The Grace in Dying

This week’s Sermon Scripture Galatians 5:13-18

Doreen’s life has been marked by an inimitable dedication to healthy lifestyle and positive outlook. She has refused even basic pain medications over the whole of her life and has an almost obsessive focus on organic foods. The result of this life choice has been an energetic, vital and positive life. She’s a joy to be around.

Imagine her family’s shock when a recent bout of histamine reaction to the oil-based paint in the newly remodeled bathroom led her to the emergency room where a CAT scan revealed that her entire body is riddled with cancer. Within hours, it was obvious that the next response was to call in hospice.

During my first visit with her in Sutter we recounted her surprise and the shock of discovering that she will soon see her last days. She will have to receive pain meds because the pain will be overwhelming.  In the face of this she is amazingly vibrant. She is a fighter, and I suspect she will resist this cancer to her last breath. But she is also a realist. She knows this is probably it.

She re-iterated a phrase she has said often to me. “Pastor, you can’t live successfully unless you die successfully.”  She has discovered the fullness of this week’s Scriptural essence; that love is a dying act.

Galatians 5 reminds us that when God gives us freedom, it is not freedom to do as we please but freedom to die in the act of loving God and others.  This is the great discovery of the cross. More than atonement theology that says that a judgment God must be satisfied, to have sin paid for, but rather God loves us so much that he showed us how to die so that we may live. He has shown us firsthand that even death means birth. Dying to our own interests means opening ourselves up to the love of others. Dying to our agenda means opening ourselves up to new adventures. Dying in this life means life forever with Him.

There is grace in dying and Doreen is leading the way for us all.

The Grace of Constraint

  This week’s sermon passage: Galatians 5:1-12

This image provided by “Love All Ways” and

Tom Laudari

 

 

 

The tragedy of Norway’s youth camp massacre has sent me into yet another spiral. I wonder if others are not equally dismayed at the vitriol that seems to simmer and then boil over on these hot, summer days. Whether it is the self-deluded totmom who parties while her daughter lies dead or the newstalking head who is lambasting her for her personal tv ratings, I feel as if the world is hopelessly fixed on a path of destruction. It is not only a destruction but one rooted in dogmatic dedication.

I have to keep reminding myself that this lemming-like march toward annihilation exists because, by nature, we are anxious to find a pathway through the minefield of life. High idealism and high regard for self-fulfillment are inherent in our dna but with the complexity of life, we often create mantras or laws of operation to navigate the noise. Paul points out in Galatians that this predisposition means that we naturally will destroy ourselves going all the way with our operational source code.

Clearly, the better though not easier way is to operate by the law of love. In the passage looked at this weekend, it will mean that waiting in hope for the law of love to fully take effect is one of the difficult consequences of living by this mandate. We must act in love while the world around us dances to a different drumbeat.

It becomes evident that inheriting the peace and promises of God requires a great deal of self-control and impulse constraint. This I see most readily in God’s own way of dealing with me. I’m mindful of God’s singleminded love for me and even when I heed him no quarter, he is measured and faithful. I think that is what it means when he says that it is for “freedom that Christ has made us free.” (Gal 5:1)

Grace in His Maternity

Scripture Passage this Week: Galatians 4:21-31

   Our folk stories are filled with intrigue based most  predominately on the uncertainties of parentage. There are many stories of orphans destined to live lives of servitude only to discover their real identity as royalty. There are young girls oppressed by evil stepmothers. There are boys who are usurped in their station of life by suitors of widowed mothers. Right at the moment, I can think of three stories of girls locked in a tower, hopelessly captive.

At the very least, the typology of such folk tales indicate how central the issue of family dynamic and parentage plays on civic life. In my town today, there is an outrage about a mother, who is a doctor, but who also allowed a sleepover of teen girls to turn into a drunken, deadly evening.

In this week’s passage of sermon study, the typology mentioned above is used as an allegorical hermeneutic for the people of Galatia.  Paul has already asserted to the Galatians that they have inherited the promises of Abraham.  As father, Abraham is the western world’s great patriarch and, as such, stands as the unifying figure in how the Bible describes God’s redemptive plan for all of civilization.  It is the covenant made between God and Abraham that stands as the promise to all that blessing will extend throughout the earth. The Galatians are, according to Paul, adopted into that family as equal heirs.

For many complicated reasons, Paul must address the issue of not just Abraham’s patriarchy but also the question of maternity.  Like the folks stories of our childhood; it’s not just “who’s your daddy?” but also “who’s your mommy?” Again, harkening back to the Abramic roots, Paul asks the Galatians the figurative question about whether their mother in faith is the woman of slavery or the woman of freedom.

In most of Christian history the Trinity was known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit rather than Holy Ghost because the Spirit engendered a feminine attribute to the Trinity.  It was understood that birth, growth, nurturing and comfort were qualities historically attributed to women.  So when Paul addresses the question of maternity he is telling the Galatians and us that our mother is the Spirit of freedom.

God allows himself to be known in anthropomorphic constructs for the purpose of relationship.  As such, there are many reasons why I choose to mostly describe God in male terms.  But do not be mistaken,  His/Her identity is rooted in Love and Grace toward the children of this world.  That is always the last word.