"Only One Way" a sermon for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, YEAR C Scripture: I Kings 19:15-16, 19-21; Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. There have gotten to be a lot of those intersections called “roundabouts” or “traffic circles” up in the Cities. You know; those intersections that you come to that send you around a circle to get to the place you want to go. They say it has helped traffic flow and has decreased accidents. They work this way, when you get to the intersection you have to stop or yield to traffic already in the circle, then you enter the circle going right and exit to the street you want, so if you want to go right you’ll be going a quarter of the way around the circle. If you want to go straight on the street you’re on you have to go halfway around the circle to go straight. If you want to go to the street that was on your left, what would ordinarily be a left turn, you must go three-quarters of the way around the circle. What you need to know and always remember is that there is only one way you can go in the traffic circle, to the right, otherwise you could get into an accident or get a ticket, things you really don’t want to do! I got thinking about this way of there only being one way and that is the “right way” when I read the Psalm for today. “Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you; I have said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, my good above all other.’ All my delight is in the godly that are in the land, upon those who are noble among the people. But those who run after other gods shall have their troubles multiplied.” It is clear to me that the Psalmist believes that following God alone is the only way, for him there is only one way, the “right way”, and that is to believe in and follow God alone. Just like the traffic circles, there is only one way, the “right way”, following only God. I’m willing to bet that most of us think that we’re not in any danger of following anyone but God. I don’t think any of us are in danger of following Baal or Asheroth or any of the other gods that we can safely assume the Psalmist was thinking of when he wrote this. Nor are we particularly tempted to follow Buddha or Shiva or any of the African tribal gods. What is unfortunate with thinking this way is that we fail to recognize is that there are other gods even more tempting than Baal or Asheroth in our modern way of life. We have gods that go by the names of “wealth” and “fame” and “free will”, (which is just another way of saying “I want to do whatever I want without any consequences”.) It is far more tempting for us to put our faith in ourselves and our abilities and the things that are tangible to us, our possessions, our passions, and our plans. What is happening when we do this is that we are replacing God with our own selves. This is the way down the path that Paul warns us about in his Letter to the Galatians, what he calls the “works of the flesh”. Paul writes, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” What we need to know is that these are the sins we engage in when we are placing ourselves in God’s throne of our hearts. What we want becomes god. We are not going the “right way”; we are not going the one way that leads to life. We are imprisoned by our sin, replacing God with our selves, with another god. Having said this, about what we’re not supposed to be doing, it is important to keep in mind is that following God isn’t just about what we can’t do, it’s actually more about the freedom we find when we follow God and not our own desires. Paul goes on to tell us about the gifts we receive from the Spirit. “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” How much richer and happier our lives and our world would be if this was the way everyone lived! The Psalmist also speaks to what is gained in following God alone. “O Lord, you are my portion and my cup; it is you who uphold my lot. My boundaries enclose a pleasant land. Indeed I have a rich inheritance. I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me night after night. I have set the Lord always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. My heart, therefore is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body shall rest in hope. For you will not abandon me to the grave, not let your holy one see the pit. You will show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It is easy to see that there is only one way; to follow God alone is the right way, the way to eternal life. God frees us to new life, life freed from trying to do everything for ourselves. The irony of trying to become God for ourselves is that while it appears to give us freedom, it ultimately becomes a slavery that we can never extract ourselves from on our own. Paul says it best when he reminds us that Christ has set us free and tells us to “Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This “yoke of slavery” that he refers to are those “works of the flesh” that we get caught up in when we try to wrest control from God. Christ has freed us to serve God and one another in love. This is the one way, the only way, the right way to live our lives. Christ has freed us from our self-centered sinful need to be the center of the universe to love one another as he as loved us. We have been freed from slavery to sin, death, and the devil to serve Christ and one another in love. The one and only way we are to live out this freedom is not by our own strength, but by Christ’s Holy Spirit. “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh”, that is our desire to set up something or someone else, including ourselves, as God. God calls us from our slavery to our selfish desire to be God into the freedom of living in love in his Spirit. God calls us in his Spirit to live fruitful lives for ourselves and for all of God’s creation. Thanks be to God, Amen.
Posted on: Sat, 29 Jun 2013 19:49:31 +0000
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