June 19, 2016: 4th Sunday after Trinity

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE LIVE, MOVE, AND HAVE OUR VERY BEING!

TEXT: Galatians 3: 23-29

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Wasn’t the last day of school wonderful!? I can recall the exhilaration of going that morning knowing the next day I could sleep in and have 3 months off, all to myself. No more Mrs. Walker to boss us around. No more Mrs. Breckenridge to scold us. It was freedom coupled with joy.

St. Paul uses that kind of emotional imagery to uplift his beloved Galatians in today’s text. The OT was like a schoolmaster—poking and prodding us into line by means of God’s Law—for the purpose of getting us through those “schooling years” so that we finally could arrive at the other end—the freedom of the Gospel. God’s Law was our guardian charged with trying to keep us safe and away from anything that would hurt or destroy our souls. All this so that Christ could finally come, set us free from its curse—being death, and then give us the joy over being free from the past, ready to embrace the future enveloped by God’s love for us.

Listen again to his words: “Before the coming of this faith, we were held is custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that his faith has come, (school’s out!) we are no longer under a guardian.”

If you’re serious about God and about yourself, you have to recognize how holy and perfect He is and how unholy and imperfect we are. He gives us commandments to show us this truth. And we continually break them. As a result, we get a lot of detentions! No one likes detention. No one likes to be scolded and have their mistakes pointed out. No one likes to be punished for their failings. Yet, amid our anger against such punishment, down deep we know it’s for our own good. We know God’s Law keeps the worst of our inner self in check. Nonetheless, it would be really nice if the worry and pain caused by God’s Law would be taken away. That’s why the school’s out imagery is so tantalizing. And now, in and through Jesus Christ it has come! Hooray!

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Jesus was kind of like the straight A student you were envious of and secretly wanted to be. But Jesus was more than a perfect student, He was also the Son of God. Unlike us, He never cursed, never dissed God on a Sunday, never ignored His parents, never physically hurt anyone, never let sexual attraction turn to lust, never stole anything from anyone, never used language in a hurtful way toward others, and never let greed and avarice take over His heart. He lived a perfect life—getting straight A’s—for us! And now, His perfect record is given by Him to you simply by believing in Him!

But, there’s more. Since we’re sinners and still fail on our own God’s perfection test, Christ carried the heavy backpack of our sins to Calvary’s cross and died to free us from that millstone. On the cross He won us freedom from sin and death. He made us right with God. And the resurrection proves that this burden is now gone, left behind in the grave! All this is yours when you trust in Him. Yes, school’s out! And summer awaits!

Today, little Willow Grace—a fitting name—was baptized. That means she has put Christ’s robe of being a valedictorian on. Better yet, Jesus put it on her! He has also put it on each of you. For He plays no favorites. Everyone is a sinner and everyone needs His forgiveness. St. Paul also picks up on that theme when he now writes: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is that male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

So, what’s the promise? It’s heaven. It’s God’s promise that school’s out forever, and nothing and no one can weigh our psyche down any longer. Yes, I know that we don’t have heaven on earth and never will. Nonetheless, the Christian through faith is now free—knowing that graduation day awaits. We’re now free from the endless drudge of the school year of life—thinking: “If this is all there is, it’s pretty pathetic.” We’re free right now to think, act, and speak in a “school’s out, summer is here” mindset. A mindset born not of endless homework, but of love and joy. Abraham of old received that promise and lived a long and prosperous life because he was grounded in it. Today little Willow Grace has received it, too. Likewise, each of you. That’s what makes Christianity unlike any other religion in the world. God Almighty has now set us free! We’re now free to think and act moved by love for Him instead of worrying about dire consequences if we don’t. It’s June, my friends, school’s out. You’ll never have to go back. Isn’t it delicious!? Amen