Trinity 15 – Galatians 5:25-6:10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Who do you think you are? The word Saint Paul uses for people like you is κενόδοξοι, those who desire of vainglory. Vainglory is a word we don’t use all that often. It means “excessive elation or pride over one’s own achievements, abilities, etc., boastful vanity, empty pomp or show”. Vainglory is to strut around and boast about all the wonderful things you say and do. Vainglory is desiring to be liked and doing whatever it takes to be liked by everyone.

Vainglory takes many forms. Vainglorious people can be pompous, even arrogant to the point of being a snob’s snob. Vainglory also can take the form of false humility. You try so hard to be humble that your humility becomes pride. It’s reverse snobbery of a sort. You know it when you see it, and you often see it in yourself.

Another word for vainglory is “conceited”. My mother says my father was the most conceited man she ever met when they dated. Almost 62 years later, they are still together…and dad can still turn on the conceit when necessary. So can you. I can too. Saint Paul says that sort of spirit is provoking one another, envying one another. This is neither living by the Spirit nor walking by the Spirit.

Last week we heard what it means to live by the Spirit. This week, Saint Paul takes up walking by the Spirit when he says bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Walking outside the Spirit by boasting in self is conceit, vainglory. You may not see it, but your neighbor sees it. Your neighbor cannot stand it when the only burden you want to bear is your own burden, and you hope that your neighbor will bear it instead of you. Perhaps that’s why people so easily talk about all their aches and pains. Maybe you’ll feel sorry for them and bear their burden.

You don’t think much about it, but step back for a moment and think about it. Does anyone really want to hear all your complaining about aches, pains, and life in general? Sure, it makes for good conversation around coffee. But if you’re always talking about your problems and hoping someone else will take care of them, maybe it’s time you listened to someone else’s problems for once and help them bear their burdens. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Back to the question again: Who do you think you are? You are nothing in the grand scheme of life. You are a hand full of sand. You are sound and fury signifying nothing. You are unable to save yourself from everlasting death, let alone able to fulfill the law of Christ. You are dead in trespasses and sins. You grow weary of doing good because no one seems to appreciate the good you do. Your vainglory, your conceit, is not good. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter five: Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. It starts with repentance, turning away from vainglory, and returning to a gracious and merciful God Who is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love. That’s how walking in the Spirit begins…repentance. From repentance flows faith in Jesus Christ, Who alone fulfills the Law, even His own law that you are given to fulfill.

But that doesn’t make sense. If only Jesus can fulfill the law of Christ, why does Saint Paul say to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ? It makes perfect sense. Faith in Jesus Christ as fulfiller of the Law of God means that Jesus is everything for you. What Christ does in His death, He does for you. You cannot pay your own ransom for sin. Only Jesus does that with His blood and with His innocent suffering and death. But what He does, He does not do merely for Himself. He does it for you, in your place.

What Christ does in the Spirit, He does in you. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, and the Holy Spirit always go together. The Word is not an amorphous blob hanging out there in hammerspace, waiting to be grabbed and used when needed. The Word and the Spirit are concrete, tangible things. They are put in preaching, in baptism, in the Supper, and in Absolution. These Gifts are put inside you. Christ is in you, and you are in Christ. When you bear your neighbor’s burdens, whether or not your neighbor is of the household of faith, you fulfill the law of Christ. It is not you who fulfills the law of Christ, but Christ Himself dwelling in you Who fulfills it.

There is no need for vainglory, for Christ in you, the hope of glory, is the One Who bears your neighbor’s burdens. Who do you think you are? You are a person for whom Christ died. You are washed, sanctified by water and the Spirit. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are free from sin and death because of Jesus. You live not for your own self, but for your neighbor, that he might see Christ in you as well. Let us not grow weary of doing good. Jesus never grows weary of showing Himself through you in all you say and do. You live by the Spirit, because the Spirit lives in you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: