In 1967, I left my home in Colombia to live abroad. I was 22 years old. In those days the only way to communicate with my family and friends was through writing letters. So, I often wrote and received letters especially from my mother. My mother’s letters were long epistles that came in a thin, silky, almost transparent paper; she used blue ink, her style was formal and her calligraphy that of a model teacher: It was perfect! I loved to be surprised and looked forward to the smell of her perfume that impregnated those beautifully written pages. My mother’s letters were such a gift and such an event in my life that I always waited for the perfect moment to read them and sometimes it took a couple of hours before I would have the opportunity sit in my favorite place and begin the ritual of reading and rereading her messages. “Mi muy querida y recordada hija” I was her dearest daughter, and I was always in her thoughts. Those introductory first sweet and loving words made my heart hurt with longing for what I had left behind. What came after those loving words could be anything from happy news, complaints about her hard work, her wishes, her dreams, for all of us her eight children. My mother would always offer me the same motherly advice: “Remember always to have faith and count on God for everything” or she would strongly advise me by saying “Your marriage is your cross to bear; learn to carry it like Christ did, to teach us about obedience and humbleness”. Her words and messages stayed with me for days, and for days, I was rapt in her energy, in her urgent, eloquent, and passionate expression of her love, her convictions, and her desire for me to become like her, a model of virtue and strength.
What we just heard today from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, speaks to me with the same love, the same urgency, and the passionate and profound desire committed to sustain my faith and the love of God I felt in my mother’s letters.
Paul had previously expressed to the gentiles in Galatia that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul was arguing that it was not through strict adherence to the Jewish law of that time including dietary laws, circumcision, and observance of the Sabbath what determined inclusion in God’s covenant but through faith, faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the reading we heard today, Paul explains that until Christ came to the world the Law of Moses was there to be our custodian, like a guardian keeping us under his watch in our exercise of our free will.
That it is through Christ, God the Son among us, that God the Father reconciles all of us to Him, liberating us from the bondage of sin, guaranteeing the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us since the beginning of the human race.
That through trusting and having faith in the faith revealed in Christ Jesus, we become God’s children, Abraham’s descendants, and justified as the inheritors of eternal life.
That when we are submerged in the baptismal waters, we come out clothed in Christ and become one in Him. We become the new community where differences of race, social class, and gender disappear; we become a new community formed from all the nations of this world, Abraham’s promise fulfilled. In Paul’s own words: “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise”.
And as it appears in Genesis 22:17: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice”.
Reflecting on Paul’s message I realize that the way “I am one in Christ” is through my faith, a faith that moves me deeply and with passion, to constantly be in relationship to others in Christ. To believe that “we are one in Christ” has filled me with God’s Spirit, it has made me an instrument of His grace and with the Holy Spirit as my guide, and inspiration, I am a faithful servant with love and justice inviting women, and men, young and old regardless of their race, their ethnic origins, their sexual preference or gender to taste and see, as the song says, the goodness of the Lord. To invite them all to work in their spiritual discovery and empowerment, and to rejoice in seeing how, through the trust, and in the love of the resurrected Christ, we live in the joy of our growth, and of our own transformation as the people of God.
With deep faith, conviction, and the joy of knowing that we are one in Christ is how in Salem MA as the deacon in training within a multicultural community of Latinos from different Latin American countries and English speaking Episcopalians we have come together as one congregation. I dare to say, that we are Paul’s dream two thousand years later: a new community of faith with a variety of origins, different languages, diverse cultures, different religious backgrounds, many ways of praising God, old ways, new ways but nonetheless, all of us celebrating our oneness in Christ which transcends all differences. We are growing each day in the love of God and in the love to one another, a day at a time, learning to overcome mutual obstacles, transforming each other, while delighting in our different gifts and talents.
Tomorrow we will enter into the summer season. What a special moment to sit in our favorite places at home or wherever we find ourselves relaxed and connected to the Spirit, to reflect upon what the gift of “our oneness in Christ” has brought to our lives. I am sure that we all could write powerful epistles like my mother’s and Paul’s letters. Personally for me, the gift has been recognizing in me the gift of the joyful Spirit which resides in me, the Spirit with which I invite and make sure our brothers and sisters who live at the margins, those who are un-churched, or those rejected from their own communities of faith can find themselves embraced, nurtured and totally included. That same Spirit accompanies me in welcoming them beyond the mere doors of a church but deeply into our faith community. I invite them not only to be a part of the body of Christ, but also to discover their gifts and talents so that they can see the possibilities to become active members of the body of Christ.
I am sure that each one of you has your own testimony about the gift received. Let’s rejoice in our gifts, share them with others, invite all to join in that Spirit that is in each one of you, and let us praise the Lord for such a Grace. Amen.