06/19/2022 ~ Second Sunday after Pentecost ~ Proper 7 ~ Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalm 42 and 43; Isaiah 65:1-9; Psalm 22:19-28; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39 ~ Father’s Day on the Secular Calendar ~ Juneteenth on the Secular Calendar (Celebrated on Monday, 6/20, this Year).
“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.” — Galatians 3:28.
How many of us here today are football fans? How many are Patriot fans? How many are Tom Brady fans? Three different things, are they not?
A couple weeks ago, when the National Football League had its draft, The New York Times ran an article about the rate of success or lack thereof when teams pick college players. Some early picks are successful, others… not so much.
One would think with all the data teams have on players the success rate would high; it’s not. New Englanders know Brady was, infamously, the 199th player chosen.
Baseball is not immune. Catcher Mike Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers because Tommy Lasorda, the Dodgers manager, was a friend of the family. Mike was the 1,390th player taken in the draft. Mike is now in the Hall of Fame.
What can we conclude from these examples? When it comes to choosing talent coming up short is fairly common. Could it be what’s inadequate is the method of measurement being employed? (Slight pause.)
These words are found in Galatians: “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.” (Slight pause.)
This is common knowledge about Paul. The Apostle was a Jew, a rabbi, a Roman citizen. One thing about Paul and also many early followers of Jesus which we fail to comprehend is they were in no way what we define as lower class.
Why do I say that? The shape of the economy in New Testament times has been described by theologian John Dominic Crossan as a Domination Economy. In this way of life 90% of the population lived in what we would today call slavery. An even larger percentage was illiterate. This brutal domination system was normal by Roman standards.
Very few of those spoken about in the New Testament are described as enslaved. Largely, they were multi-lingual, literate, wrote letters, Gospels. Hence, by definition, economically, structurally, these are mostly people in the upper ten percent of the population.
And so I want to point to Paul, Paul the writer, philosopher, theological thinker who debated upper class Greeks in the Areopagus, stood toe to toe with gentiles in the public square, privileged Paul. This Paul says there is no difference— Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female— because of the Christ.
My description of early Christians indicates Paul needs to be seen as learned, worldly, erudite. This poses a question: what can we discern about the process Paul used in getting to the place which says we are all one? This is, I think, an outline of the process.
He first thought about the promises of covenant God made with the people of God, the Hebrews, Paul’s people. Where did thinking about the covenant lead Paul? It led Paul to grasp that, because of the advent of the Christ, God was pushing people to a deeper understanding of how to measure God and how to measure the will of God.
The Hebrew people, you see, thought God was their God, no one else’s God. Then, with the reality of the risen Christ, it becomes clear to Paul, God is not restrictive.
Paul points then to the result of this process, that there is no difference Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female. God is the God of all people. We are one. Because of the Christ the covenant is renewed and enlarged. (Slight pause.)
Let me come back to Paul. In the road to Damascus story there is no horse. Paul simply gets knocked to the ground. That horse image we have implanted in our brains is probably adopted from late Renascence Italian paintings.
However, there is one important truth contained that horse image. Paul is on a journey. But Paul is not on the journey he thought he was on, to persecute the followers of Jesus. Paul now realizes the real journey is to try to discover the will of God.
You see, the idea that there is no difference— Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female— because of the Christ, is not the journey, itself. It is the result of the journey.
And the pivotal piece of that for us right here, right now, in this place is not the result. The pivotal piece for us is the journey, the process— seeking the will of God. If Paul had not been seeking the will of God— and for Paul, a good rabbi, seeking the will of God would have been second nature— Paul would have continued to persecute the followers of Jesus.
And so now, at this point in time, in this place, we, this congregation, you and I together, are about to start on a journey called an interim. To be clear, the result— finding a new settled pastor— will be of great import. But we won’t get to where we need to be unless we, like Paul, seek the will of God.
In short, this journey is not about, should not be about, indeed cannot be about a new settled pastor. That is the result. This journey is first about, should be about, needs to be about, seeking the will of God. And the will of God needs to be the tool, the process by which we measure.
If we are faithful to the process of seeking the will of God, a new settled pastor will be the result. Further, if we are faithful to the process of seeking the will of God, a new settled pastor will be called but not on our time frame.
Seeking the will of God can happen only in Kronos, to use the Greek. This word, Kronos,
is spelled with a ‘k’— God’s time. And, if we seek God’s will before we seek a settled pastor, a result, a settled pastor, will happen and it will happen in God’s time.
And so, our journey together will be more like poetry than mathematics, not measured or measurable but immeasurable. Indeed, any journey of faith, our journey of faith, should not be measured or measurable in length of time, in perceived cost or cost effectiveness, measures typically taken by mere human perceptions. Our journey, like Paul’s, needs to be the kind of immeasurable journey which first seeks the will of God.
Let me also be forthright about this. When we truly seek the will of God, the journey may not always be smooth.
After all, Paul found himself in prison, shipwrecked, in a scrape more than once. It did not deter him. God’s will came first.
So let us pray we can be like Paul. Let us pray for the grace that any measurements we do take are based on the will of God. Amen.
Elijah Kellogg Church, Harpswell, Maine
ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Choral Response and Benediction. This is a précis of what was said: “This is a quote from theologian Richard Rhor: ‘Scientist have come up with things like ‘principles of uncertainty’ and ‘dark holes.’ They’re willing to live inside imagined hypothesis and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity while thinking we are people of ‘faith!’ How very strange that the word ‘faith’ has become the opposite of its exact meaning.’”
BENEDICTION: Let us walk in the Spirit showing the fruits of the Spirit, remembering that we are one in Christ, for in God’s Dominion the grace of true freedom is the inheritance of those who walk in God’s love. And may we love God so much, that we love nothing else too much. May we be so in awe of God, that we are in awe of no one else and nothing else. Amen.