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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + October 5, 2016

Galatians 6:2-10
Luke 6:46-7:1

Galatians 6:2-10 (NKJV)
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Luke 6:46-7:1 (NKJV)
The Lord said, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great." Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.

Commentary 

Many people struggle in life to to understand their life's purpose. We want to see our life as a story, which has a beginning and an end, but more importantly, has a goal and a meaning. We begin in one place and we want to end in another. We want our day to day struggles and difficulties, our suffering and our work, our joys and our happiness, to all be steps leading to somewhere or something that we will one day be able to look back upon, and feel that those sufferings and struggles and difficulties were worthwhile. We want to feel like we're working toward something, or working to achieve something, that will explain that which we don't understand about our lives, and provide our life with a shape and a contour. We want to see how our day to day decisions and efforts, successes and failures are leading up to something; are getting us somewhere.

Despite this desire, just what this purpose is or what the goal is toward which we are progressing is often difficult to see. Perhaps we work every day at a job that we don't particularly enjoy in order to provide money to pay bills, which give us nothing but stress, and acquire things that we don't really want or need, and which don't produce the happiness that we had hoped they would when we got them. Life all too often looks not like a through-line, leading from one place to another, but like an endless circle leading nowhere, in which we are trapped because we don't know any other way in which to live. While we can't deny that life has a beginning and an end in time, it seems less like a story and more like an endless succession of meaningless episodes, all too many of them unpleasant.

In today's Gospel reading, our Lord tells us how to escape this seemingly endless cycle. He has already taught us that the road of our life is leading toward the Kingdom of God. Our life leads us not to the grave, as an end, but through the grave, and into the world to come. The means of successfully walking this road, of navigating our way through our life in this world, are the commandments which Christ has given us. As we follow His teaching, as we love God and our neighbor, as we serve humbly, as we give thanks for and share everything which God has given to us, we make our way down this road that leads to eternal life.

As Jesus points out, however, this is not merely an intellectual exercise. Many people call Him, "Lord" but do not do what He says. Checking 'True' on a list of Christian dogmas is not enough. Merely accepting that Christ is the King of His Kingdom is not enough. All of these things which we believe about Christ, as St. James points out in his epistle, are not only believed but known by the devil and his demons. True faith, however, real belief produces actions. If we truly believe that Christ is the King of the age to come, then this belief will shape every choice we make from day to day regarding how to live our life with those around us, before God, and in reckoning with our own conscience. To truly believe in Christ, to truly have Him as your Lord, is to do what He says, and to follow His teaching.

When our faith in our life's goal, eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth, begins to shape the decisions we make every day, then it also gives those decisions meaning. Every one of those decisions, either good or bad, represents a potential step down the path leading to life, or a setback in working toward that goal. The extra dollar or two that we leave to an underpaid waiter, the cup of coffee we buy for a stranger, the kind word we bestow upon a person who is scared or suffering, all of these simple actions become infinitely meaningful, because they bear witness to, and draw us ever closer, the Kingdom.

St. Paul, in today's epistle reading, uses another example to make for us the same point. He speaks using the analogy of planting and harvest. Everything we do, the Apostle tells us, is sewing seed, and the seeds which we sew through what we do and the choices we make will, in time, bear fruit and there will be a harvest. Each of us will reap what we have sewn, whether that be corruption, or whether that be everlasting life. Further, St. Paul reminds us that for the farmer to reap the fruits of his labors, he must continue his labor through until the harvest without growing weary or giving up. So too, we are prone to grow weary in doing good. We seek to follow Christ and live by His Spirit, but because the harvest still appears to be so far off, and because we are not yet seeing the fruits of what we have done, we are tempted to give up. As St. Paul tells us, if we struggle on, we will reap our reward if we do not lose heart.

Today's readings from Holy Scripture offer to each of us the same assurance that St. Paul had in the face of overwhelming suffering and adversity. When we choose to follow Christ, by keeping His commandments, every decision that we make in following him becomes meaningful, in that it becomes a step, an episode in the story of our journey from this world to the Kingdom. Our hardships and suffering, no matter how severe, rather than meaningless pain, become hardships faced on the way to somewhere better. The fire that burns becomes the fire that purifies us in burning away those things about us which would hold us back and hinder us on our journey. Every chapter of our life, whether joyous or difficult, filled with blessings or with sufferings, becomes another passage on the journey to fullness, wholeness, and an eternity spent within the Love of God.

Questions to Ponder

  1. St. Paul, in today's epistle reading, tells us both to bear one another's burdens, and that each one should bear his own load. This might seem contradictory at first. What St. Paul is communicating to us, however, is that each of us is responsible for our own business and taking care of ourselves. Some of us will have the privilege from God of having enough to take care of our own families and affairs and also be able to help others, and we should do so. But no one should be irresponsible regarding their own affairs and expect the community to support them. Do you do what you can to manage your own affairs and family, or do you rely on others? Do you manage those affairs well so that you are able to give to the Church and help others at the end of the day? Do you use the blessings that God has given you beyond what you need to bless others, or do you use them selfishly?
  2. Again and again, including in today's Gospel reading, Christ points out that there is a difference between hearing His words, and doing what He says. The first part, just the hearing, has little value in the end, but the second part, the doing of the commandments, transforms us as people, and has infinite value. On Sunday mornings, and other times in worship and prayer, we call Jesus our Lord, outside of those times, do you do what he teaches? Are you aware of, and do you think about what our Lord has commanded us when making decisions about your life? Do you spend time in the Scriptures and in worship so that you know what it is that He would have you do? When thinking about your life, do you seek to shape it in order to follow Christ, or do you do and pursue what you want, and then attempt to justify it after the fact?
  3. In today's Gospel reading, Christ teaches us that following Him will give us the strength and resilience to be able to weather life's storms and the world's attacks. He does not say that following Him will cause us to have peaceful times, ease of life, or material blessings. The hardships of life befall each one of us in different ways at different times. The question is whether or not we will be prepared for them, based on the foundation we've chosen to build our lives upon. How do you respond when life becomes difficult and you're faced with pain and suffering? Do you find reserves of strength that you might not have known you had because you're clear about where your life is going and its purpose? Or do you wrestle with confusion and despair because you aren't clear about what your life is about or what you are pursuing? Repentance offers us the chance to clear away whatever is lacking and start again, to rebuild on the foundation of following Christ, seeking His Kingdom, and working to fulfill His commandments.

Questions or Comments? FrStephen@stgeorgecharleston.org

Note from the Author – No rights reserved. If you find anything good, or helpful, or worthwhile in these Bible studies from week to week, feel free to take and use it as you see fit. I do not need credit.


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