JANUARY 31, 2016

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

(Play Audio)


            Any of you recall the Chinese drywall controversy of 2009?  Laboratory tests revealed volatile chemical emissions from the drywall. These emissions, which had the odor of rotten eggs, worsened as temperatures and humidity rose and caused copper surfaces to turn black and powdery. Copper pipes, wiring, and air conditioner coils were affected, as well as silver jewelry. Homeowners, whose builders used the drywall, reported a variety of health problems associated with the emissions including asthma attacks, chronic coughing, headaches and sinus issues.

            And maybe you recall the building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, but probably not given the fact that I don’t think it got much play in the United States. In April of 2013 a factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,127 people. A government panel found substandard building materials among the reasons for the collapse. The panel, in a 400 page report, recommended that the owner of Rana Plaza, Sohel Rana, be charged with "culpable homicide," for forcing his employees to return to work even though cracks had appeared on an exterior wall the previous day. The case against Rana is still in court.

            This morning we continue our “Building a Significant Life in Christ” sermon series. Today we turn to the fifth thing we need to keep in mind when constructing such a life. In building a significant life in Christ we don’t want to use inferior building materials. We don’t want to use Chinese drywall or skimp like Sohel Rana did on his plaza. No, we want to use the best materials possible in building a life in Christ, and that’s what the Apostle Paul recommends in his letter to the Galatians. Note his honesty. Note what he says.

            First, he says, avoid shoddy materials when building a life in Christ. He puts it this way, beginning in verse 16.


            Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.


            Do you see yourself anywhere in that list? Ever feel envious? How about jealous? Ever been quarrelsome? Maybe you aren’t into sorcery, but what about idolatry?  Ever put someone or something ahead of God?

            Edward S. Martin was the chief editorial writer for Life Magazine for 46 years. A graduate of Harvard University he was also a founding member of The Harvard Lampoon. In addition to that he wrote poetry. One of his poems he titled, “My Name is Legion.” It goes like this …


            Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd;

            There’s one of us that’s humble & one of us that’s proud.

            There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,

            there’s one impenitent that sits and grins.

            There’s one that loves his neighbor as himself

            and one that cares for naught but fame & self.

            From much corrupting care I should be free,

            if I could once determine which is me!”


            Anyone besides me identify with this poem? Ever feel torn inside? Ever have one of those days where we are so befuddled and immobilized by the perplexity of own human nature we wonder if we can even call ourselves a Christian?

            The Apostle Paul reminds us in this passage that life is a struggle. He reminds us that we are constantly dealing with take-over bids in our desire to build a significant life in Christ.

            I love watching TCM … the Turner Classic Movie Channel. I especially like old, black and white movies from the 1930’s. Every so often Mae West pops up in one of those movies, that platinum blond bombshell with a questionable character. In her first movie in 1932, in her very first scene in a movie, a hat check girl, noticing diamond necklace asked her, “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.”

            Mae West replied, “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie!”

            Life is a choice. Are we going to feed our good side or our bad side? Day by day we make decisions which shape the character of our lives. Hopefully, we make good choices in that regard.

            Second, Paul reminds us we have a construction partner, the Spirit of God, who helps us choose good building materials.

            For the Apostle Paul, the Spirit is more than the manifestation of a supernatural power. For Paul, the Spirit is more than the giver of dramatic gifts. For Paul the Spirit is more than an explosive force erupting in the believer every now and then. In addition to all these things, for Paul the Spirit is the daily sustaining, inspiring, and guiding part of a Christian’s life.

            When I was a boy, back in the Stone Age when we rode dinosaurs to school, one of the things I looked forward to was when my Mom bought fruit cocktail. My sister loved fruit cocktail as well, and we both thought the cherries were the best part. My mom usually bought a big can so we both would get our fair share of the cherries.

            I think the Apostle Paul must have liked fruit cocktail as well. Because in just a moment he will talk about different types of fruit … the fruit of the Spirit … and we are going to get to that next.  I know it’s a stretch, but if the fruit of the Spirit can be compared to fruit cocktail, then the Holy Spirit has to be the cherry. For my sister and me, the the cherry was the most delicious piece of fruit in all the cocktail. In one sense, at least, the Holy Spirit is the sweetest part of God’s plan for us.

            That is to say, we aren’t in this alone. We have someone who helps us out. I love what Maxie Dunham, the former editor of the publication The Upper Room had to say about this matter. Here are his words … and if you watch cop shows, you may appreciate the image.


            There’s nothing more demeaning for most people than being apprehended from the pulpit and charged with the crime of not loving enough, not being gentle or kind enough, not suffering long enough, without having our rights read to us reminding us that God only requires from us what God is willing to do through us.


            We are to be more loving, yes, but remember we have help doing this. We are to be gentler, yes, and the Holy Spirit is reminding us to do that. We are to be kinder, yes, and the Holy Spirit is nudging us in that direction.

            I think of a recent confession from a pastor. He was hospitalized. At four o’clock in the morning they came into his hospital room to get the trash cans. He said they beat them like drums, waking him up. Then at five o’clock they came into his room to take his vital signs. He also happened to get a room with a person whom he believed snored the loudest of any human being on earth. He then went on to say, that when he was about to lash out something popped into his mind. He heard a voice in his head saying, “But you made a commitment. You made a commitment that you would try to practice random acts of kindness.” So, instead of lashing out he found himself taking a deep breath and trying to go with the flow of the day.

            Who caused that to surface? His building buddy. The Holy Spirit.

            Third, Paul specifies some of the materials he wants us to use as we go about building a significant life in Christ. Verse 22 …


            By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


            Sarah Jo Sarchet was a p astor in Chicago. A 10 year-old boy in her congregation, named Cameron, walked into her office and said he needed to talk to her.

Fresh from soccer practice, and wearing his Cincinnati Reds baseball cap, he had a request for her.  He said, "We were learning about Jesus' baptism in Sunday School and the teacher asked the class, ‘Who has been baptized,’ and all the other kids raised their hands.  And I want to be baptized too."

            Using her best pastoral tone of voice, she asked, "Cameron, do you want to be baptized just because everyone else is?"

            He looked up at her and replied, "No. I want to be baptized because it means I belong to God."

            She was touched by his understanding and said,  "Well, then, how about next Sunday?"

            His smile turned to concern and he asked,"Do I have to be baptized in front of all those people in the church? Can't I just have a friend baptize me in the river?"

            She asked where he came up with that idea.

            Well,” he said, “Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in a river, wasn't he?"

            Caught off guard, she conceded, "You have a point. But, if a friend baptized you in the river, how would the church recognize it?"

            Realizing this was a teachable moment, she climbed up on her foot stool to reach for her Book of Order that was located on the highest shelf. But before she placed her hand on the book, he responded, ”By my new way of life.”

            She nearly fell off the foot stool and she left the Book of Order on the shelf.                      Cameron's understanding was far from childish. It was profound.

            “They will know it by my new way of life!

            They will know it by a life constructed by the best of building materials: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

            Do we want to build a significant life in Christ? If so, let our building buddy choose the best materials for the job, and heed the nudges he gives us on a daily basis.