17. Juli 2018

Sermon on 31th of December, 2017

Sermon: Frank Moritz-Jauk

Galatian 4, 1-7             Free Children of God

Dear Congregation!

Dear community, today I would like to refer to the text from Galatians, which we heard in the first reading. Its central message is divine filiation. That farm children have become children

and that they became heirs by becoming children.

What does that mean? What does that mean for us today, that we are God’s children?
And since today is truly the very last day of the Reformation Jubilee year, it is worth my while to bring this message of childhood together with the central message of Galatians – freedom. Last year’s motto was „Freedom and Responsibility“ and I think this message fits very well for a next year’s survival.

So today, I will start with the liberation of the law through Christ, then think about the children and then bring them together: the freedom and responsibility of the children of God.

Originally, the letter addressed to the community or communities in Galatia, which Paul founded in central Anatolia today. It is a passionate letter of struggle, which does not stay for long with courtesy phrases, but unrestrained on the following problem is heading: Obviously had found devout Jewish Christians access to these young communities. They were now trying to convince the young congregations that they would have access to the salvation church only if they entered the Association of the People of Israel. Therefore, they let themselves be circumcised and were willing to submit to the Law of Moses.

It addresses upon two points that Paul fought throughout his second lifetime, that is, after his conversion, and for which he always stood as a Gentile missionary: justified solely by faith and justified by Christ alone.

It seems well known, right. Sola fide and sola Christ. Two of the four catchwords of the Reformation: Solely through faith and only through Christ.

I think that if we hear these words today, and if they are surprised, or even want to contradict, their sharpness, we should never forget the time when these writings were written. It is natural and right to make a distinction whether we read this letter today or the Galatian churches in the spring of the year 55. Christianity is at the beginning, is in the making and therefore this struggle: what is the most essential thing about the Christian faith? Christ.
So today, of course, if we acknowledge the validity of the Ten Commandments, or quote Jesus, who said, „I came not to break up the law or the prophets, but to fulfill it“ (Matt. 5: 17-18), then we do it with 2000 years development history.

When Paul speaks of Jesus redeeming those who were under the law (V5), it is not about breaking up the law, but about liberating the law from its inconvertibility.

It is about the question, what are you longing for? What do you want to do justice to God? By the fulfillment, the strict holding, the law, or by the salvation of your guilt, which Jesus obtained on the cross for you? What are you setting your hope on.

Elsewhere, in his Epistle to the Galatians, Paul puts it in a nutshell: „Have you received the Spirit by the ways of the law, or by the preaching of the faith?“ (Gal. 3: 2).
This Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is crucial to say, I am a child of God. This brings us to the considerations of childhood.

I imagine that at that time the following questions stood in the foreground of all so-called Gentiles: What got I to do with the God of a small people called Israel? What concerns me their god?

That this God reveals Himself as the universal God, as the only God, deals exclusively with the Spirit of the Son, which is sent into the hearts of men. On the other hand, as Paul later wrote in Romans: „The Spirit Himself bears witness to our spirit, that we are the children of God.“ (Rom 8:16) What does it mean to be a child of God?

It means that God offers us the strongest, most intimate relationship we know of.
As a rule, a mother will use whatever she has at her disposal to save her child when danger threatens. She will use her own life.

We can often observe that on mammals. I first wanted to write animals, but at the thought of the fish, the frogs and the insects, I chose mammals. Of course, there are also special cases, but we all know the image of the bear, which defends her young against countless wolves.

And even with us humans, this love relationship is the rule. A mother will do a lot, not to say everything, for her child when she is in danger of being harmed. Many mothers think so. Some dads maybe too, but the classic is the mom.

No matter, the reverse is usually consistent. The relationship with our parents is special. Even if there are life stages, where we need distance or you want to shoot at the moon, because they have taken away the phone.

This leads me to another aspect of childhood: Child is one eternal. No matter how old, how fat, how difficult, whether I want it or whether I do not want it, I remain the child of my parents.
And with that, God says something very hopeful in our lives: I am and will remain your father forever. Always. It does not depend on your will or your behavior.

This is a great comfort for me. A comfort that I attach to words that we also find in one of our liturgy of liturgy (772): „When we turned away from you and our love failed, your love remained unchanged.“

We often behave like little children who are defiant, tired, annoyed, insulted, disappointed, and all kinds of others, but that is the only thing our relationship with God looks like. The basic attitude and the basic truth are not affected by this: We are and remain God’s children.

The Spirit of God only shows it to us in a tangible and tangible way when the love of God also finds an answer within us.

This leads me to the last point, the freedom and responsibility of the children of God. A topic that is not explicitly addressed in our section, but that I am referring to in view of the expiring anniversary year.

First of all, it must be pointed out that Paul speaks of a freedom that exists in relation to Christ. A freedom that sets their hope for salvation in Christ and not for the fulfillment of the law. This freedom is in connection with Jesus.

It has nothing in common with the freedom to do anything I want or selfish self-realization. Likewise, it has nothing to do with a detachment from world events. Following the motto: I am free and independent, because I have no influence on my destiny anyway.
No, the freedom of the children of God is to be able to say „Abba, dear Father,“ because of Christ. And this out of a desire, a longing to have fellowship with God. Those who fail in the law and realize that they can never love God with all their heart, with all their souls and with their whole minds – they will feel the salvation that comes with Christ and with faith in him.
I think that freedom is meant. And what responsibility?

Paul later writes in Galatians in the fifth chapter (V6) of the „faith that works in love“. We Methodists of course hear John Wesley in this sentence, but his origin is with Paul. I think the responsibility comes from love. Who loves, things do matter. People do not care about that.

And responsibility is not always just a burden or a burden. With the assumption of responsibility, we gain room for maneuver. If I take responsibility for the
Youth work in a community, then I can contribute my ideas, preferences and talents. There is also room for success, positive feedback and recognition. So many things we like and need.
As always – and this applies to both terms – it depends on the right degree. And not to an absolute measure, but to an individual measure. Or a measure with which we are in conversation. How far does my responsibility for the preservation of creation go? Can I only buy organic products now? And returnable bottles? Can I not reach some places by public transport instead of by car? Or freedom: is not it enough to come to the service once a month to live my relationship with God? How often should I pray? Do I really have the freedom to refuse forgiveness?

I think in many things you will have to actively listen to yourself to find those balances repeatedly. Where do I get involved, where do I say no. Some things will need sharing with others. However, this is precisely the task of the children of God:

To live in freedom and responsibility.

Amen