A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley
Galatians 6: 7-16
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. 11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
Gospel Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
How shall we describe those Galatians?
They were new Christians- REALLY new, as in, nobody had been Christians before them. Not nobody, I suppose- there had been maybe a few hundred Christians, scattered around the world- but nobody in Galatia, nobody n their families, nobody in their church even because there was no church.
They were doing it from scratch, without a recipe. The only mold they had, if you could call it that, was Judaism, and it was not a perfect model- though there were some who tried to make it so:
Get circumcised, they said. You have to do that first.
NO, NO, NO said Paul, you’ve got it wrong.
And Paul was mad.
Probably, we should have studied this letter he wrote, verse by verse- because he had a lot to say to them about being Christian.
We’re saved by faith, he said- by our trust in God- and God takes all of us, whoever we are, and makes us equals in the sight of God.
We yawn when we hear that, but in Galatia?
Those words were electricity, when electricity had never been heard of.
But what do we DO, then?
In one form or another, every new church- when every church was new- had that trouble- how do we be who we are
Fact is, every old church has that trouble- some because they DON’T ask that question, and some because we can’t figure out that answer. And every Christian must always be asking that question, because every day, every moment, we’re faced with new situations in which we’re asked by God to BE a Christian.
How do we do it?
There are a couple of clues in the Gospel lesson. Here, Jesus sends seventy out ahead of him- and it’s easy to brush them off.
These weren’t the ones we generally call “the disciples” (though it likely included the twelve). This was a larger group, but clearly 70 who had already been following him and listening to him and learning from him- so NOW, they were ready for something more.
They were ready to go on their own, without his presence but with his instructions. They were to be emissaries of him, carrying the same message that he carried-
Peace be with you
And, The Kingdom of God has come near.
That’s it. That’s all we know that he told them to say, though clearly they said more.
But just as clearly, anything else they said had something to do with those few words.
But look what’s NOT happening.
They are not arguing
They are not condemning
They’re just announcing, and they’re abiding.
Or they’re moving on.
Last week we read a passage about a town where there was OPPOSITION, and two of the disciples wanted to call down brimstone from heaven.
They were rebuked.
Today, Jesus tells them to move on when that happens.
If they stayed, they’d accomplish nothing
Meanwhile, someone needs to hear good news.
Someone somewhere else needs to receive the peace of God.
Truthfully, the lectionary skipped a few verses that spoke about hard times and condemnation for those who resist- but those hard times are brought on by their own choices, and the condemnation will come from God- later.
Not now, and from God- not us.
So, how do we live as Christians in a world where millions have heard of Jesus, and shrug him off?
How do we live as Christians in a world changing faster than anybody can keep up with?
How do we live in a world with shrinking resources, vast wealth, and extreme poverty?
How do we live in a world that tends towards self-indulgence and idol worship?
We live with a simple message, said Jesus. Be at peace, the kingdom of God is at hand.
We live WITH that message, and we live by that message.
And the apostle Paul gives some details:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL people, ESPECIALLY to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Writing about relations between Muslims and Christians, theologian Miroslov Volf says that one of the common denominators between Christians and Muslims is a passion to work for the common good.
Does this world need help? YES!
How can we help? Do it.
There’s a club that I’m part of- Rotary- that functions without religion, though many of its members are people of faith. But around the world, its members are atheists and Christians, Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, and who knows what else. But they work together, never becoming weary of doing good.
So I’m wondering, why do Christians become weary?
I think there are two reasons:
A, we think we’re all alone- we think we’re surrounded, and we lose the peace that Jesus gave us, and we lose the sense of God’s Kingdom being AT HAND – so close we can touch it.
When we lose those things, we lose the passion for doing good that Jesus gives. We become defensive, even hostile.
Or B, we waste energy arguing- with each other, and with our different neighbors.
Those things are up to God, says Jesus. Share your message, live what you preach, and be at peace.
And do not forget to do good.
There’s a list of children’s books I came across last week. One of the books is called “One Plastic Bag”. It’s a real story about a woman in Gambia who noticed that plastic bags do not degrade when they are discarded.
Any of you ever notice that?
Down south there are mile after mile of interstate highways where the fences on the side of the road are plastered with those bags.
Well in Gambia, a woman named Isatou noticed. And she noticed the need for families in her community to make some extra money. So she started gathering those bags, and crocheting purses from them, to sell at the market.
Neither problem was SOLVED, but good was done.
Another one of the books is about Chiune Sugihara.
In 1939 and 1940, Sugihara was vice-counsel at the Japanese consulate in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were trying to leave, as German armies advanced, but they could not leave without a visa to enter another country.
Sugihara asked his superiors three times for permission to write the visas, and three times he was told “No.”
“From 18 July to 28 August 1940, aware that applicants were in danger if they stayed behind, Sugihara decided to grant visas on his own. He ignored the requirements and issued the Jews with a ten-day visa to transit through Japan, in violation of his orders.
Sugihara continued to hand-write visas, reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month’s worth of visas each day, until 4 September, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed. By that time he had granted thousands of visas to Jews, many of whom were heads of households and thus permitted to take their families with them. According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the train station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train’s window even as the train pulled out.
In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train. As he prepared to depart, he said, ‘Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.’ When he bowed deeply to the people before him, someone exclaimed, ‘Sugihara. We’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again!’” (Wikipedia)
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.
They will know we are Christians by our love, the good old song proclaims.
We ARE being made into a new creation,
Kingdom of God is coming near.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.