It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reflection on readings for September 14

People will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous,
surely there is a God who judges on earth."
(Psalm 58:11)

Isaiah 15:1-18:7
Oracles continue expressing great sadness at the devastation but assurance of God's restoring power.

Galatians 1:1-24
Paul begins this letter to the Galatians by reminding them that his authority to speak to them comes through Jesus Christ and God.

He also reminds them of the importance of what Jesus Christ has done, "who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age...." According to Ronald J. Allen and Clark M. Williamson in their Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law:
For Paul, the cosmic rulers who distort the present world fought the coming of the new age by putting Jesus to death. That death, however, became the occasion whereby God revealed the divine power to free people from their sins, that is, from the actions and thoughts committed under the influence of the cosmic powers that turn the present into a chaotic and broken realm (1:4) Indeed, the earlier statement that God raised Jesus from the dead indicates that Jesus' death and resurrection are signs that the apocalyptic transformation is at hand (1:1).
He then expresses astonishment that they have allowed themselves to be misled by others.

Paul writes to them that he is astonished that they have allowed themselves to be misled by some other Christian evangelists: "Who are you listening to? Don't you realize that some people say that they're preaching the true gospel but they aren't even close?"

He issues an anathema against those he asserts are preaching a false gospel. He then asks a question that remains relevant to us: Whose approval is important to you? Do you care more about what the people around you think you should do or what God approves of? Are you trying to please people or Christ?

The difficulty that continues is the necessity of discerning God's will as it may different from that being espoused by some holy-appearing self-proclaimed paragons of Christians. Not everybody who claims the authority to tell us what we should be doing is really speaking the true gospel.

Paul is writing to a church in crisis. Although these Galatians had learned about Christ from Paul, they were now being influenced by some missionaries who have been preaching what Paul calls a gospel so different from the one he has proclaimed that it perverts the gospel of Christ (1:6-9).

Paul reminds them of his credentials: At one time, Paul had been instrumental in the attempt to halt the inroads of the Christian message into Judaism. Then, God told him to preach to Gentiles, to tell them about Jesus Christ.

Although he began his travels without prior conference with the central church in Jerusalem, he did at a later point meet with Peter and with James, the brother of Jesus.

Paul's understanding is that Gentiles do not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. The disciples who have been upsetting the Galatians disagree. They have been trying to convince the Galatians that being a Jew is an entry requirement.

Paul himself never quit being a Jew. But, he did not restrict Christianity to Jews alone.

Paul's idea has won out over that of those false apostles to Galatia. Yet, we still are being confronted by those who think our way of being Christian is not strict enough, not close enough to the Scriptures. Or, we may be in the strict group that is preaching to those who are not living up to what appears to be very scriptural. How could they? Complainers and complainees need to spend some time with this letter.

On the United Methodist Church website under the tab Our People,  I read:
The People of The United Methodist Church
Help people in their community
Accept you for who you are
Offer a place to belong
Care for and support each other
Show respect for other religions
Support people facing difficulty
Welcome diverse opinions and beliefs
Guide others to find deeper meaning
I think Paul would say we are on the right track.

Psalm 58:1-11
Crying out for revenge. Affirming reward for righteousness. Reassuring or troubling?

Proverbs 23:12
Apply your mind to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.

Prayer for Today:
O Lord, guide us to the true gospel. Keep us attentive to your will. Encourage us to build a church in which we can help our community and each other, support people in difficulty, and as hard as it is sometimes, to welcome, or at least tolerate, diverse opinions and beliefs. Amen.

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