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Blogging Towards Sunday, May 28, 2017

Galatians3 28

Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29

 

“At several times in history this [pastoral] letter, listened to by small groups of Christians, has shifted the direction of the age just enough to make the difference between a surge of new life and a drifting into decline.” It radically transformed the direction in which the Church developed in its infancy (as we read last week in Acts 15). It also was paramount in shifting the perspective of both Martin Luther and John Calvin, setting loose the revolution we now call the Reformation. What might it be unleashing among us in our world and culture today in which how we are defined and what is considered our usefulness or power is defined by what we purchase, how much we can produce, or who our people are?

 

The letter was written by Paul to the church community in Galatia (what we now call Turkey). There a debate and division had occurred among the Jesus followers over identity: did one have to first identify as a Jew by adopting Jewish rituals (such as circumcision and law obedience) before identifying as a Christian?; or could a Gentile-born Jesus follower simply become Christian? The underlying issue is of freedom, identity, unity and how the Church would live out the teachings of Jesus in a pluralistic world. The letter has served as the genesis of many revolutions of thought and continues to speak to us today. Paul argues for a unity based not on class, tribe or gender, but on family appurtenance. Underneath his affirmation seems to lie the proclamation of Jesus that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

In rabbinical dialogue the scriptural authority went to the argument, or citation, which came from the earliest part of the Torah. Here Paul goes back to Genesis 15:1-21 in which God makes the covenant with Abraham because of the latter’s faith, not his circumcision (which is only recounted later in Genesis 17:1-27 in which his circumcision is recounted in verse 23). Hence Genesis 15 trumps chapter 17. Going back even farther Paul refers to the Call of Abraham in Genesis 12 in which God promises to use him and Sarai as an avenue for blessing “all the families of the earth.”

 

Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation

  • What strikes or shimmers for you in this passage ?

 

  • Last week we heard Galatians 1 & 2 in which Paul begins to wrestle with the debate about identity and integration in the Church for Jesus followers coming from a Jewish, or Gentile, background. He refuses to allow two statutes, or a first and second class existence. He argued that we are free in faith, justified (made holy in God’s image) by faith not what we do or where we come from. It’s this freedom that we both receive in faith and which calls us to faith. Do you experience freedom as the way in which you come to know God’s love and then love others?; or Do you come to trust in God’s love and then discover such participatory and contagious freedom? What does it mean to be free in Christ for you?

 

  • The underlying question of this section is about unity. Alienation is the opposite of unity. When we feel alienated because of suffering, exclusion or confusion we often respond to others (who are different than us) with calls for conformity or calls for purity. In our Us versus Them thinking the “others” have to become like us in order for us to be unified. But Jesus says something different about family and unity. In our country today we face a similar question of purity, conformity, alienation and calls to unity. We tend to approach it as a zero-sum-game, meaning that “our” winning is dependent upon the “other” losing. Jesus proposes – and Paul proclaims – a radically different Way. How do we approach others in the zero-sum-game mentality in our season of great partisan division, blaming and alienation? How does Jesus call us to approach our neighbors, and brothers and sisters in faith, who differ from us in policy, perspective and political persuasion?

 

  • Talk with God about this, what is possibly stirring in your heart about how you might need to confess or change?

 

Downloadable Text Study Sheet [HERE]

 

 

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2 comments on “Blogging Towards Sunday, May 28, 2017

  1. gary and caroline
    May 24, 2017

    It is God’s challenge to Abraham, and Abraham’s response in faith, that opens the door for all of us after them to know god’s love and relationship to us. It is easy to think about God choosing Abraham because of his ethnicity, or because of his status, or wealth, or standing, or brilliance, but it was God’s decision to choose him, and his decision to follow God, that opens the door of Heaven to us all! But the question of course, for me, is what prompted Abraham to trust God and follow him even though it seemed crazy (to kill his beloved son?)….Either fear, or love, or craziness.

  2. gary and caroline
    May 24, 2017

    We indeed have freedom to choose to follow or not, to love or not, to believe or not… Growing up Christian, knowing the stories, the way God spoke to the Jews, the Christians, and those who followed, provides a secure grounding for me. But I wonder how it is for those who grew up differently, without those stories of love and devotion, and mostly to the promises of God fulfilled. If they don’t accept the stories as we do, does it make them any less a follower? If they follow the stories they were told as children, is that enough? The underlying acts that I follow are the Acts of Love!

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2017 by in Blogging Towards Sunday.
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