First Lesson: 1 Kings 19: 1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 42 & 43
Second Lesson: Galatians 3: 23-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 8: 26-39
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”- Galatians 3:28
When I first moved here 4 ½ years ago, I was told that there was something I needed to understand “Two Harbors is a rail town and Silver Bay is a mining town”. I was told this was why these towns have difficulty working together and how this divide will exist even beyond the rest of my life.
While it took me a few years to understand the difference between a rail town and a mining town, such divisions are nothing new under the sun. Growing up in Lindstrom, I never remember a time when Dad wasn’t on the City Council. He is currently serving his sixth two-year term as mayor. Now growing up, the town that I never heard anything positive about was “Chisago City” which sits about three miles west on Highway 8. Lindstrom has the Karl and Kristina Oskar statue. Chisago City has a tribute to The Emigrants author Vilhelm Moberg. Lindstrom has the Coffee Pot water tower. Chisago City has the Stairway to Heaven which I’ve heard Lindstrom residents deride as “The stairway to nowhere.” When they merged Chi-Hi (Lindstrom and Center City) and Chisago City into Chisago Lakes High School in 1970, there was controversy with people saying that it could never work.
Earlier this spring, a middle school student was supposed to do a history project and made Grandma the subject. Grandma’s nursing home is in Chisago City because there is no nursing home in Lindstrom. The student made a nice project complete with pictures of her and Grandma; there was just one problem the project said that Grandma lived her life in Chisago City.”
Every time, that I’m in Grandma’s room visiting her, whenever she turns her eyes to the project, Grandma reacts! Grandma will always tell me of her anger towards Chisago City no matter how many times I’ve heard it before and how she should the throw the “stupid” project in the trash. Grandma though is not unique in her thinking on this issue though.
People tend to go through life thinking by their tribes (Vikings versus Packers, Lutherans versus Catholics, Republicans versus Democrats, Lindstrom’s Swedes versus Chisago City’s Swedes, Mariners versus Agates).
Let me give an example of how ingrained our tribes are for us. Some years ago there was an experiment conducted by psychologists within the United Kingdom. They recruited fans of the Manchester United soccer club for this study. Here is how the experiment went down. The physiologists gathered the soccer fans and had them write essays about how much they loved their favorite team. They would then escort these fans outside to another building where the soccer fans saw a runner slip on a grass bank, where the runner fell down holding his ankle and screaming in pain. Here’s where the experiment gets interesting. What percent of Manchester United fans helped the injured runner? If the runner was wearing a Manchester United t-shirt 92% of fans helped the runner and if the runner was wearing a t-shirt of Manchester’s rival Liverpool FC only 30% help.
So this story leads us to our lesson for today from Galatians 3. Paul had heard things like I’ve heard about Two Harbors or Chisago City. Paul was encountering people with loyalty to their team that put the Manchester United fans to shame. The division in Paul’s case were Jews versus Greeks and slaves versus free.
Paul was writing a letter to a church divided in Galatia. Let me give you the backstory for the Galatians on this day. Paul started the Church in Galatia. The Church was made up of people from every stripe of life. The founders of the Galatian church are very strict Jews the kind that circumcise on the eighth day, ate all the right Jewish foods and quoted Moses’s words like people quote Baseball stats.
For many people this would have been the perfect church, Paul though thought differently. Paul then started bringing in Pagans. People that ate whatever they wanted to eat, people who lived however they wanted to live. For Gentile pagans being circumcised at thirty-five didn’t hold a lot of appeal nor did giving up bacon cheeseburgers. The divide Paul was facing went beyond what rules to observe. Paul had slaves and slave owners within the church. Paul was bringing in men and women in a culture that often divided them into categories of inequality. Trying to sort out all these factions was not going to be easy nor was it going to be smooth.
Paul wanted to live with this tension, though. Paul thought Viking and Packer fans could stand being in the same room during football season or the equivalent in 1st century Galatia. The only problem was Paul left to start other churches. Other leaders take over. These other leaders though don’t share Paul’s ideas. They wanted those new Gentile converts in Galatia to a play copy-cat. “Be like Abraham,” “Be like Moses,” “Be like Me” rather than “Believe in Christ Crucified.”
Paul hears about what’s going on in the Galatian church and writes his letter in response. Paul’s passion for seeing the world differently we can find in his life story. Paul had previously viewed the world the way that the other Jews had. Paul loved tradition and he loved the laws that governed it. The Road to Damascus though turned Paul’s world upside down regarding “How the Kingdom of God would work?”
One of Paul’s lesser known books is called Philemon. In Philemon, Paul writes to Philemon urging him to accept his runaway slave Onesimus not in the former distinction of slave or free. Paul rather pleaded with Philemon to take his runaway slave as a brother in Christ. Paul wanted his fellow believers to see others not as they are, but rather as what they shall be. Paul wanted to preach that no matter how much you disagree with the Pagans ways both currently and formerly that “No one is outside the possibility of grace, hope, or forgiveness.”
What do Paul’s words have to say to us today? The big news shooting this week was the shooting in Orlando. The reactions to it were predictable depending on which tribe people belonged to: gun-control, immigration, or gay marriage, Trump or Clinton, Muslim or Christian. The problem with the discussions on the news is none of the discussion centered upon the reality of evil. No one after Orlando wanted to talk about the realities of sin, death, and the power of the devil. I do not believe that men like Omar Mateen act in ways they do with such little regard for human life if they are not being led by Satan to act the way that they act. It is Satan who makes us see the world with violence being the only way out. It is Satan who breeds hate in those different from us. What the tragedy in Orlando reminds us is that Satan glorifies lies and conceals the truth. People often wonder is there such a place as Hell? I believe in Hell because I believe in the words of the Book of Revelation that one day death and Satan will be tossed into the lake of fire. Those who can’t see the light will remain in darkness. People inevitability see the world in our image. What we always need to remember is that we are full of sin, full of pride, and our way of looking at the world is flat our wrong, this is why we look towards the cross! What Orlando should remind us of is our brokenness as a people. We are not God! In the words of Craig Koester as “We must continually draw the distinction between what God has done for us and what other people do.?”. On this day, we do maintain hope because we are children of all stripes of an all-loving God.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”-Galatians 3:28
What Paul saw in Galatia was an opportunity to expand his tribe. Paul’s passion for the Gospel was strong because it stood in such sharp contrast to his previous way of looking at the world. Paul saw his tribe as way broader than before. Paul wanted his fellow Christians to think the same way. Paul believed that a focus on what brought them together in Christ Jesus could begin to soothe the origin of their divisions.
Back to the earlier experiment that I cited about the Manchester United Soccer fans. The psychologists later conducted the experiment again, only this time with a slight twist. The psychologists before encountering the injured runner had the soccer fans write another essay. This essay wasn’t about why they loved Manchester United, but rather why they loved soccer. What do you suppose happened after they wrote an essay about what they had in common with fellow soccer fans. In the second version of the experiment, Manchester United fans helped 80% of their own, but 70% of fans of their biggest rival Liverpool F.C.
Do not see others for their differences; rather see others for what they might bring to the body of Christ.
“The Kingdom of God is like a new net thrown into the sea that gathers in fish of every kind.”-Matthew 13:47.
The final story, a few weeks ago, I was at the Section 7A track meet in Esko. The last Mariner runner to try to qualify for state in the Girls 200 Meter was Jocey Russell. Jocey was a softball player who was so fast that they gave her a chance on the track team. Jocey was fast, but had only attended four track practices all year. Jocey would have been a relatively unlikely state qualifier. The favorite for the event was Jessie Junneman from Two Harbors. Junneman wins the race. Jocey though ran fast on this day. Jocey ends up coming in second in a photo-finish for a spot at state. Jocey’s biggest support giving her a hug at the end of the race and on the medal stand is Jessie Junneman, the pride of the Agates. It was Two Harbors giving our kids access to their track and functional hurdles so Silver Bay could send two kids (Gunnar and Alexxa) to State in the hurdles. Sitting in the Silver Bay section last Friday down at the state meet, Mariners were cheering for Agates like they were their own.
I’ll admit that it took me a minute to wrap my head around this as someone you could never cheer for the Green Bay Packers unless it benefited the Minnesota Vikings.
The Gospel can make possible what was previously thought to be impossible. Paul’s message to the church in Galatia was that your former divisions will not remain forever. The power of the cross stands to conquer what ultimately separates us as a people. Walls shall soon come a crumbling down!
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”-Galatians 3:28.”
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. Penguin Books. New York. 2013. Print. P.226.
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. P.226.
 Galatians 3:23-29.
 Koester, Craig. “Opportunity to Do Good: The Letter to the Galatians.” Word and World. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 2.Sept.1989. Web. Jun. 15.2016.
 Revelation 20:13-14.
 Koester, Craig. “Opportunity to Do Good: The Letter to the Galatians.”
 Grant, Adam. Give and Take. P.226.