Sunday, June 20, 2010

Being the Children of God

Galatians 3:23-29
Being the Children of God

(The Story of Creation)
I want you to envision the human race as a single human being.
A tiny infant crawling among the soft grasses of a well nourished garden.
A well loved, well protected infant, laughing with the birds as they sing; with snakes and snails and lions tails for toys.
She learned how to walk among the poppies and how to run in the weeds.
And life was pretty good, before she made the choice she was told not to take;
before she choose to go where she was bade not to go.
And taking that false step which moved her out of the safety and security provided for her there in the garden.
She moved from safe and secure, to alone and afraid, working hard for all her days.
As this child grew and continued to pull away from the love and the embrace of the one who loves her.
She was placed under the care of a governess, one who can teach, lead and guide this young one as she grows.
The rules are firm and the consequences are harsh,
but there is love in the discipline. There is reassurance in the consequences.
The governess, the rules, the discipline all placed there for her good,
to shape and mold her and draw her back to the one by whom she is most loved.
And then when she was ready and it was the right time,
she was released from her governess, set free from the disciplinarian and showed to her beloved.
She walked with him and spoke with him and learned of his love for her but he could not stay.
She was not yet ready, it was not yet time for them to begin their life together so he left and promised to return
Return when she was old enough; return when the time was right
and then look love into her eyes,
shake his head adoringly at the firelight of her smile,
rejoice in the roses on her cheeks,
brush her radiant hair back from her face
and he would take her by the hand to lead her into the great wedding feast of the ages.
For this she was created,
for this day she was born and all eternity sings a song which echoes forward and backward through the ages;
All things singing this one song, which is found in every brook
and on the beak of every bird,
felt in each breeze rippling through every blade of grass;
This one song, forever sung at this one moment rejoicing.
All things of beauty being but a foretaste and afterglow of this one event
The wedding feast of the Lord, the great day of rejoicing, to which all of creation arrives ready to bless, this much anticipated bride,
finally come to full bloom, finally come, finally wed, finally the Lord and his Bride will be one.
This is the story of creation.
This is the story of the Church,
this is OUR story told and retold a hundred times
but always barreling forward to this one event when all things are set right and glory will shine, the sun will sing and fullness and completion will be found in all things.
When the bridegroom of all creation ushers his bride into his home and gives to her all that has always and will always belong to her.
- Kazimiera Fraley June 19, 2010

This is the story of all creation, this is our story, this is where we are going and this is where we have been. It is this story, or one similar to it, which Paul has in his head when he tells the Galatians that the law was our disciplinarian. Paul is trying to explain to the Galatians the purpose of the law when they are no longer bound to it as they once were. Paul has been trying to make a case for Gentile Christians such as those who are in the church at Galatia to not have to do the works of the Jewish law in order to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul believes that with the coming of Christ Christians are freed from the law to live and to grow closer to God through the love and grace found in Jesus Christ. So Paul explains to them that the law was a disciplinarian; not one who has come into beat the sense into a child, but instead one who is brought in to nurture, to teach and to guide a child through the early years. A governess or a tutor, was one who watched over a child until the child is old enough to be released from his care, which would have been in early adolescence. This person served a role which was much needed at a certain time in the child life but when it was time, when the child was old enough to move on, he was released from the care of the one who watched over him, so that he could begin to prepare for adulthood.
The child, in the context of this passage, is the people of God who later become the Church, but in a broader sense is all humanity, in that, the call to be children comes to each ones ears and the love of God reaches out ready to embrace each and everyone who turns from his or her own wayward path and begins to walk along the path which God places before us.
The child was under the care, tutorage, and guidance, of the law while a child, but with the coming of Christ, childhood ended and adolescence began. Adolescence is a sort of a time between times. Just like a teenager, the people of God, the people of Galatia, the Church, are (is?) caught in the growing pains of being a teenager. The rules are different, the expectations are different. To try to continue to live as a child at this point in life is ridiculous. “Foolish” is actually what Paul calls the Galatians for trying to do so, and he wonders who has “bewitched” them because something supernatural must be at work for a teenager to want to continue to act, to live and to be treated as a child.
The Church finds herself at this strange time between the times. The time when, like a teenager we are so much like an adult but are not quite there yet, when we are definitely not children, who have to be watched after and cared for by a babysitter but are not quit ready to march into adulthood at this moment. We are in the time between times, the already and not yet, after Christ has come but yet still waiting for him to come again. Growing and learning in grace; growing and learning together; trying to figure out who we are; trying to figure out who we are becoming; wanting to be the bride of Christ, but not yet living the fullness of what that means and what that would look like. We are but a shadow, but and reflection of who we will one day be.
It is in this time of confusion, that Paul gives those to whom he is writing a touch stone, something tangible that they can wrap their heads around, he reminds them of their baptisms. All of them had at some point been baptized. He reminds them that as Christians they were baptized into Christ and as such they should be clothed in Christ. Paul, at this point draws directly upon common baptismal practices of his day. When it was time to be baptized all those who had come to be baptized would all come to the water together, men, women, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, Jews, Greeks, Romans, slaves, and freemen alike, all would come down to the water, all dressed in the clothes which designated who they were, clothes which were different depending on whether you were a man or a woman, a child or an adult, rich, poor, Greek, Roman Jew, slave or free - Clothes which spoke to the world about who you were.
When they came to the waters edge they shed their clothes of distinction and all entered into the water and were baptized together without distinction and emerged from the water to be re-clothed in white. They were different, they were distinct before they entered the water, but when they emerged from the water they were clothed uniformly in white, they were clothed in Christ, united in Christ, one in Christ. The cleansing waters of baptism not only washed them of their sin but it also washed them of all that divided them and separated them one from another. When they exited the waters they were all clothed in the same thing. They were all clothed in the same One. Christ washed them, Christ cleansed them and Christ united them.
When they emerged they emerged together the Body of Christ, the Beloved of our Lord, who is waiting for Christ’s return; a Bride who is waiting and making herself ready for the return of her bridegroom, who will usher her into the great and everlasting wedding feast of all eternity.
We are that Bride, all of us who call ourselves by Christ’s name; Christian, are united in the waters and come up together washed, cleansed and re-clothed in Christ. We are loved, we are united and all that divides, and rises up between us is washed away in the waters of baptism. We are to look at one another and no longer see a man, a woman, a child, an adult, rich or poor, but we should look to one another and see a sister, a brother, one with whom we are united, one who is also beloved by our Lord and thus loved by us. But our wall crushing, line erasing, status unseeing and colorblind glasses of baptism should not end at pew’s edge but should extend beyond these walls, beyond all borders. Where ever we look, where ever we go, we should see a lost sister, a wandering brother, a beloved auntie who can not find her way, an uncle who needs our love, for all those who populate this earth and all who draw cognitive breath are those who our Beloved desires to join with us, desires to know the truth we know and be clothed as we are clothed.
The transformative power of the great story in which we play the lead is that it teaches us, and shows us not only who we are, not only who we will one day be, but it shows us who THEY are and who THEY can one day be, for the heart of the story, the climax toward which we are moving, is that one day THEY will be apart of US and WE all together will move and grow and be who, only through Christ, we can be. When we look at the world we should not see Christians and non-Christians, referring to those who are not apart of us, inferring they are against us, that they are our enemies, people with whom we are waging battle, but instead let us look to the world and see not that it is populated with those who are non-not-Christian but instead see that it is populated with those who can be Christian, those who could be Christian, those who in a sense are pre-Christian. If we as Wesleyans take the grace which goes before; previenient grace seriously. We must believe that God in God’s infinite grace is leading them toward Christ each in their own way, but not quite there, YET. Let us hope that someday, through us, through Christ, through grace, through faith, they too will one day know Christ as we know Christ, love Christ as we love Christ and rejoice in the love which only a life in Christ can find itself.
So let us join hands with one another brothers and sisters and know that together we are Christ’s beloved and let us look to our world and with big hearts full of love and compassion reach out and invite them in so they too can be brothers, and sisters with us, joined together, so that one day when Christ comes, he will turn to Us and invite Us into the great eternal wedding feast of eternity.