I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen
This week marks some very important things in the year
In the sports world you may have been glued to your TV watching either the excitement of the tennis at Wimbledon or the Quarter final round of the FIFA world cup
If you are a member of the Monarchist League of Canada you may have been following with delight, the nine day whirlwind tour of Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip where our country has been called their second home and is the most visited country in the commonwealth
But what I am actually thinking about is our Nation’s birthday and the first week of freedom for school aged kids and their teachers
It is at these times that we consider time and our place in it
With our annual Canada celebrations there are the inevitable looking back exercises – where we consider our young nation, or maybe middle-aged nation and all the history that is our collective wealth
We consider the transformation this country has taken – to the point where we now, in 2010, hosted two major world events – The Vancouver Winter Olympics and the G8-G20 summits
Canada has been the stage and the world has come… and the world has watched
As a nation we cheered our winter sport athelites to our best Olympics ever
And despite numerous challenges, natural or otherwise, watched the Canadian Games organizers navigate to provide what many in the international sports world described as a unique and special atmosphere not felt at other games
As well as that, if we are to believe the Canadian Press, our Prime Minister achieved some sizable goals towards world-wide financial reform
And the Canadian banking system being a model towards reforms whereby we weathered the economic downturn much better than many of our partners
As we consider our nation, this weekend and the year gone by – punctuated by our Canada Day celebrations, we might be forgiven to look through nostalgic lenses and want to give us all a big pat on the back and award us an A
I also mentioned that it is the first weekend of freedom for school aged kids and their teachers
Handed out through the nation where millions of report cards that looked back over the academic year
Although I know, that long past are the days when teachers hand write comments for each student and each subject, exchanged instead for an option of preset comments. Which can, at times, be frustrating to the recipient and their parents as the comments don’t always coincide with the marks.
However at the end of each our kids reports cards there was clearly a personal message. And a message of encouragement that speaks of the upcoming year with optimism and opportunity
The end of one thing always marks the beginning of another
The scriptures are, in some way, a reflection piece of the author – a way of reporting what has happened
In much of scripture, especially the Apostle Paul’s - the writing goes deeper, takes on a more theological approach and looks at the cause of things or the connection of all things to God
Scripture is uniquely special - as it is inspired by God and is about God’s relationship between Him and that which was created in His image - us
In Today’s reading from Galatians we have a wonderfully powerful message
Luther once commented that “the Letter to the Galatians is my epistle, to which I am betrothed”
And the part that we have for today is the closing comments … the final thoughts
Paul now concludes his letter to the Galatian churches by adding some commentary of his writing process
“See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!”
I can imagine the Apostle getting so excited that he takes the pen from the scribe - wanting to drives home the main point of his letter
- these mains point which contains the greatest of all messages
The “payout” if you like of the good news of Jesus
The Apostle Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, is dealing with many challenges to the authority of the Gospel which he had presented to them – but backdrop to the whole letter is to counter people he called Judizers which wanted to add some burdens of Jewish cultural practices
Galatians is about Paul wanting to release them from the bondage of legalism
And today, Paul had just a few verses before been conveying the idea that
“for you reap whatever you sow”
teaching the Galatians that if they sow or plant in things of this world - they will reap or yield back things of this world
Our world then and today is faced with a vast multitude of ways of viewing the world and our place in it
We are faced with the same basic thing that Paul was faced with nearly 2000 years ago
We are face with which understanding of reality hold the greatest authority
Where shall we sow or plant our values in life
Today, with all the ideas floating out there - the great religions and their subsets:
Christianity - Catholic and Protestant, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism….Or philosophical ideas
If one has chosen the truth of Jesus Christ… How shall Christianity face the people of other religions?
Shall Christianity tell them: Come to us, we are a better religion, our kind of conformity or unconformity – or as Paul put it ‘circumcision or uncircumcision is better than yours?
Should we navigate the philosophical landscape reacting to what is said about us or should we engage in the world on our own terms leading the way
And imagine you had to advise a new Christian on how to live a Christian life.
What would you say?
Would you give them a list of do's and don'ts?
Would you give them a book and hope that it speaks to their specific heart’s desire
Would you introduce them to Christian friends or maybe direct their questions to the church leaders
Maybe you might share a message of how Christ’s love changed you transformed you and that transformation is rooted in a love so great that he died upon the cross to release us from our sins
How God took what you were … and made you a new creation
releases us when we confess our sins to our Lord
and in confessing them - turn away (to repent) and to turn towards
walking in freedom away from the things that once entrapped us
Second, like this time of reflection over the school year or the birthday of the country – you might want to present life the way it really is, its beauty and its rough edges. Enjoy life, while accepting its imperfections. And be thankful for the God who created it all
The good to teach us certain lessons and the bad to teach us others
- the Highs and Lows of our life
Seeing the world as God saw it and it was recorded in Genesis “as good” and to be appreciated
I was watching a western movie the other night, called Jack Bull, when I couldn’t get to sleep and two characters were traveling across some incredibly beautiful Wyoming landscape
And one says to the other while looking at the wonderful vista
“What do you make of all this?”
The other replies “Like a church with no roof, …
… got the Almighty bragging His head off”
The first responds “What do you figure He’s saying”
“Remember who did this, don’t get too big for your britches”
Understanding the world as God’s creation is an important first step towards understanding God
The next step is getting to the heart of the main points that the Apostle Paul is trying to convey, writing in his own hand
He is trying to teach a lesson about work of Jesus
So in the vast multitude of ideas out there, when an inquiring ‘new Christian’ came my way. I believe the best way to share the message is to first try to teach something about how each one of us is affected by God
That each one of us has a story to tell of how God transformed us – a personal story
Then I would change perspectives from the individual to the vastness of creation and suggest an explanation that is beyond mere human control
And while doing this I hope that they might catch a glimmer of the fact that we are all new creations by the saving work of Jesus
As Paul writes “the new creation is everything”
One of the four most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century, Paul Tillich, in his opening sentence of his most famous sermon writes:
“If I were asked to sum up the Christian message for our time in two words, I would say with [the apostle] Paul: It is the message of a "New Creation."
That saving work of Jesus, and us as the new creations are vital but the apostle Paul, writing with his own hand, wants to share with us another essential message about how we are to view the priorities of our life and what we must share – He states
"May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Strange… these words. Why boast of a cross?
After all, the cross was a symbol of death and defeat.
The One who was nailed to that cross had Himself been greeted with derision and ridicule.
The One who was boasted to be the Son of God, the King of Kings, became the brunt of cruel jokes.
"Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," they wrote in mockery on a placard and nailed it to the cross.
After all, it didn't make much sense.
Kings sit on thrones, they're not nailed to crosses.
Kings drink precious wines from silver goblets lined with gold, not vinegar from a sponge.
And yet …Francis of Assisi, who went from a wealthy playboy, soldier and merchant, to became a pious monk and reformer of the church
Francis was transformed when he met the Christ of the Cross.
The same was true for Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley; and for the contemporary heroes of the faith, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
All were transformed by the power of the cross.
The second vital message that is paired with Paul’s message that “the new creation is everything” is that without the cross of Christ we would be just nice people looking for wisdom and nice things to do from the words of an ancient person
Without the cross of Christ we would be rooted in the kind words from a kind prophet who approached things with a new light - a new message
Without the Cross of Christ we would be without a foundation
Without the cross of Christ we lack everything
Everything that it means to truly be a follower of Jesus the Messiah
- Jesus the Christ
Simply put - We lack salvation from our sins
Without the cross of Christ - we remain in things of the flesh
We remain moored to the things and ways of this world
But with the Cross of Christ we become transformed
Transformed into a new creation
It is the purpose and climax of Christ’s earthly existence the one - and only necessary sacrifice, that we will celebrate just a few moments from now - for the salvation of all
The cross brought about a change of cosmic scope
When we say our the prayer that is present in every service
- The Lord’s prayer -
And we say those words - Your kingdom come - on earth as it is in heaven - we are speaking about that new creation
we are speaking – no talking to God in prayer… that we desire to serve Christ, serve Him by following Him so closely that we work towards the Kingdom of God… here and now on earth
So I, like the Apostle Paul, I will boast and be thankful
Boast proudly - in the Cross of Christ
It is the Cross of Christ - which is the greatest gift
It is by the ransom of the cross that we can be made into the New creation
– and that is the heart of the Gospel – …it is everything