of the band members, Bono and the Edge, wanted to start exploring a new musical direction, namely electronica, while Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. favored the straight forward rock music that they were known for performing so powerfully throughout the 80’s. The band had been together for more than 10 years, and their relationship was beginning to strain. The band attributes their focus on putting together this song with re-unifying them as a band. As this song came into being, they put aside their differences and understood that sometimes creating something beautiful takes some tension.
This tension was also felt in the beginnings of Christianity. Paul and some of his followers were advocating a certain way of interpreting Christ’s impact on the world, and James and Peter and some others in Jerusalem were insisting on another way. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is rife with evidence of this tension, but somehow the Spirit of God brought something beautiful out of the tension of those early years.
Let’s listen together:

In the Gospel lesson today, we heard Jesus’ prayer that his disciples might be “one” as he and God the Father are “one.” Paul would speak of us becoming one with one another by “putting on Christ” in baptism. Christ’s desire for his disciples to become one with each other would occur through the radical act of faith that it took for him to walk into the hands of those who would crucify him. Our church came to see that sacrifice as an “atonement.”
We usually think of the atonement being the forgiveness of our sins that was achieved through Christ’s death on the cross. The word “atone” might create images in your mind of a sacrifice, blood, or tears. But, today I want you to have in your mind the actual word atone. If we break it down into two words we get “at one.”
Paul speaks quite beautifully in this chapter about the cross of Jesus carrying out our salvation, bringing us into a rectified relationship with God. Paul speaks about being crucified WITH Christ. He sees that trust in Christ’s act of faith gives all of us who hold this trust the new relationship of Christ’s own relationship with God. Verse 26 says quite plainly, “IN Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith.” Paul’s view of atonement in the letter to the Galatians is not “forgiveness.” Indeed, the word forgiveness is never used in the letter. Instead, atonement is about “at one ment.” It is about taking on a new identity as one who is unified with Christ’s identity. This is the gift of our Lord.
Haven’t you ever put on a really nice suit and felt 10 times more confident? When I was a kid, I really wanted a leather bomber jacket. I never got one, but I did get a green suade leather jacket. It didn’t have a cool bomber collar, but I felt cool like Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
The language of being “clothed with” some attribute is pervasive in the OT. To take a single example, the psalmist prays that Israel's priests might be “clothed with righteousness,” and later in the same psalm God declares, “Its priests I will clothe with salvation” (Ps 132:9, 16 NRSV).
To be “clothed” with some quality or attribute is to take on the characteristics of that in which one is clothed. None of the many OT examples refer to being “clothed in” a person. Paul's language of “putting on Christ” is another figurative way of describing the mysterious personal union with Christ to which he referred in last week’s scripture. In such a union, those who are “in Christ” share in his divine sonship and take on his character. Clothed in Christ, I am personally a new creation. As a community, we are a new creation.
The oneness of God can be rightly reflected only in a community unified by the fulfillment of God's promise in Christ. (NT Wright)
If we come here and pay lip service to the idea that we are one in Christ Jesus, and then we turn around and live in a way that preaches division, racism, and barriers, then we might as well hang a sign outside the door of the church that says, “we ask you to enter, but then we make you crawl.”
It isn’t just blatant actions of division and barriers that preach this to the world either. No, like any good speaker, we can lay subtle cues and signs that point to something larger and bolder quite clearly. We preach division and barriers sometimes even unconsciously. Our confession that we prayed today states, “Lord, we confess that by silence and ill-considered word we have built up walls of predjudice.” So—we must purge ourselves of those poisons. We must loose ourselves from those shackles, because we have been freed and transformed by Christ! “One Love, One Blood, One Life, You know you got to do what you should. One life, with each other—sisters, brothers.”
Ask God for forgiveness! Ask God to cleanse you outside and inside of the walls of division and barriers that we may unconsciously guard because we might really and actually believe that we are worth more to God than another child of God. God, work on us as individuals and as collectives. Bring us to a greater understanding of the oneness of your people. Help us live the truth that in you there is no East or West, no North or South, in you there is no black or white or brown or red. In you there is no 1st world or 3rd world, no male or female or anything in between, no straight or gay, no American or Iraqi.
If we live this truth, if we internalize the one-ness that exists in the community if the community dwells in the authentic presence of Christ, then we’re not “playing Jesus, to the lepers in our head.” We are boldly being Christ for the world! If we magnify our oneness in Christ, then it gives us reason to sing with authenticity the message of the Gospel: “Love is a Temple, Love is the higher law!”

1 comment:

  1. undoubtedly, one of the very best sermons i've ever read/heard. never been to morris,oklahoma, but i hope they realize what a treasure they have in you!!