September 7 -- Galatians 2:6-10
In our last episode, we heard about Paul's first two trips to Jerusalem. He went up to meet Peter alone; and then fourteen years later, he went back and took his friend Barnabas, who was Jewish, and Titus, who was Greek. During that time, there wasn't enough food in the area around Jerusalem, and many of the Jesus-followers there were hungry and poor. Paul, Barnabas, and Titus brought them some money from the churches in Antioch. Paul also wanted to tell Peter and the others about his missionary work. He wanted the Jewish-born believers in Jerusalem to know that Gentiles all over were hearing the good news that Jesus was alive, and they were being baptized, filled with God's Holy Spirit, and following Jesus into his family.
Today, Paul is continuing his story. What would happen? Would Peter and the other Jewish-born leaders at the church in Jerusalem accept these new Gentile Jesus-followers into God's family? What would they say about this new and surprising work the Holy Spirit was doing through Paul?
Today's reading is Galatians chapter 2 verses 6 through 10.
6 Some people in Jerusalem were thought to be important. But it makes no difference to me what they were. God does not treat people differently. Those people added nothing to my message. 7 In fact, it was just the opposite. They recognized the task I had been trusted with. It was the task of preaching the good news to the Gentiles. My task was like Peter's task. He had been trusted with the task of preaching to the Jews. 8 God was working in Peter as an apostle to the Jews. God was also working in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Peter, and John are respected as pillars in the church. They recognized the special grace given to me. So they shook my hand and the hand of Barnabas. They wanted to show they accepted us. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles. They would go to the Jews. 10 They asked only one thing. They wanted us to continue to remember poor people. That was what I had wanted to do all along.
Did you hear how today's reading starts? Paul tells his friends in Galatia that some of the people in Jerusalem were "thought to be important." Do you know who he's talking about? He's talking about Peter, who knew Jesus, had traveled all around with him, and even had breakfast with him after he rose from the dead. He's talking about James, who was Jesus's actual brother: James and Jesus grew up together! And he's talking about John, who was especially close friends with Jesus: in another place, John is called "the disciple that Jesus loved."
But Paul seems...not very impressed. He sees that people look up to James, Peter, and John. He sees that they are like pillars in a temple. In the old temple, the pillars held up the walls so that people could come inside and come close to God. Now James, Peter, and John are doing important work building and holding up the new temple: the new family of people who are worshiping the risen Jesus.
But Paul is doing important work, too. And he wants his friends in Galatia to know that even though many of them are Gentiles, and even though none of them have met Jesus in person, God does not treat them any differently from Peter, James, or John. The good news is the same for everyone: Jesus died, he rose again, and it is his love that brings all of of us into his family.
Peter has been given a special job: to tell other Jewish people that Jesus is the Messiah who makes them right with God. And Paul has been given a special job: to tell Gentile people that Jesus is the Messiah who draws them into God's special family and makes them right with God. It is the same God who is working in both Peter and Paul. It is the same God who is showing his love, in Jesus, for all the people that he has made. The God of Israel is the God of the whole world, and in Jesus, this God is making the whole world right, and making the whole world new.
Paul tells this story because he wants his friends in Galatia to hear this good news. And these words have been written down because God's Holy Spirit wants us to hear, and share, this good news too.
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 the Christians in Galatia heard this letter, I wonder how they felt? I wonder what it was like to hear that to Paul — and to God — they were just as important as Peter and all of the apostles?
In this part of the letter, Paul says that God was working in Peter as an apostle to the Jews. He says that God is working in him as an apostle to the Gentiles. The word he uses is the same word that we use today for "energy": God's energy is moving through Peter and Paul as they are sent out to tell people about Jesus. What do I picture, when I imagine God's energy working through each of them?
Can I tell God "thank you" because his energy and power are for us, and on our side? Can I thank God for the energy that moves through the world, calling every single kind of person to come and follow Jesus, and be welcomed into God's family?
Peter and Paul had different jobs. They were telling the good news to two different groups of people. Those two groups — Jewish people and Gentiles — didn't always like each other. But the same God loved both of them. Sometimes it's easiest to stick close to people who are like us. I wonder if the one God who calls us all wants to see us come closer to other people he has also called, even when they are very different from us?
Paul, Barnabas, and Titus came to Jerusalem to bring money to the church there. They had collected it from both Jewish and Gentile Christians back in Antioch, to help the Jerusalem church, which was poor. That's what families do: they share, and they help each other out. I wonder if this offering was a way to show that everyone following Jesus, no matter where they were born, was like one family?
Did you notice the only thing that Peter and the other apostles asked Paul and the Gentile believers to do? They said, "please remember the poor." I wonder why that was the only thing that new Jesus-followers were expected to do? I wonder why remembering the poor is such an important way to show that we belong to God's family?
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 name, Amen.