Order of Worship | Galatians 6.7-16


It’s an honor to be part of your Summer Sabbath series, this intentional time of rest and re-creation. Sabbath reminds us that God’s work in the world is more important than our work. To practice Sabbath is to admit that the world will do fine, and God’s work will be fine without us if we rest for a day. Which means we opt for and align with the God of rest when we see ourselves not as doers of God’s work, which eventually leads to exhaustion, but as participants in God’s work, which generates life and hope.

In her book “Unfettered,” Pastor Mandy Smith writes, “Western culture is built on the assumption that human agency is the hope of the world. While this premise seems empowering, it actually leads to oppression, depression, anxiety, and burnout.” She then page after page gives witness to participating in God’s work from a place of Sabbath rest.

Paul puts it this way in v15: “A new creation is everything!” Human agency cannot bring about new creation, either in ourselves or in the world. From start to finish it’s a work of God. God birthed new creation in raising Jesus from the dead. We become a new creation when we receive Jesus by faith. Then through faithful service we participate in God’s larger work of furthering the new creation, until the day when Jesus finishes the new creation and makes all things new, and war, suffering, and hunger will be no more, and all will be as God wills it to be.

Some folks in the Galatian churches have stopped believing God’s work matters most. When Paul leaves town after establishing these churches, rival Missionaries arrive and say that believing in Jesus is not enough; they must also follow all the Jewish customs around dietary restrictions, festivals, and male circumcision.

Paul is not opposed to these things; he’s opposed to them being requirements everyone must follow. So, he says in v15, “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” Like us, they prefer work they can see with their eyes over Jesus’ work that’s often visible only with the imaginative eyes of our hearts.

When our boys were young, our family spent a week at Jellystone Campground just outside of Marion, in the NC mountains, staying not in the campground but in the air conditioned cabins that overlooked the campground. We had a blast.

Every afternoon, the son of the camp’s owners gathered all the children for games on the field, just beside the lake in the middle of the campground. He was a college student, a soccer player, with a very high opinion of himself. He would play soccer against all the children, one young adult versus 20 kids. As you can imagine, the game was quite chaotic. One afternoon a child accidentally kicked the ball into the lake. There was stunned silence as we watched the ball slowly drift farther and farther from shore.

As the college student got into a canoe to go and retrieve the ball, our 3 year old son Thomas yelled, “Somebody call Jesus! He can walk on water and get the ball!” Thomas has since learned that Jesus is not physically at our beck and call to help us. But I hope he never loses the imaginative sense of Jesus’ very real and very active presence in the world.

God’s work matters most. But we do have a role to play in our own growth and in the new creation’s growth in the world. Other parts of our passage give glimpses of what our participation looks like.

V7’s warning against mocking God, against sowing to the flesh, is intended for those who deny new creation is everything by insisting on the circumcision of the flesh. They are saying to God that what you have done in Christ is not enough. Such mocking will not go unnoticed, Paul warns. They will reap what they sow.

Instead v8 says, “if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” Many scholars think “eternal life” here refers to the resurrection of the body when we will be raised with Christ to serve in the new creation.

We sow to the Spirit by opening ourselves to the Spirit’s work in and through us. The central place where we sow to the Spirit is right here on Sunday morning as we gather in person and online. As we sing together, pray together, laugh together, hear God’s word read and proclaimed together, eat the bread and drink the cup together, we are sowing to the Spirit. In worship the Spirit gets a foothold in our lives and in our congregation from which to nurture the fruit of the Spirit throughout the week. Then we embrace daily personal times of stillness before God and stillness before the Scriptures, Jesus tends our souls as we sow to the Spirit.

As we sow to the Spirit in worship together and in stillness alone before God, the Spirit sends us out to participate in God’s new creation work in the world. Skip over to the beginning of v10, which says, “So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all.”

Huntington, WV, is at the center of the opioid epidemic. On our first day in the office 6 years ago, 26 people overdosed in a 2-hour period as a bad batch of heroin made its way through town. We had plenty of opportunity to do much needed good, but how?

The Spirit gave our missions committee chairperson a great idea. There’s a 120-bed residential facility in our town for men struggling with addiction. The program’s first phase is a 30-day boot camp where every second of the day is regimented. She asked, “What if we gave these guys a break one Sunday night a month, brought homemade desserts, played games with them, listened and prayed for them?” And we did.

It’s the most amazing work of God I’ve ever been part of. I’ll never forget watching a senior adult woman from our church, sitting with a man who had tattoos on every unclothed inch of his body, telling his story and weeping as she gently held and stroked his hand.

Last Sunday night, for 45 minutes I proved that a preacher who learned how to play cards in college could hang with three guys who learned how to play cards in prison! Then I made a fatal mistake and played the one card that I shouldn’t have played, allowing Martin to win the game. Martin and Frank left the table to go outside and smoke, but Josh stayed, and Josh told me his story of pain, sin, mistakes, and facing the consequences of those mistakes. I said Jesus forgives you, he gives you a new start, he can make you a new creation.

The woman who was holding the tattooed man’s hand, and me, as I talked with Josh; we were not taking Jesus to where he was not, we were joining him where he already was, participating in his new creation work at the Recovery Point Center of Huntington, WV.

First Baptist does so many amazing things in our community. Where is God calling you to serve? How is God calling you to join in?


V10 says work for good “especially to those of the family of faith.” It’s not that we’re supposed to care for our sisters and brothers in church more than our neighbors. When we give special care to each other it strengthens our love for neighbors. First Baptist, keep doing good for each other. Keep teaching your children the stories of Jesus so that they can imagine Jesus walking on water to get a soccer ball!

My fifth grade Sunday School teacher was Mr. Brady. If Mr. Brady was your teacher or if he taught your children or grandchildren, please raise your hand. . . What an amazing example of loving our children he has been for us.

Keep caring for each other when people battle illness, like you’re caring for my parents right now. Keep singing and singing so that the Spirit can get more of a foothold in your lives and in your church every Sunday morning. Do good to all, especially in the household of faith.

Back to v9, which says, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” If doing God’s work in the world is up to us, we will get deeply weary. If we remember God is at work making things right in Greensboro and will one day make all things new, we’ll have energy to keep doing what is right day after day, for a lifetime. Notice Paul says we guard against weariness by remembering harvest time, meaning the day when God’s new creation will be fully revealed, and all will be as God intends it to be.

New creation is everything, now and in the future. It’s not hope in human progress that keeps us doing what is right, it’s the hope that one day God will finish the new creation birthed at the resurrection 2,000 years ago. It’s this hope that keeps us loving, serving, doing what is right for the common good of all, all the days of our lives.

When I think of people who never tired of doing what is right, I think of Al Lineberry, Sr., a longtime member of First Baptist Church. He was kind to me as a child and a teenager, but it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I learned of his important role in the civil rights movement. Duke historian tells the story in his book, “Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, NC, and the Black Struggle for Freedom.” I read about people I knew who did great things I had no idea about.

In the early 1970s, Greensboro had not yet fully complied with the 1954 Brown Vs. Board of Education ruling that integrated public schools. Mr. Lineberry was chair of the school board and worked closely with leaders in the black and white communities to produce a plan to make it happen.  During the summer before the integration plan was put into place, Mr. Lineberry spoke to 111 meetings promoting the plan, answering questions, listening, listening.

111 meetings in less than three months. I’m guessing that would make even the strongest among us weary. But not when you follow the one in whose resurrection the new creation was birthed, the one who tends the new creation even now through the Holy Spirit, the one who will one day finish the new creation and make all things new.

Chafe quotes a city leader who said, “The first thing to know about Lineberry, is that he is a Christian.” Then Chafe writes, “Deeply committed to acting on his faith 24 hours a day, Lineberry saw his task of leadership and reconciliation as a religious mission.” He was participating in God’s larger work of new creation.

Our work is not everything, new creation is everything. Our resources, our talents, our history, as wonderful as all these things are at FBC Greensboro, are not everything. New creation is everything. And we are called to participate with Jesus in his new creation work.

So come to the table and receive nourishment to participate in God’s new creation work in you and through you. Come to the table First Baptist, and receive nourishment to participate in God’s new creation work in us and through us. Come to the table that reminds us that the new creation birthed through