Call to Worship
LEADER: I arise today, through a mighty strength;
PEOPLE: God's power to guide me, God's might to uphold me,
LEADER: God's wisdom to teach me, God's eyes to watch over me,
PEOPLE: God's ear to hear me, God's word to give me speech,
LEADER: God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me,
PEOPLE: God's shield to shelter me, God's host to secure me.
ALL: Amen. -Adapted from a prayer by Saint Patrick
*Hymn of Praise # 200 The Church’s One Foundation
Invocation (the Lord’s Prayer) Move past our lack of faith and be seen here, O Christ: seen beyond us, seen between us, and within us. Move past the boundaries of our human vision and be present in Spirit and in
truth as we pray.
Litany - four parts
Our Offering to God Christ invites us to share with others through this offering.
*Offertory Prayer O God, take all that we have and use it to signal our love and your love for the world. Amen.
*Hymn of Prayer # 372 Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Pastoral Prayer O God, On this Sunday when we celebrate communion we confess that there are times when we envy those who knew the Christ as he walked this earth. We would like to meet that Jesus, face to face.
We long to find a God who can directly answer our hard questions, and whose face lights up with kindness as we sit near.
Come, Holy Spirit, breathe grace upon us, that we may live in freedom.
There are times, O God, when we find it difficult to believe that you are in the world at all, forces that destroy and wound seem so powerful
and hopefulness and creativity so limited.
Come, Holy Spirit, breathe grace upon us, that we may live in freedom-
even if that freedom is not what we expected.
*Words of Assurance
Hear the word in Jesus Christ: "Because I live, you also will live."
This living Christ offers us all forgiveness and new life.
*Prayer of Thanksgiving
We thank you, loving God, that in every generation, we can find you near to us. We thank you that you escape our capture and invite us to expand the boundaries of our faith. We thank you that you seek us out and hold us in mercy. Thank you for all that you are, O God: loving parent, Jesus, the Christ, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, lover of all who live, we know many places where love seems absent or scarce. We see the lack of care in struggles for survival. //We see the lack of care when starvation persists in a world of wealth.
In this moment, we think of individuals and their situations of pain:
Silent prayer and reflection
Be present with us all, Jesus Christ. Open us to your justice and mercy. Show to us your life, that we may be healed and restored.
We think of those who live in loneliness because they seem different, or unable. We remember those who are lost in depression or drowned in repeated trauma. In this moment, we hold before you all who feel distanced from you for any reason.
Silent prayer and reflection
Be present with us all, Holy Spirit. Open us to your justice and mercy. Show to us your life, that we may be healed and restored. Amen.
*Hymn of Praise # 339 More About Jesus
Scripture Reading Galatians 6:7-18 NLT
7 Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! 8Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. 10Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.
11 Notice what large letters I use as I write these closing words in my own handwriting. 12Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised are doing it for just one reason. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don’t really keep the whole law. They only want you to be circumcised so they can brag about it and claim you as their disciples.
14 As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead. 15 It doesn’t make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people. 16May God’s mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle. They are the new people of God.
17 From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.
18 My dear brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Message On Your Mark
Galatians tells us that we wear in our bodies the scars or mark that shows we belong to Jesus Christ – today we remind ourselves of the mark of Jesus Christ by wearing a cross. /// When one is racing there are blocks of many different forms where one prepares to start the race by getting “on your mark”, today by wearing a cross we remind ourselves to get prepared right up to waiting on the mark for what God has ahead for each of us individually and The Baptist Church in Warren as a body. ////
Paul is ringing a warning bell...Freedom from the law means each believer takes on responsibility for his or her actions. The gift of Jesus Christ is free, but not cheap - and individual actions continue to have significant repercussions. Galatians (the people of Galatia) inclined towards libertine behavior are warned with the proverbial "God is not mocked."//
Paul’s sowing and reaping imagery defines the active role believers take in shaping their own destinies and even those around them. The Spirit is available to all who seek it. But it is also quite avoidable. Paul states plainly where the ultimate responsibility lies for those whose harvests are stunted and decayed. It is within everyone's own power to determine whether the outcome of their life will be blessing or judgment. ///
"What is that in your hand?" God asked of Moses as God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 4:2). God asks us the same question today. And God will ask us the same question at Judgment Day: "What is that in your hand?"
Jesus needs our hands working together in work and witness. From v.9 of today’s text we are urged "do not grow weary in well-doing," - a remark that assumes you are already involved in some sort of Christ-oriented labor. We recognize that it is discouraging to continue to do right and receive no word of thanks or see no tangible results. But Paul challenged the Galatians, and he challenges us to keep on doing good and to trust God for the results. In due time, we will reap a harvest of blessing.
The Bible tells that while the harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few. Could a mandate for action be any clearer?
America has a long history of voluntary service. Trust in the ongoing strength of voluntary commitments is, in part, what enabled the churches to break free from their existence as "political establishments" in the 18th century and begin new as free and voluntary houses of worship. During the 19th century, the Age of Voluntaryism saw societies dedicated to everything from female education to abolition to temperance to "moral reform societies" (i.e., dedicated to reforming prostitutes). "Voluntaryism" created universities and colleges, hospitals, orphanages and seminaries.
Perhaps, however, it is time for the church to get more intentional in our activities and our identity. We must consciously transpose Christ's image onto our schedule of meetings, campaigns and fund-raisers. Too often we let the principle of the Sabbath get carried away. We separate Sunday morning from a Monday week and Friday world. If our time of Sabbath rest genuinely refills our spiritual cisterns, the overflow should spill out over the next six days.
Put in sharper terms, what difference did worship last Sunday make in your life this past week? How were you able to be more of a force for God's Spirit of love and justice because of your worship here? What difference does all this religion stuff make in your life?
It only takes a glance to see the differences the church failed to make in this past century alone - over the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, the Soviet Gulag Archipelago, the murderous Killing Fields of Cambodia, the South African apartheid, and the continuing treatment of Indian- and African-Americans in this country. Yet if we had not been involved at all we can’t imagine how much worse it could have been.
From Sunday morning we need to move from thinking about love to doing love. Make forgiveness, love, truth and justice concrete realities in the world. John Wesley said the purpose of the Christian life was to "have the mind of Christ and walk as he walked."
Paul emphasizes to the Galatian community that to a large extent, they determine their own quality of life. Sowing to their "own flesh" leads to a harvest of corruption. It would certainly be a surprise if you planted corn and pumpkins came up. It’s a natural law to reap what we sow. It’s true in other areas, too. If you gossip about your friends, you will lose their friendship. Every action has results. What kind of seeds are you sowing? If you plant to please your own desires, you’ll reap a crop of sorrow and evil. If you plant to please God, you’ll reap joy and everlasting life.
Does our society, steeped in individualism, shallow consumerism and militarism, and now sitting on a harvest of poverty, pollution and decaying plutonium, really need that fact pointed out to it? Yes! Give Jesus a hand by helping to clean up a dump site, working in a soup kitchen, adopting a public school branch or lobbying for peace. By sowing to the Spirit with these and other acts, we "work for the good of all" (Galatians 6:10)./////
The world is full of enticements. Daily we are confronted with subtle cultural pressures and overt propaganda. The only way to escape these destructive influences is to ask God to help crucify our interest in them, just as Paul did. How much do the interests of this world matter to you?
It is easy to get caught up with the externals. Beware of those who emphasize actions that we should or shouldn’t do, with no concern for the inward condition of the heart. Living a good life without an inward change leads to a shallow or empty spiritual walk. What matters to God is that we be completely changed from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Paul’s letter to the Galatians boldly declares the freedom of the Christian. Doubtless these early Christians in Galatia wanted to grow in the Christian life, but they were being misled by those who said this could be done only by keeping certain Jewish laws.
How strange it would be for a prisoner who had been set free to walk back into his or her cell and refuse to leave! How strange for an animal, released from a trap, to go back inside it! How sad for a believer to be freed from the bondage of sin, only to return to rigid conformity to a set of rules and regulations!
If you believe in Jesus Christ, you have been set free. Instead of going back into some form of slavery, whether to legalism or to sin, use your freedom to live for Christ and serve him as he desires.
As the church we are Christ's body incarnate. Our hands are Jesus' hands. Sowing seeds of faithfulness gets your hands dirty. check under your fingernails, if they are clean get on your mark.
*Hymn of Response #220 Break Thou the Bread of Life
Hymn #187 Breathe on Me Breath of God
*Sending forth God goes with us in our hour of need,
Christ holds us in love that never dies,
and the Spirit opens the truth before us Amen.
Verse 8's Verse 9 relieves this somber picture with the apostle's positive advice that we should therefore "not grow weary in doing what is right...." For those faithful to the Spirit, there is a harvest of eternal life freely offered.
"Weary" is another term rarely used by Paul, although it was common to the professional scribe's vocabulary. Paul realizes that there are a number of conflicting lifestyles and moral guidelines available to these new Galatian converts, many which focused on physical pleasure and immediate gratification through sex or food or frivolous behavior. Thus there was a real temptation to these Galatians of growing "weary" of always thinking in line with the Spirit, of carefully processing their thoughts and desires and measuring them against the Spirit's high standards of excellence. Paul knows that sometimes it's just hard to be good! By emphasizing the chasm between acts of the flesh and those of the Spirit, Paul tries to convey the critical difference between the two.
Verses 11-18 have the distinction of making up the longest postscript in any of the Epistles. Paul, like most authors of his day, apparently used a scribe or amanuensis to write out the body of his letters. He then would write a personal postscript, usually to add specific greetings or messages to distinct individuals.
But here Paul's add-ons serve a different purpose. As he takes up the pen, the letters grow larger, probably an indication both of Paul's less practiced handwriting skills and as a means of highlighting - as though writing in all capitals - the content of these final lines. Yet what Paul adds in his own hand is basically a brief recap of the entire letter's message. In a few words, he reiterates all the points he had taken pains to develop in the body of the letter. Matters of circumcision, the flesh, the law, the cross of Christ, boasting and persecution are all sandwiched into these terse lines.
The "marks of Jesus" he bears (v.17) are most likely the scars Paul has earned by preaching the truth of this "new creation" to an old and corrupt world. And despite the sternness of verse 17, Paul feels enough unity and camaraderie with those in the Galatian community to add the vocative "brother" (the NRSV adds "sisters" as well) to his usual closing blessing. Perhaps because of their foibles and follies, Paul feels a special closeness and responsibility for the Christians at Galatia.
Some of the Judaizers were emphasizing circumcision as proof of holiness—but ignoring the other Jewish laws. People often choose a certain principle or prohibition and make it the measure of faith. Some may abhor drunkenness but ignore gluttony. Others may despise promiscuity but tolerate prejudice. The Bible in its entirety is our rule of faith and practice. We cannot pick and choose the mandates we will follow.
Animating Illustrations God does not need those who praise him when in a state of euphoria. He needs those who are in love with him when in distress.... This is the task: in the darkest night to be certain of the dawn, certain of the power to turn a curse into a blessing, agony into a song. To know the monster's rage and, in spite of it, proclaim to its face (even a monster will be transfigured into an angel); to go through hell and to continue to trust in the goodness of God - this is the challenge and the way. (Abraham Heschel, A Passion for Truth
God is not a God of lip service but of life service. In the words taken from Alexander Irvine's novel, My Lady of the Chimney Corner (New York: Century, 1913):
God takes a hand whenever he can find it, and just does what he likes with it. Sometimes he takes a bishop's hand and lays it on a child's head in benediction. And then he takes the hand of a doctor to relieve the pain, the hand of a mother to guide a child. And sometimes he takes the hand of a poor old creature like me to give comfort to a neighbor. But they're all hands touched by his spirit, and his spirit's everywhere lookin' for hands to use.
Anyone remember how Mother Teresa started her first orphanage in Calcutta? She began as an ordinary sister in a convent with an extraordinary dream. She shared her heart's ambition with her superior.
"Well, how much money do you have?" asked the Mother Superior.
"I have two pennies!" replied Sister Teresa.
"Oh, you cannot start an orphanage with just two pennies," said the Mother Superior.
"No, but with two pennies and God I can start an orphanage," replied Sister Teresa. And she did!-As cited in Michael J. Christensen's The Samaritan's Imperative
We embrace Mother Teresa. We embrace Martin Luther King, Jr. We embrace....
Why don't we emulate them?
Do actions speak louder than words?
What does this action speak? The "underclass" in America is growing and getting bigger. Concentrated largely in the inner cities, the numbers of the "underclass" range from 5 to 12 percent of the population. Jack Kemp's analysis is that while America has a free market economy for about 90% of the population, we have a Soviet style economy for this underclass, which encourages people to stay where they are. The economic incentives to leave are virtually nonexistent, since the benefits people lose are wildly offset by the increased costs in independent living. One Milwaukee mother saved several thousand dollars to send her child to college. When the welfare bureau found out, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison for fraud.
Hal Brady of Dallas, Texas, tells the story of a "young man who came to a pastor and said he wanted to be a Christian. The pastor instructed him to read the Book of Acts as preparation for this important decision. Weeks passed, but the young man did not return. The pastor began to think he had made a serious mistake in his suggestion. Finally, almost a year later, the young man appeared. When the surprised pastor asked where he had been, the man said, 'you told me to read the Book of Acts. Every time I started to read it, it told me to do something. So, I stopped reading and went and did it. I have just been too busy to get back.'"
"That's the idea - thinking and acting like Jesus!" -Brady, "No Markdowns Here!"