Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’ For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a sign that was hung up in an office window. It read: “Help wanted. Must type 70 words a minute. Must be computer literate. Must be bilingual. An equal opportunity employer.” A dog was ambling down the street and saw the sign. He looked at it for a moment, pulled it down with his mouth, and walked into the manager’s office, making it clear he wished to apply for the job. The office manager laughed and said, “I can’t hire a dog for this job.” The dog pointed to the line: “An equal opportunity employer.” So the manager said, “OK, take this letter and type it.” The dog went off to the word processor and returned a minute later with the finished letter, perfectly formatted. The manager said, “Alright, here’s a problem. Write a computer program for it and run it.” Fifteen minutes later, the dog came back with the correct answer. The manager still wasn’t convinced. “I still can’t hire you for this position. You’ve got to be bilingual.” The dog looked up at the manager and said, “Meow.”
Dogs, ya gotta love ‘em! Always so eager to please and seek validation and acceptance from their master. That dog couldn’t have cared less about receiving any type of financial reward for his labors. He simply read a sign that conveyed someone needed help and he was eager to respond. Thus is a dog’s nature! It’s no wonder that dogs are considered man’s best friend…
Well, beneath their eagerness to please lies a profound truth about all living things in this world. All living things have this inner desire to live in harmony with ourselves, with each other, and with God. Even those who feel their purpose is to create disharmony are actually seeking out some semblance of harmony. They simply find harmony in disharmony. We are all figuring out our place and purpose in this world and we’re all seeking acceptance and validation. Some of us from those around us, some of us from God, and some of us from ourselves. Indeed, we are not all that different from our canine friends. We all want to please our masters whoever that master may be. And don’t think that you don’t have a master. We all answer to someone or something. We’ve all been blessed with this wonderful gift of life and we’d be fools to believe that we are islands unto ourselves. No one is ever really disconnected from each other or from God or from ourselves. We all have masters that expect things from us. Our minds and souls and bodies expect us to feed and nurture them. Our neighbors expect us to run the race set before us to the best of our abilities and not impinge on their own races. Our God expects us to care for ourselves and each other and the world around us. Oh yes, we’ve all got several masters in this life and in this world! We’d be fools to believe otherwise.
When we realize just how many masters we have in this world, we quickly realize the importance of living in harmony. God created us to live in harmony and He gave us all these masters to help ensure that we’d live in harmony. God wants us to live in harmony just as He himself lives in harmony as the Triune God. The three entities of the Triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–all living in perfect harmony with each other. They understand their place and purpose and serve themselves and each other and the world they created. All perfectly balanced and validated and accepted.
We’re closing out the Easter season this week and will move into the long season of Pentecost next week when we’ll celebrate the gift of the Spirit who will guide and protect us through the next several months before another Advent season will begin. In many ways, the Easter season serves to reveal the full glory of the resurrected Son. I appreciate how the church dedicates an entire season to reflecting on the resurrected Son and not just one Sunday at the end of the Lenten season. We need this time to fully realize just what a blessing his resurrection was! It is through him and him alone that we are saved! Jesus died and rose again to show us that there is life after death. Death is not an end but rather a beginning to a new life. We all die several times throughout our lives. Relationships die, jobs die, careers die, our health dies…there are many deaths we can experience in this life of ours aside from the bodily one at the end. Jesus showed us there can be life after death! There is hope even in death! And I think it takes all these weeks of Easter to truly grasp what a blessing that is. Jesus showed us the way to new life and new hope. He deserves to be our one, true master. He’s done what no one has done: he conquered death and infused new life into it! What a gift to receive him as master!
Paul’s letter to the Galatians, particularly our passage for today, reaffirms a key teaching of Jesus. Jesus understood our inner desire to live in harmony and made himself the key factor in uniting us. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) He is the way to our salvation. Perhaps more accurately, faith in him and him alone is the way to our salvation. And that faith draws us together into one body. As Paul declares, “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ.” We are united in Christ and all the more stronger for it. There is great strength in unity. Together we are much stronger than any one of us is by themself. Why? Because we each have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths compensate for each other’s weaknesses and we are much stronger as a unified force. It is much more difficult to defeat a united people than it is each of us on our own. Jesus not only showed us there is life after death but he brought us together and made us stronger in our belief. A united force is a mighty force indeed! David sings in his 133rd psalm, “how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (vs. 1) It is good and right that we live together in unity and harmony. After all, it satisfies that inner desire we all have. It’s no wonder God put the desire within us–it is a good desire and He is nothing but goodness and generosity. God wants us to know his goodness and joy as we hear Paul write in his letter to the Philippians, “Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (2:2) One mind, one body, one love, one joy…this is how we are called to live.
As we conclude our Easter season, let us strive to walk in harmony with ourselves, with each other, and with God. Jesus died and rose again to bring us into harmony. Let us rejoice in his great gift of harmony. Let us heed Paul’s advice as spoken to his congregation in Rome, “so that together [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (15:6) Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.