(SERMON BY ANDREW ALLISON)
A long time ago, I read a book about a pastor who felt like God had given him precise words to preach that Sunday. After the worship songs, he got up in front of his congregation, said “Love one another” and sat down. Everyone in the church got to leave early that day. The next week, the pastor felt God was prompting him to speak specific words. He got up that Sunday, looked at the congregation, said, “Love one another” and sat down. Once again, the people left early. The pastor spoke these three words week after week and the church attendance dwindled. Three months in, he spoke the same words but someone turned to the person beside him in the pew and asked,“How’s your job?” The person responded with, “Well, I actually lost my job. It’s been really tough.” From that point on, conversations began to happen amidst the congregation and the people didn’t leave early after the sermon. Needs began to be expressed. Addictions began to surface. People started helping people. And everyone went home late.
This could be our church’s story – Love one another. But it won’t be our story if we just sing the last worship song, stare at the back of people’s heads who are standing in front of us and then run out of the church as soon as possible.
The Galatian church was having trouble.
Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5. 26
Another word for “conceit” is an old English word – “vain glory”. When we provoke and envy, we’ve left the place of loving and gone back to competing and comparing with each other. When we envy others, we wish we were them or had what they had. We feel inferior and stand under them. When we provoke (judge or criticize) others, we feel superior and stand over them. Both of these position are vain glory.
God calls us to gently, carefully restore people with faults and weaknesses. (6.1) We are to carry each other’s burdens – not out of drudgery but out of love. We carry their burden with them. But know this – when we put our shoulder into someone else’s struggle, it will cost us. If we step in, it will take time, effort, emotions and money.
Love always costs.
In the Bible, love is an action word, often contrary to how we are feeling and in loving, we are fulfilling the law of Christ. (6.2)
God invites us to take regular stock of our lives. (6.4) Ask these two questions:
- What am I doing?
- Why are I doing it?
Test your own actions. The examen is an Ignatian prayer that helps us process our day. It encourages us to pay attention and take note of how God is at work in the ordinariness of life.
- Invite God to shine His light on your life.
- Review the day.
- Where was God at work?
- Where did things go sideways?
- Invite the Holy Spirit into the next day.
Paul writes verse 6, to carry your own load which seems contradictory to the idea of sharing others’ burdens but I think what he means is that a healthy person is responsible for him/herself and accountable to others. An unhealthy person wants someone else to be responsible for his/her life and is accountable to no one. The general meaning of verse 7 is “You get what you put in.” Sowing is a farming term and is a purposeful action – if you plant tomatoes, you’ll get tomatoes. In all you do, you are sowing and you will reap what you sow.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (v.8)
If you want to know what kind of seeds you’re planting, simply keep track of what you do with your money and your time for one week and then ask Jesus, “Is this what You want me to be doing?”
“Don’t quit” is the message of verse 9.
When I want to quit, I go back to the One who loves me who says, “This is my Son whom I loved and am well pleased.” (Matthew 3.17) This is the voice that Jesus heard from the Father before He did anything to deserve it. You might say, “Well, that’s Jesus and God talking. I’m just me” but that’s not true. When Jesus laid down His life, He took your wrath and gave you His righteousness. Everything that is true then about Jesus standing before the Father is now true about your standing before the Father.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (vs.14)
It’s the cross that grounds me.
Boasting is what we do to feel the best about ourselves. The word is actually a military term and refers to what armies would do from opposing hills, with their shields and spears ready to attack. The General would ride out and say, “CHARGE!” and this is what made the soldiers rush into battle.
Our boast is in the cross of Jesus Christ.
On the cross, I am reminded that I’m worse than I ever thought possible and the only medicine that could deal with my condition was the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. On the cross, I am also reminded that I am loved more than I could ever imagine.
The Son of God laid His life down for us – therefore let us only boast in the the cross of Jesus Christ.