Are you a Gallatian?

given on Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter Sunday I posed the question: Who are you? If we were doing a formal introduction, the only thing that matters is your name; but if you are asked in a job interview who you are, that question takes on an entirely different purpose. Today, the first Sunday after Easter, asking who you are takes on another purpose.

During those earliest days after Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples must have found themselves asking who they were over and over. If someone else asked them, I doubt they knew how to answer because behind that question would be the ‘other’ question—are you one of those Christians or not?

Today there is not sense of fear in answering that question, but in the years, decades, even centuries after Christ’s crucifixion, the faithful struggled to know exactly who they were. Paul certainly had to learn who he was the hard way; but once he accepted Christ, his life as a missionary defined him.

Let’s meet the Galatians. Galatia was a strip of land between the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea with coastal mountains on both sides. Paul traveled through Galatia several times. His footpath was on the northern side of the coastal ridge, and a few times he traveled the sea and through Pamphylia to reach Galatia.

Consider a journey along the roads of Louisiana or Mississippi to put that into perspective. Galatia was part of the trade zone around the Mediterranean so news traveled quickly in that region. Paul established a church in a region filled with different cultures and ideas swirling around that church. The risk of failure had to be huge.

The good news Paul shared is that the old laws no longer were necessary if you accepted Christ. With that acceptance came the one law to replace all others: Love one another, as you would have others love you. Just imagine the sense of freedom that creates! After living thousands of years trying to keep all the laws that the Jewish leaders kept making, now only one to remember, one rule by which to live.

Today we might not realize how cumbersome the Jewish laws were, but we know how governments over-complicate life with legislation. Christianity has one law by which to gauge all actions and decisions–personally, professionally, as parents and as neighbors. True freedom comes with true faith.

Paul’s awareness of Galatians and hearing the latest news lead him to write the letter. Galatians were struggling against the Judaizers, who were Jewish Christians trying to maintain all the old Jewish laws versus the one commandment Jesus taught. The Judaizers even wanted to force new Gentile Christians to undergo circumcision.

In Galatians 1, Paul writes:

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.[c] You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

 

The news of the Galatians’ church alarmed Paul. When we read Paul’s letter, do we hear him talking to us, too? Are we Judaizers or are we the new Christians holding strong to Jesus’ one commandment? Do we need to read Paul’s letter as one who needs “correction” or are we reading it for confirmation of our new beliefs?

Ask yourselves again, who am I? This is the first Sunday after Easter and here you are. Is returning Sunday after Sunday a routine or does it fulfill that spiritual need within you? Working through the week away from the church’s sanctuary can wear down one’s spirit or resolve. The Galatians were no different than us. Paul probably expected some challenges to the Galatians’ faith, but he was extremely concerned that they were simply no longer trying to be good. He had to review even his own experience to get the point across:

17 But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! 18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ.[e] It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

 

Attending worship services is part of the discipline needed to maintain the freedom from the law that the Judaizers were trying to force the newest Christians to follow, even if they were Gentiles. Is this one of today’s problems for Christians?

Falling into a comfortable routine and not wanting to work on maintaining a close, personal relationship with God. Any freedom that we have must be maintained. Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection is a model for us today as much as it was during his lifetime and Paul’s lifetime. We have to work to be good. Attending Sunday worship is one behavior that is more than a simple, safe routine. It is a practice to keep one grounded in God’s law.

Who are you, then? Are you a quiet follower or are you an active doer?   Paul, we know, was certainly not a quiet person. Here was one of the most outspoken, anti-Christian religious leaders doing all he could to erase the fire Jesus was lighting during his ministry. But Paul was no Judaizer; he found freedom from the old law and spent the rest of his life making disciples of Christ.

Paul did not quietly state his argument. In Galatians 3, he tells them exactly what he thinks:

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced[a] so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?

 

Paul’s frustration leaps off the page no matter what translation one reads. He is so passionate about how the old Jewish laws are no longer necessary if one has accepted Christ.

For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[e] 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”[f]

13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing.

 

You are a Christian, a 21st century Christian. Do you continue to maintain you faith? Are you making your life’s decisions through the faith filter or a law filter? When you are introduced, does is Christian one of the descriptors attached to your name?

While listening to K-Love this week, a new song registered in my brain. Immediately I wanted to share it because it speaks so loudly to this very idea of who we are. I am sure Paul would use the same words while talking to the Galatians or any other Christians—from the Apostles right up to us today:

Take away the melodies,

Take away the songs I sing.

Take away all the lights,

All the songs You let me write.

Does the man [person] I am today

Say the words You need to say?

 

Chorus

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak.

Let them feel You when I sing.

Let them see You,

Let them see You in me.

 

Who am I without Your grace,

Another smile, another face?

Another breath, a grain of sand

Passing quickly through Your hand.

I give my life as I am offering it.

Take it all; take everything.

 

Chorus

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak.

Let them feel You when I sing.

Let them see You,

Let them see You in me.

 

With every breath I breathe,

I sing a simple melody;

But I pray they’ll hear more

Than a song in me, in me.

 

Chorus (first musical interlude then 2Xs)

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak.

Let them feel You when I sing.

Let them see You,

Let them see You in me.

(musical interlude then add: Let them see You in me.)

 

The hymns we sing are our prayers. When we hear a prayer like this one, we hear Paul teaching the Galatians. We hear Jesus teaching the disciples. We discover that the generations continue to struggle knowing who Jesus is and how they and us can live our faith daily. Do not give in to Judaizers. Do not keep your faith silent or hidden. Do not get trapped into a routine that does not feed to your soul.

Accepting Christ means knowing that he died for our sins and that we are to follow that one commandment above all else. We live our faith openly each and every day so that when are introduced, Christian is one descriptor that everybody sees in you.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

In all that we do, we want others to see You.

When we make decisions for our families,

for our communities, for our farms and jobs,

We need to see You .

 

Are you a Galatian?

April 27, 2014

 

Easter Sunday I posed the question: Who are you? If we were doing a formal introduction, the only thing that matters is your name; but if you are asked in a job interview who you are, that question takes on an entirely different purpose. Today, the first Sunday after Easter, asking who you are takes on another purpose.

During those earliest days after Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples must have found themselves asking who they were over and over. If someone else asked them, I doubt they knew how to answer because behind that question would be the ‘other’ question—are you one of those Christians or not?

Today there is not sense of fear in answering that question, but in the years, decades, even centuries after Christ’s crucifixion, the faithful struggled to know exactly who they were. Paul certainly had to learn who he was the hard way; but once he accepted Christ, his life as a missionary defined him.

Let’s meet the Galatians. Galatia was a strip of land between the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea with coastal mountains on both sides. Paul traveled through Galatia several times. His footpath was on the northern side of the coastal ridge, and a few times he traveled the sea and through Pamphylia to reach Galatia.

Consider a journey along the roads of Louisiana or Mississippi to put that into perspective. Galatia was part of the trade zone around the Mediterranean so news traveled quickly in that region. Paul established a church in a region filled with different cultures and ideas swirling around that church. The risk of failure had to be huge.

The good news Paul shared is that the old laws no longer were necessary if you accepted Christ. With that acceptance came the one law to replace all others: Love one another, as you would have others love you. Just imagine the sense of freedom that creates! After living thousands of years trying to keep all the laws that the Jewish leaders kept making, now only one to remember, one rule by which to live.

Today we might not realize how cumbersome the Jewish laws were, but we know how governments overcomplicate life with legislation. Christianity has one law by which to gauge all actions and decisions–personally, professionally, as parents and as neighbors. True freedom comes with true faith.

Paul’s awareness of Galatians and hearing the latest news lead him to write the letter. Galatians were struggling against the Judaizers, who were Jewish Christians trying to maintain all the old Jewish laws versus the one commandment Jesus taught. The Judaizers even wanted to force new Gentile Christians to undergo circumcision.

In Galatians 1, Paul writes:

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ.[c] You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

 

The news of the Galatians’ church alarmed Paul. When we read Paul’s letter, do we hear him talking to us, too? Are we Judaizers or are we the new Christians holding strong to Jesus’ one commandment? Do we need to read Paul’s letter as one who needs “correction” or are we reading it for confirmation of our new beliefs?

Ask yourselves again, who am I? This is the first Sunday after Easter and here you are. Is returning Sunday after Sunday a routine or does it fulfill that spiritual need within you? Working through the week away from the church’s sanctuary can wear down one’s spirit or resolve. The Galatians were no different than us. Paul probably expected some challenges to the Galatians’ faith, but he was extremely concerned that they were simply no longer trying to be good. He had to review even his own experience to get the point across:

17 But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! 18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ.[e] It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

 

Attending worship services is part of the discipline needed to maintain the freedom from the law that the Judaizers were trying to force the newest Christians to follow, even if they were Gentiles. Is this one of today’s problems for Christians?

Falling into a comfortable routine and not wanting to work on maintaining a close, personal relationship with God. Any freedom that we have must be maintained. Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection is a model for us today as much as it was during his lifetime and Paul’s lifetime. We have to work to be good. Attending Sunday worship is one behavior that is more than a simple, safe routine. It is a practice to keep one grounded in God’s law.

Who are you, then? Are you a quiet follower or are you an active doer?   Paul, we know, was certainly not a quiet person. Here was one of the most outspoken, anti-Christian religious leaders doing all he could to erase the fire Jesus was lighting during his ministry. But Paul was no Judaizer; he found freedom from the old law and spent the rest of his life making disciples of Christ.

Paul did not quietly state his argument. In Galatians 3, he tells them exactly what he thinks:

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced[a] so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?

 

Paul’s frustration leaps off the page no matter what translation one reads. He is so passionate about how the old Jewish laws are no longer necessary if one has accepted Christ.

For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[e] 12 This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”[f]

13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing.

 

You are a Christian, a 21st century Christian. Do you continue to maintain you faith? Are you making your life’s decisions through the faith filter or a law filter? When you are introduced, does is Christian one of the descriptors attached to your name?

While listening to K-Love this week, a new song registered in my brain. Immediately I wanted to share it because it speaks so loudly to this very idea of who we are. I am sure Paul would use the same words while talking to the Galatians or any other Christians—from the Apostles right up to us today:

Take away the melodies,

Take away the songs I sing.

Take away all the lights,

All the songs You let me write.

Does the man [person] I am today

Say the words You need to say?

 

Chorus

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak.

Let them feel You when I sing.

Let them see You,

Let them see You in me.

 

Who am I without Your grace,

Another smile, another face?

Another breath, a grain of sand

Passing quickly through Your hand.

I give my life as I am offering it.

Take it all; take everything.

 

Chorus

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak.

Let them feel You when I sing.

Let them see You,

Let them see You in me.

 

With every breath I breathe,

I sing a simple melody;

But I pray they’ll hear more

Than a song in me, in me.

 

Chorus (first musical interlude then 2Xs)

Let them see You in me

Let them hear You when I speak.

Let them feel You when I sing.

Let them see You,

Let them see You in me.

(musical interlude then add: Let them see You in me.)

 

The hymns we sing are our prayers. When we hear a prayer like this one, we hear Paul teaching the Galatians. We hear Jesus teaching the disciples. We discover that the generations continue to struggle knowing who Jesus is and how they and us can live our faith daily. Do not give in to Judaizers. Do not keep your faith silent or hidden. Do not get trapped into a routine that does not feed to your soul.

Accepting Christ means knowing that he died for our sins and that we are to follow that one commandment above all else. We live our faith openly each and every day so that when are introduced, Christian is one descriptor that everybody sees in you.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

In all that we do, we want others to see You.

When we make decisions for our families,

for our communities, for our farms and jobs,

We need to see You .

 

In the times we go out to play,

traveling, shopping, playing cards, fishing and more,

Let others see You in our ways.

While at work at a job site or in our homes,

We need others to see You in us.

 

Guide us in ways to show others Your way.

Guide us in ways to say we are Christians today. –Amenalatian?

the times we go out to play,

traveling, shopping, playing cards, fishing and more,

Let others see You in our ways.

While at work at a job site or in our homes,

We need others to see You in us.

 

Guide us in ways to show others Your way.

Guide us in ways to say we are Christians today. –Amen

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