Galatians 6_7-16 Godly tension
I have a rubber band here. They are purpose made. When not stretched, they are of little value, in fact of no use at all. But when stretched, they become useful. The tension of the rubber is used to hold things together. The rubber stretches and flexes around any shape to hold and bundle things together. The rubber band’s tension allows it to become the shape of a square when stretched around a box, rectangular when stretched over envelopes, or round when slipped over a roll of papers. The rubber band, in and of itself is useless, but when stretched, the tension it develops has 1,000’s of good uses.
(stretching out the rubber band). However, we can also use the rubber band’s tension for bad. We can stretch it beyond its capabilities and what? Yes! It snaps. We can also use the rubber band to inflict pain and injury, when we stretch it on our finger and flick it: who hasn’t done that! Worse, we can make a sling shot and really cause damage. Tension is good, but when we use it in the wrong way, or stretch it too far, we turn good into bad.
Our lives are very similar to the rubber band. God created us with tension; to be useful; to be good and do good things toward others. To be of service to God through serving each other, to love and cherish each other and to nurture and care for creation, as written in Genesis ‘God blessed Adam and Eve and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ We live with this good tension every day, and we even express how our day is going in terms of tension: ‘I’m a bit stretched at the moment, I feel tense, I’ll spring back!’
Depending on what is happening to us, what decisions we’ve made, who we are around and what we are currently doing, our tension changes. Like the rubber band that changes shape and intensity of tension, depending on what it’s stretched around, our tension changes depending on our situation, our thoughts and our actions, this is good godly tension.
(DEMONSTRATE) Like I said earlier, we were created to do good works, as St Paul emphasizes, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, (that is, let’s not lose our tension) for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.’ Doing good for others, living the command ‘Love God first, love your neighbour as yourself,’ or living by the Spirit, keeps you at the right healthy tension and within your created stretch. The encouragement and promise is there “the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Sin, however, is to use our tension, our lives, for bad, like when we overstretch or fling a rubber band; to either over stretch ourselves or use our tension to inflict suffering upon another person. We overstretch ourselves when we over step the mark, go beyond God’s commands; when we transgress our conscience, or go against what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or, as the scriptures say ‘smother the spirit.’ We become over stretched slowly over time. It is not an instant thing. The thoughts and desires of our sinful nature lead us to words, which lead us to deed, the snapping point, where there is no turning back; once we have put our sinful thoughts into action, we have gone beyond our created tension, thus causing a breakage, where there is no tension to recoil us back to the way we were before. Sin breaks our relationship with God and with others.
We can also use our over tension to inflict pain upon others. Rather than snapping, we stretch ourselves to the point where we ‘go off’, fly off the handle, hitting out at someone, especially someone close to us; we become a slingshot. Built up bitterness, rage and frustration stretch and stretch our lives, until finally we load our tension with a plan to withhold our love or even fire words and actions of hate. The impact of such a quick release of our tension is just as devastating for our relationship with God and others, as overstretching ourselves until we snap. St Paul warns “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.”
So, if I were to stretch this rubber band, at what point would you say the tension is at in your life: (STRETCHING RUBBER BAND) here, here, here? (RELEASE) Are you the one, as St Paul says “ who sows to please the Spirit, reaping eternal life?” living within a good tension, or are you overstretched…are you about to snap…or go off, “reaping destruction?” For most of us, our life will constantly cycle of good and bad tension; from tense to intense to snapping, only to start again over and over.
It doesn’t matter where on this scale you may currently find yourself; It doesn’t matter that you may be about to snap or you are over stretched, how long you have been cycling between good and bad, there is a pressure release for you. There is one man, one redeemer, one name above all names, who has already deliberately and permanently took upon himself our over stretched lives; our sinful nature, our judgment and death and conquered it, putting an end to our destruction . Jesus, on the cross, with each nail and blow, each wound and thorn, defused the power of sin over our lives. There on the cross, the full power of evil tension was unleashed upon Jesus in our place.
(DEMONSTRATE) Slowly, over the six hours Jesus endured the agony of the cross, the power of sin, that over stretched our lives, was released; the tension went into Jesus body, and there it remained until his death and there it was buried with him forever. Then Jesus was raised by the Father to give us new life, without controlling evil.
Jesus’ death brings us back into a normal, God purposed life. A life that is no longer over stretched, but now has flexibility, elasticity and able to recoil God’s love for us into serving and loving our neighbour. We are able to be flexed and stretched in godly ways by the Spirit, given to us in our baptism, to serve and mission to those around us, as St Paul encourages us to do ‘the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’ The cross Jesus endured, and the victory he won over sin and death, and the ongoing power of the Spirit, gives us a new way of seeing and experiencing our life. The cycle of overstretching and snapping is replaced with a cycle of confession and forgiveness, love and service. That is why Paul rejoices saying “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Today, we rejoice as seven girls, Rahel, Rachael, Anna, Georgina, Ellie, Miriam, and Tabitha, will publically boast in the cross of their Lord Jesus Christ. Today girls, you are confessing that Jesus is the only name through whom you find release and freedom from the destruction that comes through sin. We want to join with you in sharing in Christ’s victory over sin, by hearing your confession of your faith in the Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. We want to encourage you to continually trust in the cross of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, to release you when you are hit by the inevitable stretching times in your life. We pray that, having faith, your life can and does have purpose and meaning, because of what Jesus has done for you; That you continue to be flexed and stretched by the Spirit in a godly way, through the word and sacraments, so that you boast only in the cross of Christ and recoil his love for you, by loving your neighbour.