What does Galatians 5

Sermon on Galatians 5: 1-6

The sermon text, Galatians 5: 1-6:

Christ has set us free for freedom! So stand firm and do not let the yoke of bondage be laid upon you again! Behold, I, Paul, tell you: If you are circumcised, Christ will be of no use to you. I once again testify to everyone who is circumcised to do all the law. You have lost Christ who wanted to be righteous by the law, and you have fallen from grace, for we wait in the Spirit by faith for righteousness, which one must hope for. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts, but faith that is active through love. "

Dear Congregation!

"All or nothing!" - this uncompromising alternative is sometimes the decisive question for the happiness of our lives.

"All or nothing!" - a person who loves us confronts us with this when it comes to our willingness to trust trust for a lifelong relationship and for a decision to become a parent. Anyone who tries to secure their trust through control agreements in love may miss out on their happiness in life.

"All or nothing!" - with this, those responsible for the "Thomana" in church and city here in Leipzig fought for keeping faith, singing and learning together, even in times of resistance. We thank God and many strong believers that the St. Thomas Choir is celebrating its 800th birthday this year and that it can strengthen our faith today in the St. Thomas Church with the Reformation cantata "God the Lord is Sun and Shield".

"All or nothing!" - Paul also sees this uncompromising alternative when people deal with God's gift of grace: trust in Christ and additionally want to secure their own justification before God through their own achievements - that does not go together.

Martin Luther - whose Reformation we are to commemorate in a special way today, on the way to the Reformation anniversary in 2017 - has again reminded us with his "sola gratia - solely by grace": Whoever wants to earn God's gift of grace with his behavior who falls out of God's grace! Those who rely on God based on their own righteous actions overestimate themselves and their possibilities - and often end up in self-righteousness. God gives his grace entirely or not at all!

But when people fully accept this gift of grace from God, then freedom and the power to practice justice arise for them. Freedom and justice are therefore not the reward for man's path to God - no matter how seriously and theologically educated people seek him and how honorable and law-abiding people live and act. Rather, God finds the way to us humans: In Jesus Christ, God comes unsurpassably close to us humans, so that from now on freedom and justice can determine our lives.

"Christ set us free to be free!" That is the crucial message for this Reformation service. We humans can "completely" entrust ourselves to the grace of God. Trust, faith - that is the answer that God expects of us to his courtesy. That was and is the liberating message that frees people from pressure to perform and megalomania at all times - in their relationship with God and with people, in their private and public life and actions. And that is the liberating message even today on Reformation Day in 2012.

But how can we live the freedom and justice given us by God today? And how do we avoid the danger of squandering the freedom God has given us?

Paul shows us the danger of losing our freedom and justice and falling out of the grace of God: "You have lost Christ, you who want to be justified by the law"

With this warning, the little word "through" is crucial. Paul rejects the intention to earn God's righteousness through obedience to the law. But he does not condemn the effort to live faith in everyday life with God's commands and instructions.

The Gospels also make this clear: In his preaching and actions, Jesus was not concerned with abolishing the commandments and instructions of God handed down in the Jewish tradition, but with fulfilling them. For Jesus - and also for his followers - God's law has an irreplaceable social function: A life with God's law helps people to live together in peace and justice.

However: the law of God has no saving function of salvation for people: people can neither establish the kingdom of God by living according to God's law nor acquire their own righteousness before God. Paul says it like this in our sermon text: "For we wait in the Spirit through faith for the righteousness in which one must hope."

"Waiting in the Spirit by faith" does not speak to any inactive perseverance. Christians should not evade their active responsibility for the world by dreaming about the afterlife. Paul is concerned with waiting and hoping, which is expressed in an active faith. In a just and merciful act that trusts in the effective presence of Christ in the Spirit and that does not allow itself to be discouraged by setbacks and failures.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed this in a confession: "I believe that God wants to give us as much resistance as we need in every emergency. But he does not give it in advance so that we do not rely on ourselves, but on him alone leave."

Using the example of circumcision, Paul makes it clear that being bound by God's law and adhering to religious traditions cannot secure human righteousness before God. Paul led a different circumcision debate than we do today. His concern was not to question the rite of circumcision for the Jewish religion. Even today the churches should be careful not to teach Jewish and Muslim believers which traditions are fundamental or dispensable for their relationship with God. In addition, we resolutely stand by their side if legal decisions threaten to make Jewish and Muslim community life in our country impossible. However, Paul rejects that Christians see the sign of circumcision as necessary for salvation: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts, but faith that is active through love."

In this last verse of the sermon text, Paul condensed what is "first-rate" when we ask how we live the freedom and justice given us by God today: Our faith should become active through love!

Not so that God gives us freedom and justice.
But: Because God gives us freedom and justice.
Not for God to love us.
But: Because God loves us.

Because God loves us and because he wants to give us freedom and justice by grace, he has shown us ways to live and die "happily" - that is, accompanied by his presence. That is why the cantata will immediately sing to us jubilantly: "Thank God, we know the right path to bliss!"

And Jesus Christ recommended concrete steps on this path to us in his Beatitudes, we heard it in the Gospel reading:

God's Word grants us the freedom to no longer have to think we are in possession of elitist knowledge of God and absolute truths. We can always ask and search for God's word and will for us and for our world, because Jesus says to us: "Blessed are those who are spiritually poor; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

God's word frees us from having to interpret human suffering as divine punishment or as God's distancing. We can trust that we are safe with God in joy and sorrow, because Jesus says to us: "Blessed are those who suffer; for they should be comforted."

God's Word frees us from the urge to pursue our own interests ruthlessly and by force. We can stand up for justice and peace and the integrity of creation with patience and with gentle courage, because Jesus promises us: "Blessed are the meek; for they will own the earth."

God's word gives us the freedom to question existing traditions and hostile power structures. We do not have to come to terms with injustice and violence, because Jesus says to us: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; for they should be satisfied."

God's Word frees us from the fascination of our senses through wealth, fame, and power. We can open our hearts, our eyes and our hands to the disadvantaged and the needy, for Jesus promises us: "Blessed are the merciful; for they will receive mercy."

God's word gives us the freedom to hold out our trust even in crises. We do not have to let our trust be destroyed by bad experiences, abuse and negative prognoses, because Jesus promises us: "Blessed are the pure of heart;" for they will see God.

God's Word frees us from the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence. People could and can set candles against the cannons, because Jesus says to us: "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called God's children."

God's Word gives us the freedom to renounce and accept personal disadvantages for the sake of love, because Jesus promises us: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Christ set us free to be free! To the freedom of a faith that does not seek salvation in its own observance of the law. To the freedom of a faith entrusted to the grace of God and the presence of Christ in our time. To the freedom of a faith that is active through love.

We can open ourselves and our lives to the gifts of God - completely! To this end, guide and accompany us with the Reformation cantata with the plea to God:

"Keep us in the truth, give everlasting freedom to praise your name through Jesus Christ.

Amen."