A People Of Faith

A People Of Faith

Galatians 3:23-29

We’re speaking about ‘faith’ today. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Healing Touch? Is ‘faith’ associated for you with those beautiful people who are given by God not to understand so much as simply to believe – and then who are able boldly to bless others by the streams of healing faith and love-energy that they channel, all somehow by the Spirit’s power and in Christ’s name?[i] Or do you think of charlatans? Did you ever see Steve Martin in the movie ‘Leap of Faith?’ It’s a sobering critique of those so called ‘faith-healers’ who appear to be profiting from the gullibility of others as they showcase whatever garish act they perform –apparently, in Jesus’ name? Or how about the way some seem to use ‘faith’ as another word for the power of positive thinking? If only we had lots of it, they seem to say, we would somehow be able to direct whatever we wanted into being – heal the diseases, change our circumstances!

Or is ‘faith’ associated with something else? It’s clearly a loaded concept – this thing that Jesus said to his disciples that ‘if only we had this tiniest bit of it – even the size of a mustard seed – that would be enough to move mountains!’[ii] Faith, defined by whomever wrote the letter to the Hebrews as the ‘assurance of what we hope for, the certainty of that which we cannot see’[iii].

Whatever we think, our text today describes one of the most essential differences that Christ says our being ‘a people of faith’ is to have within us, and within others through us. This is us! It’s who we are. It’s as if there are all these different options/ways of living constantly just laid out before us, and we must choose. We can live as victims, always feeling as if we are somehow under attack, on our guard, ready to defend ourselves. Know people like that? Are you kind of like that? Or we can choose to live as hoarders, as if personal accumulation and self-preservation are our main priority. Selfishly. Self-consumedly. Regardless of what we may like to say, both areusually among our most instinctive choices…

Or we can choose to live what M Scott Peck famously called the ‘Road Less Travelled’: lives focussed on finding and following that elusive pathway that leads to our living generously, openly, spaciously. That’s how scripture describes people of faith choosing to live, though I’m not sure whether we get to choose it, or whether it gets to choose us – as we follow the One who describes himself in John 14 as only true way and life.

Regardless of who actually does the choosing, our text today describes the difference our living as a people of faith in Christ is to make in us and on others through us. It starts off by describing how the role of ‘The Law’ was to put certain constraints on the living choices we may be tempted to make. It’s described as the paidagogos – we get the word ‘pedagogics’ from that! This describes the Old Testament Law of God given as the disciplinarian, teacher, guide, trainer, coach. Its role is to guard us from making the bad life choices that God knows will ultimately hurt our awareness of our best selves, choices that will lead us toward embracing lifestyles that God knows will form us into believing and doing other than what we have been made by God to be, and to do, created as we all are in God’s image.

God’s gift of faith in Christ is understood not to create this better living reality, but to wake us up to it! Compels us toward it. It helps us to see and to embrace it.

This is the faith that causes us to realize who we are – how, as the verse says, we are to be ‘reckoned as righteous’– given simply by faith to realize our most essential identity as no longer needing to live under the discipline of a stern paidagodos but as the free children of God!

The most profound effect of all of this is the dawning realization of our pretty radical one shared identity as the one people of God. All of us! IMAGO DEI![iv]  Created and, in Christ, restored to be in God’s image! In Christ, all those false and divisive distinctions we like so arbitrarily to make to separate ourselves from others – are just gone: there is no longer, Paul writes in today’s text, Jew or Greek/ slave or free/ male or female. All affirmed as being one!

This is us! By faith. By God’s action in Christ within us and all creation. This is US!

This past weekend the general meeting of the Pacific Mountain Region celebrated how we are now an ‘Affirming[v]’ Regional Council. Our president Rev Blair Odney was challenged to paint his beard with rainbow colors – and he did!

Perhaps you have been hearing the hope of us here at Trinity starting the process of maybe becoming an Affirming congregation as well? We would need to do that because people don’t know. Too often, instead of Christ’s church being associated with the most radically inclusive and loving acceptance of sacred presence in and through everyone and everything, we have so often been associated with just the opposite! Exclusion! Exclusive privilege! Ask any and every person who has ever felt judged as unworthy. All too many of us have experienced this harsh judgement – whether on the giving or receiving end of it, it’s equally toxic…

We don’t have to live like this: hurting, defensive, aggressive. Most people don’t know how very much they matter. They don’t know how in Christ – deep within our souls – we have all been declared good, righteous, beloved, deeply loved. As an Affirming congregation we would proudly display our rainbow symbol to announce to all the world that we have faith that, as we are in Christ, so we are given to know an abundance of space within our community here at Trinity for every possible category of humanity quite regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, age demographic, physical, mental, emotional ability, every economic level, because we see ourselves as a truly inclusive, radically loving community.

And why? Because that, our faith in Christ insists, is what the image of God looks like on earth as it is in heaven: wonderfully multilayered, coloured with every possible difference. This is the image in which we have all been created. It’s the image that we are all wanting to re-affirm! THIS IS US! It’s who we are. And it’s the expression of our faith in Jesus Christ that we want MOST to live. May it be so.

In Jesus’ Name
Amen.


Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2022.
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[i] I think of those many who have told me of how they have been helped through all sorts of difficult or troubling circumstances and conditions: physically, emotionally, spiritually…

[ii] Matthew 17:20

[iii] Hebrews 11:1

[iv] Image of God’

[v] ‘Affirming’ being our affirmation that we believe in God’s holy embrace f all people – with all our diversity – as being profoundly worthy and loveable, as we are held within the love of Jesus Christ.