Do you remember what we noticed about this on Tuesday? That's right: it's a letter. Paul is writing to his friends, groups of Jesus followers who lived in an area called Galatia. And Paul is in a hurry to remind his friends of the good news that he had shared with them: that Jesus died for them, and rescued them from the old age where sin was in control.
Paul skips right over the normal ways people usually wrote letters back then. He doesn't ask his friends how they are doing, or open with a prayer for them. If you read his other letters, Paul usually takes a little longer to greet people. Maybe as we keep reading today, we'll start to understand why Paul is writing in such a rush. Maybe we can see what is so important that he just has to get it out. And as we listen, we remember: this letter is for us, too.
Today's reading is Galatians chapter 1, verses 6 through 9
6 I am amazed. You are so quickly deserting the one who chose you. He chose you to live in the grace that Christ has provided. You are turning to a different "good news." 7 What you are accepting is really not the good news at all. It seems that some people have gotten you all mixed up. They are trying to twist the good news about Christ. 8 But suppose even we should preach a different "good news." Suppose even an angel from heaven should preach it. Suppose it is different from the good news we gave you. Then let anyone who does that be cursed by God. 9 I have already said it. Now I will say it again. Suppose someone preaches a "good news" that is different from what you accepted. That person should be cursed by God.
It sounds like there is trouble in the churches in Galatia. Paul had come to their area, traveled from town to town, and taught the good news about Christ. He told the people who lived there that when Jesus rose from the dead, God's new age had begun! Sin and death are not in control anymore. Jesus is God's king, and anyone who trusts him belongs to him. Now everyone can come in to God's family. What wonderful news!
But then Paul left. He had more people to go and tell this good news to! And now that he is gone, something is going wrong. It sounds like some other people have come to the churches in Galatia. And it sounds like they are teaching that there is a different way to come into God's family. In fact, these new teachers are telling the Galatian Christians that if they want to truly belong in God's family, they have to do more than trust in Jesus. They also have to keep God's family ways. They have to follow the laws that were given to Moses. That would be the sign that they really belonged to God.
So now, Paul's friends in Galatia are confused. Do they already belong to God? Is Jesus God's king, who can bring them into his family and into his new way of living? Or do they need to join God's family in the old way: by keeping all of Moses' laws and living under them?
Paul is going to spend the rest of the letter trying to clear away their confusion. There is only one good news, and they have already heard it: God raised Jesus from the dead, and that makes everything new. Now everyone can follow Jesus into God's family. All of us: whether we are Jewish, or Greek, or Mexican, or Norwegian; whether we are from Jerusalem, or Galatia, or San Francisco. Jesus rescues all of us, and he is the one who makes us children of God.
Let's get ready to wonder about God's good words together.
Loving God: make our minds curious, our hearts open, and our bodies at peace. Thank you for inviting us to wonder about your words. Amen.
When Paul first came to see them, the people in Galatia believed his words. They heard that Jesus was alive and really was God's king, and that he loved them and would bring them into his family. I wonder what changed? I wonder why they started to think they also had to follow the Law that God gave Moses?
Paul sounds really upset in the passage we read today. He uses some strong language and hard words. I wonder why he is so upset? I wonder if we will understand more as we keep reading? Can I ask God to help me stay curious and keep listening?
Paul didn't write this letter to one person. It is addressed to all the members of the churches in Galatia. I wonder what it was like to sit and hear it read out loud together? I wonder how it felt to hear Paul tell them that they were deserting Jesus? How would I have felt, if I were there?
Are there times and places where I can sit with other people and hear God's words to us read out loud together? I wonder why God wants us to listen together, and not just read on our own?
Loving God, thank you for Paul's words to the Galatians, and thank you that somehow by your Spirit, they are also your words to us. Give us the wisdom and understanding that come from your Holy Spirit so that we can know you better. Show us the faithfulness of Jesus, and help us to put our trust and hope in him alone. In his beautiful name, Amen.