Boasting the Cross of Christ (07/07/13)

Galatians 6:11-16
11See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

An Army kid was boasting about his father to a Navy kid.
“My dad is an engineer. He can do everything. Do you know the Alps?”
“Yes,” said the Navy brat.
“My dad has built them.”
Then the navy kid spoke: “And do you know the Dead Sea?”
The army kid answered. “Yes.”
The Navy kid said, “My dad killed it!”

Children are often boasting about their fathers or mothers to their friends. For them, their father and mothers are someone they are proud of. My son is always proud of me.
During our lives, we have many things to boast about. We boast about our family stories. We boast about our own achievements. We boast about various gifts.
I have a question for you. Is Boasting good or bad? Sometimes, we think it is not good. What do you think? Today, we will talk about “boasting,” not in a negative way but a positive way because I believe that boasting is also God’s gift to us.

Let us start with our history. Last Thursday, we celebrated the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, the continental congress declared the 13 British Colonies in America to be free and independent states. The lofty idealism expressed in this document must have seemed a boast to those in power across the waters. For Patrick Henry, who declared that “there is a just God who presides over the destiny of nations,” and Thomas Jefferson, who declared that their inalienable rights “are endowed by their Creator,” their nation was something to be proud of with their whole heart and mind. Who would have guessed that a small and fragile people could survive against the forces of the strongest nation on earth? But “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence and in a spirit of confidence in God, they declared their independence and America was born. For a small and fragile people, the United States of America was the one to claim their boast to the world.

Many centuries earlier, there was another group that boasted about what happened to them. They were a small group of fishermen and peasants, followers of a carpenter, named Jesus. They claimed that Jesus crucified on a cross, had risen from the dead, and was indeed the Son of God, the Savior of the world. They claimed their faith despite persecution and martyrdom. One of the followers of Jesus, Paul, wrote to a band of Christians in Galatia as follows,
“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This word is very strange. We know that the early church community was composed of the people who boasted the cross of Jesus. They all knew the meaning of being crucified on a cross. It was one of the most painful and disgraceful  methods of punishment. Jesus was nailed to a cross and became the brunt of cruel jokes. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” They wrote in mockery on a placard and nailed it to the cross. It was disgraceful. It was a symbol of death and defeat. Nevertheless, they had only two reasons to boast in their lives: Jesus and his cross.

About three centuries later, when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great ruled Rome, this small group became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Since then, the cross has been the symbol of “love, peace, and grace.”

Since Jesus was crucified on the cross, the cross has become the one for us to boast during our lives. Paul became a missionary to the world when he met the Christ of the cross. St. Augustine the intellectual skeptic became the devout theologian and leader of the Church when he met the Christ of the cross. Martin Luther, John Wesley and many other people were transformed by the power of the cross.

I have also had the experience of the cross of Christ. Let me share with you the experience.
When I was a high school student, I was a very good basketball player. I was the captain and I wanted to play professionally. So, I spent most of my time practicing basketball.
However, when I was full of the dream and passion of being a professional basketball player, I got a serious back injury. I couldn’t move myself because of the back pain. I had to give up my dream. Have you had any experience that you lost a thing, which is very precious as much as your own life? Basketball was my life and I lost it. It was very terrible. I was supposed to play at a basketball court but I was lying in bed. I was supposed to play basketball but was only watching the game. It was very sorrowful and lonely. Even though I was very young, I thought I lost everything. The only thing that I could do was to cry out to God, kneeling under the cross, where I felt most consoled.
Every day, I went to the church and kneeled under the cross and prayed. As time went by, I began to feel that God came to me and healed my wounds. Thanks to God’s grace, I began to experience a growing relationship with Jesus Christ in my life. I realized God’s embracing presence with me, which made me feel that I was no longer alone. Then, a few months later, I was baptized and I became a part of the body of Christ. I lost my dream to be a basketball player but I got a new dream to be a disciple of Christ. After the experience, the cross has been the one for me to boast because I realized that the cross meant Jesus’ love and grace.
We all are the people gathered under the cross. This cross is a special gift for all people. We should be able to boast about this gift to others. This is a way we live as Christians before God. The cross of Christ significantly matters.

Recently, I have had one more thing to boast about: the Chilmark Community Church. For the last 7 months, I have experienced how you have respectfully served this church and community. I have seen your love and passion. Three weeks ago at the New England Annual Conference, I met many pastors and talked with them. I remember that I was the only one who boasted about my church and congregation. Also, there was an Asian Committee meeting. There were almost thirty people gathered. In the meeting, I was the only one who boasted about our church. They might have something to boast about for their church. But still, I was the only one who spoke out. This church is God’s gift and I boast about it to others.

Let me wrap up today’s sermon. During our lives, we have many things to boast about. You can boast about what you have and have achieved. I think this is fine. But I pray you to boast about this one most important thing: the cross of Christ. The cross has changed our world and our lives. It is one of the most important gifts for us today. In addition, always remember and boast about our church because it is also a special gift given to us.

Let us pray.
Faithful God, thank you for your words and presence with us today. We worship and praise you with our whole hearts. Now help us keep the faith in you and bless us to boast about your name and the cross, the symbol of your love and grace, and our church as well. In your name, we pray.

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