Burdens to Carry

Message Manuscript for “Burdens Carried Here”   Galatians 1:1-16
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, July 7, 2019

Jinny and I ran the Firecracker 5K this past week on July 4.  Our kids ran in the children’s part of it a long time ago but we had not ever run it. Running a 5K in the middle of summer just isn’t one of those things you long to do. But we ran. And finished. And survived. The race was packed with people, most wearing red, white, and blue of some sort. Some were carrying flags. One guy I saw on the course, however, really stood out.  Instead of a flag, he was carrying a cross, one that was large and wooden. The only thing spiritual that entered my mind at that point was that I may be old and slow but I know I can beat that guy! After reading today’s Scripture, I’m thinking I should have helped him carry that cross.

Helping each other carry our crosses, or burdens as Paul calls them, is what we are to do for one another in the church.  “Bear one another’s burdens,” Paul writes, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” These words come at the end of his letter to the church at Galatia, parting words of direction for them as they continue to do God’s work in their city. As we looked at last week, this was a church under pressure, as some teachers had entered their church with a false gospel, one in opposition to the gospel of grace he had shared with them. The burdens of these early Christians were already prevalent, but at least they were normal in terms of what other followers of Jesus carried.  But these teachers and their message hoisted an additional, enormous burden of legalism on the backs of the members of this church who were used to walking in the complete freedom of Christ.  Paul’s concern for the weight of their load is evident in almost every word in his letter. And so he calls on them to help each other carry their burdens as they journeyed on to where God was leading them as a church.

Have you ever heard of Shrek the Sheep?  An article in Business Insider tells about him,

Shrek the sheep became famous several years ago when he was found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone having shorn (shaved) it. When he was finally found and shaved, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds – 50 lbs more than normal and enough to make twenty men’s suits.

Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece simply because he was away from his shepherd. It took a professional sheerer less than a half hour to rid him of his burden.[1]

Wow, that’s a load for one sheep to carry! That’s the kind of load that Paul saw the sheep in the flock in Galatia carried.  And it’s probably similar to one we are carrying now or have carried in the past.  How sad that Shrek didn’t have any help for so long.  And how sad that people in churches and in our community are similarly weighed down by the weight of their burdens, with no help from anyone.

We are to be the kind of church who shares one another’s burdens. Is the church of today defined by its members who carry one another’s burdens or by how it hoists unnecessary and unhealthy burdens onto the backs of people? Are people in the church of today even paying attention to the burdens others are carrying or are we too busy doing church to notice? Do white Christians see the burden black Christians carry? Do couples who parent see the burden single parents carry? Do rich Christians understand the burdens of the poor and are poor Christians aware of the burdens of the rich? Is the church hoisting a burden on the backs of LGBTQ members and people in its sphere of influence or letting the gospel of grace free them up to live and serve as full members in the body of Christ? How about people with disabilities? Is the church of today aware of the burdens they carry and, if so, what is it doing to help them carry them? These are important questions we should be asking ourselves when it comes to burdens, for we must see them before we can ever help carry them.

Once we see them, we do what is necessary to help each other carry them. That begins with listening, asking a sister or brother how we can help and where and how to lend a hand.  We help carry each other’s burdens when we stop talking about the burden and how it got there. We help each other carry burdens when we take time in the day to text or call someone to check on them. We help carry each other’s burdens when we provide a meal, a hug, a ride, a dollar, or a smile. We help carry a burden for another when we help restore them when they’ve fallen down, reminding them that they still belong.  We help with one another’s burdens when we look for or create ways that keep them from getting their burdens.  The list of ways can go on and it’s up to you and me to expand it right here in our church, with the burdens we brought with us here this morning.

I began this sermon with a story about a race and a man who carried his burden alone.  I’d like to end it with one about another race and how it was run the right way.  It is from Joni Erickson Tada, the president of JET ministries, a ministry which aims to serve the disabled. She is herself a quadriplegic. A few years ago at the Los Angeles Special Olympics, she was watching her husband Ken, the coordinator for track and field events, and the participants prepare for the 50 metres running race.

The starter’s gun fired and off the contestants raced. As they rushed toward the finish line one boy left the track and started running toward his friends standing in the infield. Ken blew his whistle, trying to get the boy to come back to the track, but all to no avail.

Then one of the other competitors noticed, a down syndrome girl with thick bottle glasses. She stopped just short of the finish line and called out to the boy, “Stop, come back, this is the way.”  Hearing the voice of her friend the boy stopped and looked. “Come back, this is the way” she called. The boy stood there, confused. His friend, realising he was confused, left the track and ran over to him. She linked arms with him and together they ran back to the track and finished the race. They were the last to cross the line, but were greeted by hugs from their fellow competitors and a standing ovation from the crowd.

The downs syndrome girl with the bottle glasses taught everyone present that day an important life lesson, that it’s important to take time out form our own goals in life to help others find their way.[2]

That’s what we are to do as a church—to care enough about each other to share each other’s burdens and, in doing so, help each other find our way together.

[2] Reported in Joni Erickson Tada, “It’s Called Unity”, found at joniandfriends.org, found on https://storiesforpreaching.com/

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