2016-06-05 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
“IN YOUR LETTER”
>> This is a letter! Written to the early churches and circulated. Galatia was one of the churches that Paul would have influenced…(modern day, central Turkey).
Paul’s conversion is 33 CE, then for 17 years he’s travelling, learning, proclaiming…and then he gets wind of what’s up with one the churches he was connected with in his first (of 3) missionary journeys…he knows that this church has encountered the living Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and had their minds blown (and broadened!) by the work of the Holy Spirit but now has done what humans are so often good at…hemming in the Spirit and bringing in rules to follow. Because ain’t it true that rules are easier to keep in check than no rules?
These Jewish-influenced (born and raised) Christians, did what they knew best – – follow the rules. Keep the law.
So Paul grabs his quill and starts a letter…it’s a bit different than other letters he’s written to other churches…it’s “lean” on the “Oh I’m so glad for you, so delighted to hear of your good work faithfulness.” – – and it’s heavier on the “let’s get down to brass tacks”. . .
– – Sent NOT by humans, but through God, who, remember raised Jesus from the dead!
To the Churches of “Baptist-ia”…. [this is for then & now]
Grace! Peace! Amen!
And now, boom!
“I am astonished!!…”
– – you’ve turned to a “different gospel”; a “contrary gospel” … a “human origins gospel.”
** Now let me say something about the gospel and how I think these verses get mis-used these days by a certain type of Christian…there are some who would say that a different gospel is a “modernized gospel”… if it ain’t an old-time, Billy Graham’esque, or Bill Bright, “ask Jesus into your heart so you can get to heaven”, then you’ve maligned the gospel.
That’s not where Paul is going here…Paul is telling the Galatians, that whenever the gospel becomes more about rules or “how to’s” or “you better do it this way” then we’ve been duped by a different, contrary gospel.
So…how does Paul encourage us to KEEP IN STEP w/ the Spirit and the true gospel?
Don’t desert the one who called you in GRACE!
Don’t seek human approval, seek God’s approval!
Remember…God set you apart before you were born (Ps. 139?)…and called you though his grace…and God is pleased – – to reveal Jesus to you [open the eyes of your hearts, y’all!]
Between sections I & II, there’s a 17 year gap in the story… and then he picks up the story (in 49 CE) and tells a bit of why he’s so miffed & astonished by his fellow Brothers & sisters in Christ…now, I don’t know if Paul is angry…but he is righteously miffed!
He tells the story of Cephas [Peter] – – Peter, who had such a great run of being moved by the Spirit and the “hospitality heart” of Jesus has lost his bearings!
He used to eat with Gentiles (that’s the heart of Jesus; eating w/ sinners & tax collectors) but then got swayed by James, and then also led Barnabas astray!
I guess a lot can happen in 15 years….
“They were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel.”
Their hearts were set on boundaries and fear VS radical hospitality and hope.
“If (we) build up the very things that (we) once tore down, then we sin!”
Paul says: “We died to rules and law-keeping, so that we might live to God!”
And then that famous passage of Galatians 2 – –
“I have been crucified with Chrsit; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
– – KABAM! Put on your crash helmet! NEW CREATION!
The old order has passed away…the new order, new creation, a new way, has come, so don’t go back!
And we come to today’s portion of the letter that has already been read for us…
“Oh you dim-witted Baptists!”
“Who tricked you?!”
You’ve fallen for the oldest trick in the book…trying to encounter and experience God’s favour and blessing by works VS receiving it (and pouring it out!) as a gift of the Spirit…a gift of grace.
Paul says: “Tell me this…Did you (or the original 11) receive the Spirit by doing righteous works? Or did you receive the Spirit by BELIEVING what you heard about the life, death & resurrection of Jesus?
So…why be so foolish?
You started with the Holy Spirit (the one who comes alongside, the promised FEF), are you now ending in the power of your own strength and insights?”
This is the stuff that we’ve been talking about & hearing about since the stories of Abraham…do you get it?
Just as Abraham believed God, so whoever believes in God, whether they be Jew or Gentile, they get in on the blessing.
In Abraham’s day, the gospel went like so: “ALL the gentiles shall be blessed in you.”
– – – – – –
And now for the final mind-blower of the day. . .
The lunchroom supervisor has left the building!
[Detention room monitor?]
“The law was our disciplinarian until Christ came.”
The greek word for disciplinarian here is “paid a go gos” which is really more like a greek tutor who got the student to school so that they could get to the real part of school.
Now this whole image of school, and encountering the real teacher at school as the main prize might get lost on us…
So I’m going with detention room supervisor – – someone kept an eye on us during the lunch hour so that we could learn to tow the line…but we always felt under the thumb, tho’ in a strange way, there was a layer of safety & security as we were under the watchful eye of supervisor X.
But when supervisor X was done, we couldn’t wait to get to the real thing…real school-life, or real encounter with the people we wanted to be with. Maybe that was more like recess than social studies class, right?
Paul says, “We are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.”
“For…in Christ Jesus you are ALL children of God through faith.”
Through your baptism, through the Christ-life being formed in you, and being put on display in your life…NEW CREATION!
All the old distinctions fall away… whether it’s a matter of religion, social status, gender…
“All of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are the children of Abraham, and you have inherited the promise of being named and destined as a child of God.”
And isn’t this the kind of good news that gets us in the right state of heart and mind as we come to the table of the Lord today?
Everyone gets in…there is nothing that separates you from the love of God, from this table of fellowship and feasting today.
And that’s why it’s so great to have the children serving communion.
[tell a story about my Baptist upbringing and who got in and who didn’t; 35 years ago]
We had Galatians 3:26 back then, and I’m not sure how we held onto those rules…but eventually the rules changed, and I’m hoping it’s because the Spirit woke us up.
How are we ignoring Galatians 3:26 in these days?
Who are we ignoring from the table; or our community of faith?
God, blow through this place…blow through our hearts…
The disciplinarian has left the building and Christ is making his home amongst them.
Lord willing…and Spirit inspiring…Christ, continue to make your home amongst us!
Let us not be bewitched.
Let us be beholden, to the ridiculous love Almighty God has for each of us…
For we are all children of God through faith…
We are ALL one in Christ Jesus.
The preacher Carol Holtz-Martin reflects on this text in the following manner:
“Paul says that Christ alone matters: Christ our unity, Christ our focus, Christ the line of energy along with relationships run, Christ the beginning and the end, Christ the cause for which we live, Christ from which NOTHING can take us…not even death.”
Come to the table of our Lord, and feast with this kind of Christ – – and may his feast of grace & fullness once again renew, soften and transform our hearts.