Through (the) Faith in/of Christ


Biblical Text: Galatians 2:11-21, Galatians 3:10-14
Full Sermon Draft

We are continuing our reading through Galatians and have come to the raw heart of the letter. Contextually a snub. Peter stops eating with gentile Christians. But Peter’s actions put into question the very heart of the gospel. Is it “Christ and {fill in the blank}” or pure grace? Even if Peter would say grace, his actions say “and”.

What this sermon encourages is three things:
1) the THE Faith, the doctrine of the church, is important. Paul’s argument with Peter is over a doctrine – by Faith alone or faith and. The doctrine is important enough for apostles to argue about face to face. (Although more in a law way of reminding us what we actually believe so that our actions may come in line.) Through THE FAITH in Christ; or Christ is the truth.

2) Faith itself, that which believes, is more important because that is what changes hearts. Through faith in Christ; or Christ is the life.

3) Both of those things can become works. The deeper importance is the we rest not on THE Faith, nor faith itself, but on the faith of Christ. When we waver, Christ does not. Through the faith of Jesus Christ; or Christ is the Way.

There and back again (or a pattern of Religious Education)

If anyone is a Tolkien fan, that title is the other name for The Hobbit. And it expresses a truth about learning to live a faith.

The first step in living a faith is to actually have a home. Find a community. Attend regularly. Be active in its life. Know what it teaches. Try living what it teaches. Become good at living what it teaches and living with others in that faith community. Be a part of a Shire.

At some point the Shire starts to look small. Guess what, it probably is. All of our faith homes have their own languages and favorite bad arguments. (Of all things the LCMS likes to argue purity. It may get hidden under other doctrines, but it is always about are you keeping the doctrine pure enough.) You are faced with a choice. Turn against that community, or set out for a little while. And don’t set out too early. There is a big difference between the pilgrim and the wanderer. The wanderer is just lost. The pilgrim has a home. A basis for judgment.

The pilgrim, while out there fighting dragons and orcs, tends to remember what was good about the shire. Bilbo wanted to return. Frodo would also. Now when Frodo returned the Shire had been scoured. It wasn’t the same place he left for good and bad. The pilgrim goes there and back again. Maybe multiple times.

American life tends to produce wanderers. The church wants to produce pilgrims, but first it wants to call the wanderers to rest – rest in the grace of Jesus. The American myth machine has built up the wanderer. The rebel without a cause. The man on the road. Can the church learn again to call to rest and then build up pilgrims?

Two things spawned this slightly batty reflection. Gordon Atkinson’s reflection on teaching his own kids to be pilgrims. And Stephen Prothero’s primer on the World Religions which finally breaks the claptrap that all religions if you dig enough are the same. They are all the same to the wanderer who doesn’t have a place to go back again. To anyone in a Shire, they are strange and horrible and wonderful things. Things that remind you of the grace of the Shire.