6/23/2019 Second Sunday after Pentecost The text is Galatians 3:23-29.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Who is my mother and my brothers? For those of us brought up within a family, this question is indeed an odd one. We learn as babies who our parents happen to be. Our mothers are those wonderful women who feed us, change our diapers, and as we grow in years, teach us many things we need to know, and even some things that we wish they didn’t have to tell us.
Who are our brothers and sisters? Well, these are our rivals in the family. These are the other children in the household, younger or older, who seem to get away with a little more than we can (or so it seems to us). These are the special people who share the special relationship we have with our mother. Whether we like our brothers and sisters or not, we are stuck with them and we have to learn how to live in harmony with them. Whether we like our brothers and sisters or not, we are bonded to them for a lifetime. We stick up for them when others pick on them. We help them out when they are in trouble. We love them for they are our family.
But what about all those other people out there with whom we are not relatives through parentage? They too are family for we are one people, undivided, under the watchful eye of a gracious God. That is what the Apostle Paul claims us to be as he writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” We are stuck with each other and have to learn to live in harmony. For, Christ makes no distinctions based on nationality, race, class, gender or human parentage. Those things don’t matter to God even though they seem to matter very much to us.
God would have us see past those things which keep us separated to the point of discerning his grace which binds us into one family. And what a glorious day that will be, the day in which we look into everyone’s eyes and see what God sees…a redeemed child of the same heavenly Father, a person like us who is both saint and sinner, a person gifted by the same God, a person of equal value and stature as everyone else.
We believe and follow a God who doesn’t measure a person’s value by physical, racial, cultural and gender differences, and yet, we have a long way to go before we come close to reaching equality. We just don’t treat everyone the same. It makes a difference to us whether a person is white or black, Hispanic or Anglo, male or female. A recent study confirms that we still don’t even pay people the same salary for the same work…women still only receive about $.80 for every $1 paid to a man for the same job. What does that say about the value we place on a woman’s gifts?
What does it say to the world when a black man is dragged to his death by men who are part of a white supremacy group? What does that say about the value we place on human life. And what does the slogan, “Black lives matter,” say about the value of all life. Is one life more important than another…does one life matter more than another? Of course not…at least not to God who values us equally.
We might tend to think that the problem we have in living in Christian unity are the challenges we face as being part of the world and dealing with actions of individuals. We might want to think that the church which is the body of Christ, the church which proclaims the word of Paul as good news, is quite different, but that would be wishful thinking. There are still many churches that make distinctions on the basis of gender when it comes to ordination. And there are still congregations that will give a leg up in a call process to a young, energetic, married white man with children, or a white-haired grandfather type. We may know that this isn’t right as God makes no distinction, but as human beings we have problems looking beyond appearances.
If there were no problems within the church, we would have no need for quotas and categories for electing people to represent us. And we would have no bishops standing up and emphasizing the need to secure younger pastors as the basis for selecting pastoral leaders. For what does that say about the gifts, wisdom and experience of those who are older? What does it say about the church which is to be blind to physical attributes and is to uphold the giftedness of all?
When will it end? When will we be able to see past the physical and revel in God’s grace? When will we become blind to those things that really don’t matter and rejoice in the gifts that God has given us in each other? When will we see each other as family, as the same under the skin…created, loved and redeemed children of a gracious God who has gifted us differently in order that we might be united into one healthy body, proclaiming his mercy to a world which needs some salvation?
My father used to say, that if you put bags over people’s heads, that everyone would all look the same. But I say that instead of a bushel full of bags, what is needed are clearer lenses in our glasses, lenses which would enable us to see that we are all the same. None of us is perfect. Although some of us may be a little less perfect than another, we all fall short of the glory of God. All of us need to be redeemed by Christ who does not make distinctions between us. Jesus came for all people and all people gathered around him. He did not push the women away, but he accepted their ministry to him. He did not look upon the poor and the disabled with distain, but he reached out to heal and to enrichen their lives. He touched the untouchables. He had contact with those who were outcast. He ate with those whose hands were not clean. He had compassion for all.
I pray that the day comes quickly when we too will have the heart of Christ…when we will accept all, love all, serve all, without distinction. I look forward to the day when the “isms” of race, color, gender, age and all others fall away as we truly live as one people in Christ Jesus…one family, created and blessed by the one heavenly father of us all. That day may not be here now, but through the grace of God, I pray that it will someday be.
Until that time comes, may we challenge each other to work for justice and equality, finding the courage to endure in the struggle and our hope in a God who does not make distinctions between us, but who accepts and loves us for who we are. May we accept and acknowledge the relationship we have with each other through Jesus Christ our Lord. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.