Sermon on Galatians 1:11-17.
Imagine that you and your family are vacationing at the beach. It is warm and sunny, the blue ocean waves gently roll along the sand. Your son or daughter wants you to help build a sand castle. So of course being a good parent you say yes and the two of you begin work. At first you think that it will be a small sand castle, but your son has other plans -- they want an entire village complete with castle, moat, and walls! So you spend hours building this castle, going back and forth collecting hard sand and having fun with your children. After a while the two of you decide to stop and have lunch, so you walk back to your blanket across the beach and have lunch and enjoying your time together. After lunch you walk back to the sand castle and low and behold what do you see, someone must have walked by and stomped all over your castle! The towers are now flat, the moat is destroyed, and the walls caved in. To make matters worse as you are standing there a big wave comes into shore flattening half of the castle. How would you react to this situation? Would you be happy, saying "yea, my sand castle is destroyed!" or would you be indifferent saying "oh well, my sandcastle is destroyed" or would you be angry, upset, flabbergasted that your wonderful sandcastle that took two hours to build was messed up!" I'm sure most of us would be very, very upset.
Paul was upset too when he found out that his newly planted mission in Galatia was being slowly destroyed. See, Paul was like a gardener, sowing seeds in Galatia. He visited them and stayed there talking and teaching about Jesus Christ. He told them about God's son Jesus and everything that Jesus did to love people. This is good news. And Paul sowed seeds of the kingdom throughout all of Galatia, sowing, sowing, sowing. Then Paul left so that he could sow seeds in other places like Corinth, Rome, Ephesus, and Philippi. But then, behind Paul's back, his so called "friends" and I use this term loosely, came and basically said, "Ah, you don't have to believe what Paul told you, he's not really a teacher anyway, he's a bit crazy. We'll tell you what you have to know." So these "so-called friends" came and messed up Paul's beautiful garden, they planted weeds. And these weeds grew up with the seeds that Paul first planted. And Paul got so angry because these weeds were growing and growing and growing and were about to take over his small seedlings. So Paul wrote this very harsh letter to them telling them to go back to his teaching so that they could grow and survive. Paul had to rip out the weeds that were over taking the garden in Galatia.
Well, perhaps you didn't know it but every Sunday Paul plants seeds of the kingdom in us. Every time we hear his epistle he is planting a little seed. Week after week, season after season Paul sows his seeds in our hearts. And usually we are excited and happy about this, heck, that's why we come to Church, right? And we feel good about it. But sometimes, usually by Wednesday afternoon or so there are weeds that are planted in us. These weeds come a variety of places, sometimes they come from other family members, sometimes they come from friends or co-workers, but no matter where they are from these weeds get planted in us. By Saturday we get so frustrated because the wonderful little seeds that were growing into saplings are almost knocked down. Then next Sunday we again hear Paul who comes and re-seeds the field, trying to re-start the garden again.
And we cannot give up hope. Gardening is hard. Sometimes there is a drought and no rain comes. Sometimes one type of plant grows while the one next to it doesn't grow. But Paul keeps on sowing the gospel in our hearts. We can't control where it will grow and where it doesn't grow or how much its growing, but all we can do is try to be open to hearing it. No matter where Paul went he never gave up hope. He was beaten, shipwrecked, put into prison and he never gave up hope. He didn't say, "well, I'm going to give up in Galatia" or "ah, I'll just go back to tentmaking, forget planting seeds for the kingdom." No, he went out like a farmer tilling his field always looking forward, for the next field to sow. He never looked back and neither should we. Every week we come to hear the good news again, hopefully to have an open heart so that seed can be planted and grow in us!
Fr. William C. Mills, Ph.D., is the rector of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC, as well as an adjunct professor of religious studies at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. He is married to Taisia Mills and has two daugthers, Hannah and Emma.
Latest book by Fr. Mills:
A Light to the Gentiles is a collection of pastoral reflections on the Scripture readings from the gospel of Luke that are read in the Orthodox Church from mid-September until the feast of the Nativity of our Lord. The gospel of Luke is also read during the preparatory Sundays before Great Lent as well as at the feast of the Ascension and at the commemoration of various saints. The gospel also contains many familiar parables and teachings: the Good Samaritan, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and Zachaeus. Luke reminds us that the gospel is to be proclaimed to the entire world in order to bring the gospel to all peoples and nations. Thus, the gospel of Luke serves as a beacon of light that shines brightly in the world. A Light to the Gentiles is an invitation for everyone to read, accept, and obey the Word of God in their lives. This book is a resource for personal and group Bible study, adult education classes, and sermon preparation.
See more books by Fr. Mills.
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