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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
July 03 2022
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Six years ago, in the wake of attacks on the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, Old South Church in Boston published a prayer for the people of Turkey: do not let our hearts grow cold; do not let our hopes be extinguished; help us show love to our neighbor.
When I first heard it, I heard echoes of the Galatians reading in it. Especially the words “bear one another’s burdens” and “let us not grow weary in doing what is right.” And with all that’s going on in our nation and in our world, even before I started preparing for today, those words have been playing on a loop in my mind – bear one another’s burdens, do not grow weary in doing what is right.
We’ve heard parts of Paul’s letter to the Galatians over the last few weeks. And its overarching theme is freedom in Christ. And the difference that freedom makes for our lives can’t be overstated.
In his writing and in his theology, Paul is clear that the freedom he talks about doesn’t mean an “anything goes” approach toward life, but rather that in Christ we’re freed to live a life of loving service to our neighbor. This was such a radical change for people’s identity that Paul described it as “new creation.” Not even “a” new creation. Just new creation altogether.
In other words, everything that was before had been completely altered and there was no going back. The sacrifices, the circumcision, the purity laws – in Christ, all of that was done away with and everything, everything was made new.
But freedom in Christ changed more than people’s individual lives, it shaped the way people of faith would live with each other in community and who they were as a community. And that’s what Paul is talking about in this final chapter.
As an example, he gives instruction for how to deal with a community member who is known to have made a mistake – and says that they ought to be restored in a spirit of gentleness, one of the fruits of the Spirit. Because in community, the goal of dealing with situations like that isn’t punishment, but restoration and healing.
And in that process, the goal of the community is to not be tempted to say, “Whoo – glad I’m not like that…” But instead to remember that each of us is every bit as vulnerable and every bit as dependent on God’s grace. Because it’s in that remembering that we bear one another’s burdens.
Living together this way, bearing one another’s burdens, being responsible for one another, is a way of fulfilling Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves. And living together in this way takes constant work.
It means living with graciousness, perseverance, and refusing to judge who is worthy of help and who isn’t. It means putting in time to build relationships and nurture them.
Instead of finger-pointing or excluding or being condescending, the community of faith is the place of healing and restoration that it’s intended to be.
Living this way, bearing one another’s burdens, can make us weary. But Jesus makes it possible for us to do it.
We know that in U.S. culture, a high value is placed on individualism and independence. We’re taught to do what we can to get ahead, and to look out for ourselves because no one else will. But that way of being goes against the community and interdependence that God calls us to.
We’re first brought into God’s community, the body of Christ, in our baptism. We’ve had a couple of them here in worship in recent weeks. And we do them during a worship service whenever possible because baptism is an event of the community.
As a community, when we baptize, we make and affirm promises every time. Every time we put water together with God’s word we promise, with God’s help, to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and action, to serve all people – following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. And through God’s Spirit, we renew these promises ourselves daily.
But we don’t do any of it by ourselves. We can’t. It’s a way of living based on relationship in community – relationships that bear one another’s burdens and don’t grow weary in doing what is right. And it’s a way of living that bears witness to the power of those relationships and our freedom in Christ.
Living this way is countercultural. But Jesus makes it possible for us to do it.
The decisions handed down by the US Supreme Court last week, continue to change the way our country will look in the future. The decisions about prayer in schools, states’ jurisdiction in prosecuting crimes committed by non-Natives against Native Americans while on tribal land, and limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions will all have long-lasting implications for people as well as for the health of our planet.
The burden of all of this is weighing heavily on all of us. People are divided in their responses and reactions to these decisions, which is further dividing relationships. People are asking if this is the beginning of the end of our United States. People are wondering what do we do, how do we live when everything is changing so quickly and so dramatically.
The answer for us, as people of faith – as people of God – is that we remember our vulnerability and our dependence on God’s grace. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s in that remembering that we’re able bear one another’s burdens and have the power to keep doing what is right, and to bear witness to our freedom in Jesus. And that’s a lot.
This isn’t to say that we pretend none of this is having an impact on us or that we simply say, “everything’s gonna be fine.” It is to say that when we remember our own vulnerability, we remember the vulnerability of others. We listen. We pay attention to what they say. We ask questions that we may not like the answers to. Because they’re part of the body of Christ, too.
As members of the body of Christ, we get to be community for each other. We are privileged to hear one another’s fears and hopes, to cry together in sorrow and celebrate each other’s joys, and to continuously extend the tables where we gather to make room for others.
Bear one another’s burdens. Do not grow weary in doing what is right.
Living this way renews us daily through the Holy Spirit working in our community, so that we do not grow weary and are able to bear witness to hope while acknowledging pain and suffering, and also bear witness to the One who is with us in that.
Living this way is challenging because it goes against what our society teaches us and, really, just the way our society works. But it’s a challenge we can meet with God’s help, and by God’s grace we have that help.
It reminds us that in our mutual vulnerability we need God and one another. And it reminds us that Jesus makes it possible for us to live in this way of love. Thanks be to God! Amen.