A few bits and pieces of what was said during the sermon did break through to my consciousness. The rector tried to compare the Roman empire with America by equating the empire's love of athletics, manly behaviors, and spending more money on an army than their rivals with the current times. He went on to focus on Paul's letter to the Galatians which was one of today's readings.
"For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.Thanks to the wisdom of the RCL, some verses got cut out, including this humdinger,
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
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.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit."
12 "I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!"I was alerted when the rector got to the warnings of Paul. According to the rector those warnings about sexuality are "dated." I guess sexual morality has progressed to a higher state in today's U.S.A. Maybe that is why the local paper's birth announcements contain more unwed mothers than married couples as parents of the next generation. Maybe the high divorce rates amongst married people are also evidence of how highly evolved we are from the time of the Galatians. By failing to bring up these modern problems, I am afraid the rector glossed over a good comparison of life in the Roman empire with life today. "Dated" indeed! What an appropriate term to use in an historical contextual exegesis.
Later, he tried to salvage the sermon by focusing on Paul's list of the fruits of the Spirit, but he ignored the fact that you have to crucify the flesh and its passions to enjoy those fruits. I guess we should be able to pick and choose which passions we believe we should enjoy and which ones we should crucify. That has all the makings of a build your own religion by taking one from column A and one from column B. This is one of the dangers of trying to weasel your way out of a pure historical exegesis. The danger is that you can rationalize a way to ignore large chunks of very good teachings. The only problem is that when you try to make your new rewritten scripture relevant to the present, you are not staying true to the historical contextual approach. You are, in fact, attempting to move beyond the restrictions that you see the Bible placing on your desires and passions. You wish to "live into" your passions when Paul tells us to crucify them. In order to continue in your charade of being a Christian, you then have to redefine the passions of the flesh. I am sorry, but they have not changed from Paul's day. They are not "dated."
So, what do people in the pews believe? We desire to believe whatever we want. Give me a little from column A and a little from column B any day. God, on the other hand, has done His best to say to us, "That does not work. Listen to me!"
What do you believe?