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Sermon for Proper 4/Ordinary 10C Galatians 1:11-16 Judaizers

April 30, 2016

PG“There are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” words from our second reading

In the name….

Are you a ‘proper Christian’?

Or are you a loser?

What car does the vicar drive?

How much did he spend on his birthday?

Stay tuned for the answers.

There was a documentary last Monday about Kingsway International Christian Centre. Its Nigerian pastor preaches the ‘prosperity gospel.’ If you give ten per cent of your income to the church you will be guaranteed health and wealth. So the collection netted £7 million last year from 8 thousand members. Eat your heart out, (church treasurer).

The pastor spent £120 thousand from the collection plate on his birthday and he has a time share in Florida where he is currently living while the church is being investigated by the Charity Commissioners. He drives a Mercedes. His flock think this is a good example, proof of his holiness to encourage them to amass more wealth. They don’t mix with ‘negative people’ like the unemployed. If you are not working you are not a proper Christian.

Are you a ‘proper Christian’? According to American Dr. Gary Cass, you can’t be a proper Christian unless you own a gun. “You have not just a right to bear arms, you have a duty. How can you protect yourself, your family or your neighbour if you don’t have a gun? If I’m supposed to love my neighbour and I can’t protect him, what good am I?”

He goes on to say that America has a “broken moral compass” because it regularly elects “politicians who justify killing babies made in the image of God” and “justify redefining God’s institution of marriage.”
Are you a ‘proper Christian’? Have you received the Toronto Blessing? It started in Canada and reached the Alpha church Holy Trinity Brompton. It includes what is known as falling or resting in the Spirit, shaking, and crying. “Holy laughter”, roaring like lions, “crunching” consisting of a vomit-like heaving to “cleanse” and “release” negative experiences. Leaders and participants claim that these are physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. Are you a ‘proper Christian’? Stephen Green left the Church of England because it is too ‘liberal’ saying, “In an age when oestrogen is overwhelming the church, this is Christianity with testosterone.”. He set up Christian Voice and has called for British law to be based on the Bible. It opposes abortion, compulsory sex education, no-fault divorce and homosexuality. In a TV programme, Green told an openly gay celebrity that his lifestyle was ‘sinful’, and made him no better than a serial killer. He supports the death penalty and does not recognise the concept of marital rape. In January 2011, Green’s former wife, Caroline, accused him of repeatedly physically assaulting her and their children, once with a weapon until she bled, and once their son allegedly required hospital treatment after having been beaten with a piece of wood. Green’s view is that the man is the head of the household.

There has to be something weird in these guys’ holy water.

Our second reading has Paul writing to the Galatians. He had preached there his message of grace: the gospel, the good news, that God loves us unconditionally. Then along came a group who said that God’s love WAS conditional. You couldn’t become a proper Christian unless you became a Jew first. Be circumcised, keep all the Jewish laws.

Commentaries call this group ‘Judaizers’ and it is assumed that they are Jews trying to undermine Christianity. Yet nowhere in Galatians is this term used. And it will not do to assume that it’s all the fault of the Jews. It’s something that appears in every age among Christians, people who claim to have found that little extra in the Christian life, an extra that secures for them superior Christian standing.

There is a mentality, common among religious fundamentalists, which suspects anything too easy, anything that appears to be too tolerant and not sufficiently demanding. The higher the price, the more likely it is to be of God.

1743 – Galileo. The burning issue was whether the earth was the centre of the universe and whether or not the earth was flat. Gradually, a Christian was to believe the gospel PLUS that the earth was flat and was the centre of the universe.

1850 Missionaries from the United States and Europe were flooding into Africa by the thousands. They knew the basic gospel but this gospel was important PLUS Africans becoming European and American in their culture. Men wearing trousers and leather shoes, women wearing skirts and blouses and all the Africans learning hymns from Germany or England or the United States.

1950, and the western world became strongly anti-communist. It was the era of Eugene McCarthy and John Foster Dulles. The world knew the gospel of Christ PLUS Christians were to be democratic capitalists and being a pinko communist meant being a materialistic atheist. Christians knew and loved the gospel PLUS that the hot and burning issue of the day was to be anti-communist.

And soon, the burning issue of the day was abortion. Christians were to believe in the gospel PLUS to become anti-abortion.

Then homosexuality. Christians were to believe in the gospel PLUS be against gay behaviour.

All these certain voices of enthusiasts of absolute “musts”: you must be born again,  you must believe the bible is the literal word of God. You must do liturgy right. You must speak in tongues. You must be socially active, anti-war, vegetarian.

These might be valuable, deepen the faith, help the journey, but are they a new legalism that replaces Christ with the new gospel of “deeper faith”? But the good news is radical freedom in Christ. God is reconciling all of God’s creation. Not inviting us to be part of a “tribe”

Are you a ‘proper Christian’? All of us have doubts, we are all struggling, and so to be confronted with the exuding confidence of someone who has “found it” is disturbing to say the least. They have the answers, we have the problems; they have found the secret, but we are still searching. We may send them packing, but if we do, we are left doubting our own faith. Some may seek to understand their views more, but if they do they may find ourselves adopting them. Narrow forms of Christianity which possess all the answers, whatever the brand, always seems more attractive than the simple gospel propounded by Paul and the apostles.

All that we can ever hope for as a child of God rests on the free gift of God’s grace. When it comes to our eternal hope, depend on Jesus and nothing else. But what are we to say to these ‘proper Christians’?

As Paul wrote: “even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”

As for Stephen Green’s Christianity with testosterone – Nuts. As Paul wrote later in later in Galatians: “I wish that the people who are upsetting you [with their talk of circumcision] would go all the way and castrate themselves!”

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