NUMC Nameoki United Methodist Church 1900 Pontoon Rd.
Granite City IL 62040-2339

Sermon: Everybody (Not Somebody)

Date: July 13, 2014

Preacher: Rev'd Mike Rayson, OSL

Church: Nameoki United Methodist

But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:25-28 New Revised Standard Version)

I’ll be 40 in a few days time, but I really did grow up in the ‘olden days’.  

In my part of the world, certain things hadn’t been invented yet… or at least they had been invented, but they hadn’t quite made it all the way to the Outback – which by the way is not a restaurant.

My earliest memory of having a telephone in the house was a party line… one of those phones that you had to turn the dial three or four times to get the attention of the operator at the local exchange so she could make a connection for you.

And people knew not to say anything too, well, personal on the phone.  Because when a phone call was in progress on the party line, you could pick up your end and listen in.  One line for many houses.

And let me tell you, the telephone operator – Mrs. Luscombe – well she was a well known figure in the neighborhood.  If you wanted the latest scoop on anyone… who was dating who, who was in any financial bother, who may or may not have been a little too involved in, lets just say, frisky endeavors… Mrs. Luscombe knew about it.  Because not only could YOU listen in to every call on the party line your house was connected to, Mrs. Luscombe could listen in on ALL the party lines coming out of that exchange… and she did!

It wasn’t till around 82, 83 that the party line was finally replaced by a more, lets just say, ‘private’ line.  An there was a rotary number dial on this phone – you could actually dial up a number, and get put through to the person you wanted to speak too WITHOUT having to go through Mrs. Luscombe.

There was one other modern commodity that was, lets just say, missing from my early childhood.  

A certain appliance if you will that was certainly in many parts of the world, but had failed to make it to my house.  Any clues….

A television!

I was few years old before we got our first television.  But there was only one TV station in the area… the ABC.  Not ABC like we have, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  Or “Aunty” as she was affectionately known.  Owned by, and still owned by today, the Australian Federal Government.

The ABC was a bit like PBS without the endless appeals for money.  In fact, you were conditioned to know that the ABC cost 8 cents per person per day to run… a fee that was paid each year through your federal taxes.  But the ABC wasn’t just a TV station, it was also a radio network too.

But the ABC didn’t run 24 hours a day like it does today.  It started up around 9am, and turned off at midnight – with the playing of the Australian National Anthem.

Between the hours of midnight and 9am, they showed the test pattern.

If you ever have the chance to talk with my mother, she will tell you how her little boy was mesmerized by… the test pattern.  The same pattern you see here on this clock!!!

My Mum (*Mom) bought me for my birthday a couple of years ago a t-shirt with this pattern on it, and I think I got the clock the same year from one of my kids.  And you know, as soon as I saw the picture on the shirt and the picture in this clock, I was immediately transported back to those hours where I would stare at the test pattern willing and wishing for the channel to ‘start up’ for the day.

When 9 o’clock rolled around, and the formalities of the day – the news and the weather – had been dispensed with, it was time for one certain program.

My first exposure to Americans!  And I loved this TV program.

Anyone want to guess which show it was?

Sesame Street – with my good friend Bob, who had a funny way of speaking…

One of the first songs I ever remember learning was a song from Sesame Street… with Bob!!

"All kinds of People in the Neighborhood"

You know as I was pulling my thoughts together for this morning, for some reason the ‘neighborhood’ song kept running about in my head.  In fact, it’s been driving me insane all week…  there are all kinds of people in the neighborhood, in the neighborhood, in the neighborhood

Earlier, Walker read to us from Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia.  Galatia itself was a city or a large settlement of people in what today is Turkey.  The area was settled by the celts a few hundred years before Jesus, but had in more recent times prior to Jesus and Paul, had been overthrown by the Romans and was a part of the Empire.

Many people had become Christian in Galatia after Paul and Barnabas had started for want of a better word, a church there on a previous missionary visit.  But as that church grew, the Galatian church leaders began to impose on people a strict interpretation of the law… the kind of interpretation that fundamentalist Jewish folks – people like the Pharisees in Jerusalem – followed.

And so Paul writes them a letter.  It’s a letter about casting of the shackles of the law and living in the freedom of Jesus.  Which doesn’t mean not abiding by the rule of law … but rather allowing the law to serve the people instead of the people to serve the law in all its minute detail.

And so Paul says to the Galatians…  “now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (NRSV)

This was some radical teaching.  Paul is instructing the church to cast away her security blanket… the rules that kept her together even…

Rules give a sense of stability, of structure, of purpose and meaning.  But a strict and particular imposition of the law meant that people could be kept in line, and severely punished if they ever stepped out of line.

In a way, the kind of adherence to the letter of the law the Galatians were practicing was kind of like what we see in some Muslim communities who practice, and often impose, Sharia law… a strict interpretation of their holy book that must be followed… or else!!  This is not true of all Muslim communities however.  Just like the Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all of Christendom.  But when the rule of law is imposed in these ways, instead of there being “all kinds of people in the neighborhood”, there can only be “one kind of person in the neighborhood”.

But here is Paul saying… that kind of law excludes people.  It’s exclusionary because it creates classism… it creates division over interpretation… it sets person against person.  If you disagree with another over one small thing, you must be their mortal enemy because obviously you must disagree with them over everything.

So really, Paul is talking about the United States in the 21st century.  And, our church.

A place where for many, your entire life is governed by your interpretation of … politics.

Where republican and democrat are taught to hate each other, lie about each other, accuse each other, make up stories about each other…

A place where a President – no matter what side he or she might be on – will face a constant barrage of belligerent, angry, hateful abuse from the other side because … well … they don’t embody “our” understanding of the law.  And we’ve seen this behavior grow rapidly and disturbingly over the last 2 presidencies in the United States.

And you know, the same kinds of divisions that existed in Galatia still exist in the church.  The place where we "should" swing wide the doors and welcome all the people in the neighborhood in the name of Jesus has become a war zone of health care, pro choice, pro life,  homosexuality, pro or anti gun…

And all the while we’ve missed the point.  That we are called to be above the sharp points of our political and religious sensibilities – so that we can welcome “all kinds of people in the neighborhood”.

A place where there is "no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus".  (NRSV)

Imagine a church like that.  Can we even be that church?

Or more to the point, can YOU be a part of that church?

A place where there is no longer republican or democrat; a place where there is no classism dividing people into groups of right or wrong; a place where it doesn’t matter a single bit if you came to the feed-trough 55 years ago, or just today…

A place where we just love Jesus, and Jesus loves us - and sends us forth to love others.

A place where there are… "all kinds of people in the neighborhood, in the neighborhood, in the neighborhood, there are all kinds of people in the neighborhood, they’re the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street, they’re the people that you meet each day".  (Sesame Street).

Following Jesus gives us one, stark, black or white choice.  We can be the church of the neighborhood – where people are welcomed just because they are people - created by and loved by God, and never excluded based on who they may be or who we think they may be.  

Or we can be the church of us.  A safe haven from the winds of our world… a place where we can relax in comfort knowing the bad people - you know, the people who don't fit the majority mould of us... the drug users, the alcoholics, the nose ringed, the purple haired... the African Americans, the ‘gays’, and in years gone by the slaves – are all out there while we are safe in here.

Jesus exists in only one of those 2 choices…

"All the Poor and Powerless" by Sons & Daughters.

How will you be Jesus to all the people in your neighborhood this week?