This post will be about two services from last Sunday: one at a Presbyterian church, and one at a Catholic church.
At the Presbyterian church, the pastor artfully tied together three
biblical texts. The first text was I Kings 19, which was about Elijah
fleeing to Horeb and God asking him what he was doing there. The second
text was Galatians 3:23-29, which talks about how the Galatian
Christians are clothed with Christ, are children of God, and are
Abraham’s seed. The third text was Luke 8:26-29, which was about Jesus
casting demons out of a man, and the exorcised man was then clothed and
in his right mind.
The pastor was uniting these three texts around the theme of
identity. Elijah was running away because he was scared, and God gently
reminded him of his identity. Similarly, the pastor said, when we run
from God, God reminds us that we are his children. Galatians 3:23-27,
too, is about identity, as Christians’ identity is in Christ and not
whether they are Jews or Greeks, free or slave, male or female. They
are children of God, Abraham’s seed. Luke 8:26-29 was about a man
receiving a new identity: he went from being possessed and oppressed by
demons, to becoming his old self, clothed and in his right mind. We
sang a hymn, “Silence! Frenzied, Unclean Spirit,” which was about God
delivering us from our inner demons, including our fears.
The pastor made a few points that particularly stood out. For one,
he was telling the children the story of Jesus healing the
demon-possessed man, and he said that Jesus brought the man clothes
after cleansing him of demons. That makes sense, since Jesus was around
for a while after the exorcism, and the man did come to be clothed
somehow, so why not conclude that Jesus was the one who brought him the
clothes? Jesus clothing the man may look like a small, insignificant
detail, but it is not. Jesus does not just cleanse the man of demons
and move on, but Jesus, ever a servant, continues to help the man on his
journey back to normalcy. May God help us to have that kind of servant
attitude, continually looking for and seeing ways to help.
Second, in talking about Galatians 3:23-27, the pastor was referring
to the part of the passage about people being under the custody of the
law until Jesus came: they were under the supervision of a tutor, until
Jesus came and God took a different approach. The pastor compared the
law with Maria on the Sound of Music: she taught the children the basics of singing, the notes to sing. But the children would move past that. They would mature.
Questions or objections can emerge in response to this. Of course,
many adherents to Judaism would disagree with any Christian
characterizations of the law as a stepping-stone to Christ, or as a
temporary stage of religion for the spiritually immature until
Christians would come with their supposedly mature spirituality. Plus,
are not Christians themselves still under some sort of law, since God
has requirements, and God wants for Christians to practice certain
disciplines, such as prayer and attendance of worship? Is that
necessarily a bad thing?
Adherents to Judaism may have a point and be justified in their
disagreement. Yet, from a Christian perspective, the coming of Jesus
makes a difference, such that people need not have the same relationship
with the law that they had before. They possess the Holy Spirit inside
of them, so they do not necessarily need for the law to hover over
them, telling them what to do and what not to do. They will still try
to do what is right and avoid what is wrong, but they do so with a new
perspective, from a different standpoint: a standpoint of being at a new
stage of what God is doing, of being accepted by God, of the Holy
Spirit being inside of them.
At the Catholic church, the priest was trying to raise money for
air-conditioning for the church, and for a chapel where people can come
to pray. People in the church had actually requested these things. The
priest said that he has the money for this, and it is in our pockets!
Some may sneeze at this: why not give the money to the poor, instead of
to enhance the church? But it is still good to be able to worship in a
state of comfort, and to have a place where people can gather to pray.