“In Christ Jesus”
June 3, 2020
Scripture Readings: John 13:34-35; Galatians 3:26-4:7;
1 John 1:5-2:17
Additional Deep Study: Genesis 6:5; Genesis 11:1-9;
Proverbs 14:30; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9;
Matthew 5:19; Matthew 13:15; Mark 7:20-23; John 3:16-21;
Romans 1:21-25; Romans 3:10-18; Romans 8:7;
Ephesians 4:17-24; Hebrews 3:12; James 1:22-25
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus!
I am not black. (Surprise!)
What many of you may not know about me is that I was born and baptized into a black Lutheran church on Chicago’s South Side (remember “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”?). Until I was in high school my parents never taught in any “prestigious” Lutheran schools. I always had classmates with names like Melanie McKnight and Valtina Brown; Saiya Kawanoe and Vu Nguyen; Zeke and Sammy Vasquez. My cousin John is black. My cousin David married a black Muslim. My sister Julie and her husband Greg adopted my nephew Luke at birth from Gary, Indiana. For 26 years I have pastored a church that integrated in the 1940's (before Dr. King) and I have sat with many of you and sadly heard about you being followed suspiciously in stores and being pulled over in Pasadena simply because you had a black person with you in your car. As an integrated congregation we’ve had some great successes. I also know we have had some miserable failures.
Compared with most white pastors, I have been blessed by God with my cross-cultural life experiences. But I am not black. I do not claim to be – nor do I play one on television. I realize I am an outsider. I also do not claim to be an expert in race relations.
I come to you today simply as your pastor. I come to you today with tears in my eyes over the events of this past week which our country is sadly once again repeating. I come to you with a lot of fear about what these events mean for my family and friends and for each of you, the members of my church.
I’ve got the solution. I can’t take credit for it. Neither can St. Paul. It’s all God’s solution! It’s nothing new! It’s the old, old story!
The blame game started in the Garden of Eden. No one wanted to own up to sin. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. The snake rejoiced at the devastating corruption it had introduced to God’s perfect creation. The slithering serpent continues to rejoice today!
Fast forward a few years, to a place called Babel. People - sharing a common language – conspired against God. They built a tower to their own glory. God was not pleased that His creatures believed they knew better than Him. God came down (don’t miss that in Genesis 11:5). God came down and confused their common language and scattered them over the face of the earth. It was a punishment, a division, a separation. And it’s here to this day. Because of human sin.
Out of that scattering came stories like Abraham and Lot; David and Goliath; Samson and the Philistines; Balaam and his talking donkey; the two women arguing over one baby; even Saul and the early Christian Church.
God must have shed many tears over the destruction and decay of His beautiful creation. When we cry over the world, we are not alone!
Just as He scattered His creatures, though, God also gathers them back together again: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In Christ Jesus!
That’s why the world can’t get this right. The evil, sinful hearts of human beings cannot be changed by any legislation or by any politician or by any proclamation or by any amendment to any constitution. No arrest will make this better. No trial and conviction will make this better. No peaceful protests will make this better. No riotous looting will make this better.
The only solution is Christ Jesus. Baptized into Christ Jesus. Clothed with Christ Jesus. One in Christ Jesus. God – in Christ Jesus – makes this better! If we let Him ...
I know the world laughs at that. But I don’t know why. The world has a tendency to try some pretty crazy solutions to its problems. But the world has never tried God’s solution. And, sadly, I doubt it ever will – which sadly means this pain and hurt and tears and anger and hatred will just repeat itself over and over again. And we’ll just blame each other. And the devil will just keep laughing.
But it can start with an honest self-examination of ourselves deep down inside (Psalm 51:1-10) and a consistent clothing of ourselves in Christ - in His Word and in His Sacraments – and a prayer that there be peace on earth and that it begin with me – in Christ Jesus!
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive only ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a New Creation. The old has gone; the new has come. All this is from God, Who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
It’s all in Christ Jesus! It’s centered in Him! It’s fueled by Him! It’s possible with Him!
In Christ there is no East or West. In Him no South or North.
But one great fellowship of love, throughout the whole wide earth.
In Christ shall true hearts everywhere, their high communion find.
His service is the golden cord, close-binding humankind.
Join hands, then, children of the faith, whate’er your race may be!
Who serves my Father as His child, is surely kin to me.
In Christ, now meet both East and West. In Him meet North and South.
All Christ-bought souls are one in Him, throughout the whole wide earth.
“In Christ There is No East or West” by John Oxenham, 1852-1941, alt., is Public Domain.
Grace and peace to you! Make sure to share Jesus today!
Pastor Christopher Schaar