See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
Galatians 6:11-18 (Epistle of the 22nd Sunday)
My son enjoys building with Legos. Actually, I do as well. We are constantly building things. Sometimes we build new things. Sometimes we even build the same things. But because we build with multi-color pieces, no two creations are ever the same. The building is done primarily on the floor of the family room. We may leave up some creations for a couple of days, but frequently, we clean everything up, and start over again, making a new creation. Over the years, what we build becomes more complex, better designed, and looks better once it is completed.
Today’s Epistle, from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, is read on two Sundays each year—on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost and on the Sunday before the Holy Cross in September. I have to believe that those who picked out the scripture readings for the yearly cycle wanted to emphasize this particular Epistle reading two times to bring to our attention both a negative—we shouldn’t glory in circumcision, and by extension, other ritual—and a positive—what we are going for is a new creation.
Let’s first examine briefly again, the concept of circumcision. Circumcision was a tangible sign made on all males that one is a child of God. This was required in Judaism. In Christianity, there is a necessary sign as well, put on all children, both male and female. This is baptism, or a “circumcision of the heart.” Yes, baptism is a requirement. It is a one-time initiation into the Christian faith. Baptism, however, is not an ending, but a beginning. It is not a destination, but a jumping off point in one’s Christian journey.
What we are supposed to do in our Christian life is a daily seeking to be a “new creation.” Let’s go back to the Legos. The things we have built have become more complex over the years. If you see what we built when my son was 5 (he is now 16), it doesn’t even compare with what he can build now. It is supposed to be the same with our Christianity. Many people put on a cross or have beautiful icons and become complacent—look at all the beautiful trappings I have. Others continue to go to church each week, but it is like checking off a box. I check off the box four times a year when I pay my taxes. Doesn’t mean I like doing it. In fact, I’ve never gotten joy out of that exercise even one time. I still do it.
The concept of becoming a “new creation” is all about the word “becoming.” The goal in the Christian life is a daily improvement in building upon our foundation, becoming continually a better version of the person God created us to be. Again going back to the Legos, it’s not about having many or few, or what color they are, or how much money they cost that counts for anything. It is what you build with them that counts. And going back to the Epistle lesson, it’s not circumcision or uncircumcision that counts, but a new creation. It’s not about belonging, it’s about becoming. It’s not about what you have or don’t have, but in doing something with what you have.
We could rephrase this Epistle verse to say “it is neither what I have, nor what I don’t have that counts for anything, but what I do with what I have,” or more correctly, “what I do with what God has first given me.” People tend to glory in things, in who has the most things. And thus we spend a lot of our life pursuing the acquisition of things. Life is not about how many things we have, it’s about doing something with the things we have. It’s about becoming a new creation, growing ever closer to God, taking what we have and refining and redesigning so that as the years go by, we become more advanced in our ability to live a Godly life and more importantly, we grow a deeper desire to do so.
The violators of the Law had You crucified amid the convicts. Furthermore, they pierced Your side with a lance, O Lord of mercy. You accepted burial, You destroyed the gates of Hades, and on the third day You resurrected. The Women ran to see You, and they announced the resurrection to the Apostles. Supremely exalted Savior, whom the Angels extol, O blessed Lord, glory to You. (Second Resurrectional Kathisma of the second set, Plagal 1st Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
It’s not about belonging, it’s about becoming!