Sunday, 28 May 2017

May 28, 2017

One in Christ - Easter 7

One in Christ – Easter 7

May 28, 2017

Galatians 3:23-28


Michael Jordan was a superstar.  People would buy tickets to basketball games just to see him.  One night he scored 20 straight points to help the Chicago Bulls come from behind a win their game.  After the game one of the assistant coaches joked with Jordan and said that there is “no I in team”.  Jordan replied by saying that “there is one in win”. 


We live in a culture that tends to glorify individuals.  We tend to pay more attention to individuals than we do to groups or teams.  Superstars often get more attention than the teams they play for. Actors and musicians develop cult followings and those who support them and work with them get little or no credit.


Sometimes, however, teams are greater than the sum of their parts.  It was called “the Miracle on Ice”.  In 1980, Herb Brooks took a group of young, amateur hockey players and molded them into a team that defeated the best hockey teams in the world.  He helped them to see that the good of the team was more important than the attention an individual could receive.


Some of you know that I don’t like the Chicago Cubs (long story), but I did feel good for their fans last year.  So many years of frustration were ended with their World Series Championship.  I also feel a little better about the Cubs after watching a recent 60 Minutes segment.  The segment told how team president Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon put together their championship ball club. They intentionally looked for team players.  The players who helped the Cubs win the World Series cared more about the team than they did about themselves.


Have you ever thought about where the concept of uniforms comes from?  The word literally means “united in form” or “one in form”. When people wear uniforms they are showing that they are united with others in forming something greater than individuals.


There are sports uniforms.  There are band and orchestra uniforms.  There are military uniforms. There are business uniforms.  The uniform doesn’t just help people to identify members of a team, it helps members of a team identify with something greater than themselves.  They are one in form.  They are one, not many.


In his letter to the Galatians, Paul tells about a change that has happened because of Jesus.  The Jewish religion was held together by the Torah; the Ten Commandments and the other Jewish laws. The law kept individuals from doing things that might benefit themselves while harming others.  The law was meant to help people keep the good of all in mind instead of the good of just the individual.


Paul said that, through Jesus, it was faith that now holds us together, faith that, through Jesus, we have been made one with God and with each other.


Jesus made us one in a very strange way.  He did it by being rejected.  At first he seemed well accepted.  His preaching, teaching and works of caring made him very popular.  You might say he was a superstar. But when he seemed to reject doing things that others wanted him to do, he was rejected.  He was betrayed and abandoned.  He was tortured and killed.  It seemed that he had even been rejected by God the Father.


Then he was raised from the dead.  God the Son, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are and always will be one.  And, through Jesus and the teamwork of the Trinity, we are made one, too.  We are united with God through forgiveness.  We are united with God in the promise of eternal life. We are united with God in the certainty that we are loved and will always be loved.


Today we celebrate more baptisms.  In our lesson today we are told that, in baptism, we are clothed in Christ.  In baptism we put on the uniform of grace, mercy and caring.  In baptism we are one in form.  We are united with God and his Holy Church.  We are part of a team.


Wouldn’t it be great if that uniform was more visible?  Wouldn’t it be great if we would daily put on a uniform that reminded us that we are and always will be part of God’s team?  Wouldn’t it be great if we could focus on the good of the team and its mission more than our own wants and desires? 


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since Isaiah Hunt died in Iraq.  That was one of the more difficult times in my ministry.  Death, especially that of a young person, greatly affects family and friends.  And dealing with the military and all the red tape made the funeral even more challenging.


Because our worship area was under construction and our building was a disaster, the good people at Sts. Edward and Isadore had graciously allowed us to use their building. Shortly before the funeral I had a small problem with the sergeant major from Isaiah’s 82nd Airborne funeral detachment.  The sergeant major knew his rule book.  It didn’t however, match with mine.  I told the sergeant that the U.S. flag would be removed from the casket and replaced by the funeral pall before the casket entered the sanctuary.  He insisted that it would not be removed.  I insisted that the change would be made.  Finally, the sergeant major’s commanding officer told him that he would follow my orders.  I was in command in this situation.


So why was it so important?  Isaiah would put on a uniform.  He would be united in form with Jesus and all the saints who had gone before him.  He was clothed in Christ and is part of the team that was formed because of the love God has shown us through Jesus.


The flag of the United States covered the casket to remind us that Isaiah had been part of the team that is our country.  This weekend we remember all those who gave their lives as part of that team.  


But there is a greater team than any national one.  It’s the team that God has put together through the sacrifice of his Son.  We call it the Holy Christian Church.


There is no I in team.  There is both an I and a U in united, and, by the grace of God, we are united in Christ and his love forever.  AMEN