Galatians 5_13-25 Holy Ghosting
How here has had a go at the growing sport of ghosting? Who even knows what it is? Well let me give a demonstration! (get someone from the congregation to walk around in the church. I follow as close as possible, moving in the exact way as they do, following each step) The idea of this ‘sport’ is to keep instep with someone else; to walk as they do and become and to act exactly in the way they do. So much so, that they do not even know you are behind them! In other words, there are two people, but due to the ‘ghosting’ there is only one action. You could say you are walking in another person’s shoes.
Surprisingly, this ‘sport’ is not new. It has been around for centuries. Well, may be not in the same form, but the idea of walking in the way of, or keeping in step with someone, has been used by St Paul in his letter to the people of Galatia. Rather than ‘ghosting’, Paul calls our new life of freedom in Christ or of discipleship ‘Holy Ghosting’. Three times in just a few sentences he calls for believes to enter into the sport of ‘Holy Ghosting’, saying ‘, live by the Spirit…and again ‘you are led by the Spirit,’ and finally ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’ Keeping instep with the Spirit is to be ‘Holy Ghosting’.
Why would he ask us to do such a thing? Did you even know that there is more to your faith than faith; that God, through the exhortations of St Paul, actually asks something of us? Paul, who is THE teacher on the sufficiency of being saved by grace alone, penning such memorable texts like, ‘For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last’ and ‘it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–, so that no one can boast,’ also penned strict training rules regarding our life of Holy Ghosting, commanding us to stay clear of things like ‘hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy and drunkenness, warning that ‘those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’
Perhaps Paul accidentally contradicted himself, beginning this passage with ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ Then, in a seniors moment, put us under the yoke of slavery ending with ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’
As much as we would like to think so and even hope so, after all, who hasn’t been jealous, hatred or caused dissension, Paul has not contradicted himself; he did not have a seniors moment. Freedom is not a license. Christ did not suffer and die to free us to be the people we want to be. He died to redeem us from ourselves; to save us from our body of death, which walks in sin, and is out of step with God and in step with the devil; he died so that we are free to enter heaven.
While it is true, that we are indeed free, saved by grace alone, sadly, we often take this freedom to mean license. Paul calls us to be in step with the Spirit because we often fail to understand grace, that by faith alone we are saved and that the law has no control over us. When we hear this good news our natural response is to use this freedom from the law as a license to live as we please. We take it to mean that no one, not even the pastor, not parents, not society, not even God’s word, can have jurisdiction or authority over us.
We are told and tell ourselves that we are capable of making right choices; that the individual can achieve anything, be anything, partake and enjoy anything and everything. The evidence is everywhere. We are in an individual world; an iworld, where i am the only one that matters. Perhaps the next big thing will be ichurch, available on our ipods, where you chose from a list of ireligions, then scroll down to chose isermons, isongs, and ibible verses, and if we don’t like what we hear, we simply cut and paste in what we do like!
When we learnt to drive, we had a competent instructor, guiding and advising us on how best to drive safely and according to the rules. We followed every step of the instructor; we ghosted him, learning to follow, act and drive exactly like him. When we passed our final driving test, we were then free to drive on our own. We are free to drive however we like and wherever we like, but are we really free?
No, we continue to ghost the instructor, mimicking and mirroring what he taught us, driving in step with him, as if he were still there. We know that with freedom comes responsibility, with freedom there are boundaries. We know that to step out of line, to be out of step with the instructors commands and cut and paste in our own ideas would mean we lose our license or worse, we may even be killed or kill some else.
The same scenario applies to our salvation. We have freedom in Christ, but this freedom came at a great cost and with this freedom comes a responsibility. On the cross Jesus said ‘it is finished’, meaning, by his blood he put an end of the law’s demand. The law has been fulfilled in Jesus’ death, so has no jurisdiction over us…we are free, as St Paul says “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is the good news announcement, that Jesus has set us free from any obligation to keep the law. We trust this to be so, or by faith alone we take hold of this freedom. The role of the church is to announce the gospel and to administer or freely give out this gift of eternal life. Just as our freedom to drive comes with responsibility, our freedom in Christ also comes with responsibility. The Spirit enlightens us to this responsibility through God’s word and then empowers us to live it.
Keeping in step with the Spirit, ‘Holy Ghosting’, means we practice, train and teach ourselves in the art of ‘Holy Ghosting’, growing in the actions of the Spirit, mimicking and mirroring the Spirit as we grow in the knowledge of our freedom through word and sacrament, rather than following in the steps of sin, which will once again lead to hell.
And to be ‘Holy Ghosting’ is to be following in the very steps and actions of the Spirit. St Paul means for us to live in conformity, in sequence, in step with, or walking in the shoes of the Holy Spirit, as if we were one person and not two; ‘Holy Ghosting’, being in step with the Spirit, is our duty, our way of discipleship and its is our Christian discipline; a sport that requires our conscious effort, regular training and continual practice. As ST Paul writes “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luther comments ‘Therefore the godly should remember that for the sake of Christ they are free in their conscience before God from the curse of the Law, from sin, and from death, but that according to the body they are bound; here each must serve the other through love, in accordance with this commandment of Paul. Therefore let everyone strive to do this duty in his calling and to help his neighbour in whatever way he can. This is what Paul requires of us with the words “through love be servants of one another,” which do not permit the saints to run free according the flesh but subject them to an obligation.’
With Christian freedom comes ‘Holy Ghosting’, the art and sport of being in step with the Spirit; walking in the shoes of the Spirit. Let’s enjoy our freedom from the law and be excited about the challenge and the privilege of training ourselves in Holy Ghosting. What other sport can we participate in where the benefit s are given to the observer rather than the competitor! After all, isn’t that what Christ did for us.