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Sermon

All the Members of God’s Family (Sermon May 29,2016)

Galatians 1:1–12 (NRSV) galatians-slider

Salutation

1 Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the members of God’s family who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

There Is No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul’s Vindication of His Apostleship

(Cp Acts 9)

11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

This week we begin to look into the letter that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia. To begin with it is important to give a brief history of the area because for the next few weeks we will be considering the words that Paul was inspired to this group of people, it is important to know as much as possible about who they were prior to coming to Christ so that we can understand how to relate to the words that Paul speaks to them.

Galatia is an area of present day Turkey that was inhabited by a group of Celtic people that moved across Europe from the west, most likely from the mountainous region along the border between Spain and France. This group which were predominately from three tribes, actually invaded Rome and pushed on toward Greece, where they were defeated so they turned around and then went on west into Asia Minor. Where they eventually settled. Though they were a defeated people, the nations around them were afraid of them because they were fierce fighters since they settled in Asia Minor, they also become coveted allies because they sat at the gateway between empires.

Though they lived in this gateway where the east and the west meet, they were very independent in the ways that they thought. They were a Celtic people, so they held a system of beliefs more similar to the ancient Irish than the Greco-Roman culture that has dominated western civilization. They lived by a different code, often worship differently than their neighbors, and often were characterized by the same stereotypes we have of their Northern Celtic relatives.

If we think of these people as being more similar to the Irish than the Greeks we might be able to understand why Paul wrote this letter. These people, even though they were established tributes of the Roman Empire, maintained self-rule. Which was a thorny subject for many who thought their way of life was better. They were less patriarchal than most ancient cultures, they remained a tribal community lead by the collaboration of chiefs instead of a singular monarch, and their primary expression of faith was to worship nature. The people differed from those around them, they observed the world from a different point of view, and everyone around them tried to convert them to their way of thinking. The Greeks wanted them to behave more like them, as did the Romans and ultimately those that derived their cultural heritage from Jewish influences. This is really what the letter Paul wrote to them refers, and Paul writes it from a different perspective than most. He does not condemn their cultural heritage but embraces the redemption of not only their souls but their culture in much the same way of St. Patrick who ministered to the Celtic tribes in Ireland.

Paul speaks to them a bit differently than he speaks to the Romans or the Corinthians. He takes a different approach then he took with the people of Athens, because these people have a different cultural perspective. He begins by speaking of his calling which came from the Father through Jesus, who had power over death. This is similar in most of the letters Paul wrote. But in this introduction the wording is a bit more to the point, as if Paul is saying, “I am writing to you as directed by God, through Jesus, the one that orders of nature cannot contain.” Then there is the second part of his calling, “and from all the members of God’s family who are with me.”

This second part is unique to Galatians. In all of the letters he says that he is called by God, but only this one also says that he is sent by the family of God, the tribe so to speak. He approaches the people of Galatia using language that speaks to their redeemed cultural perspective. This is important because it shows us that the Apostles made adjustments in the way that they presented the gospel to those around them. Paul knew enough about the culture to know how to best speak to them. He observed them, listened to them, and understood that to convey the Gospel to Celtic people he must approach them from the understanding of tribal families instead of monarchy.

We live in a world that has cultural shifts. The way many of you came to faith in God is different than the way my generation and those that follow will come to faith. When you were newly coming to faith a text message was a letter delivered to you by the postman, where today that same message instantly appears on our smart phones usually accompanied with some sort of hashtag. Which to be honest I don’t understand. If we are to share the gospel with those in our community we need to be able to understand the ways they speak and interact with one another so that we can bear witness to the gospel in a language and manner that can be seen and heard.

Consider that for a moment as you contemplate the world in which we live. Do you recognize the differences? So often as culture shifts we jump to the conclusion that chaos has taken hold and the end is near. But could it be that we have just neglected to listen properly?

After Paul sends his greetings and bestows his blessings onto the church, he dives right into the meat of what he is inspired to say. Again I want us to remember who he is speaking to, this is a group of people that is very unique to the area. They are foreign not only to the Jewish culture but also to the Greco-Roman cultures. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”  

Talk about a slap in the face. Paul does not hold back but jumps right in. There is a reason for this which we will elaborate on in the coming weeks. But what we need to understand is that Paul visited these people early in his ministry. They embraced the gospel, repented of their previous life, and began to walk in a different tribe. They were a community that took on a different lifestyle than the other tribes around them yet they remained Celtic Christians, a unique expression of the kingdom. After Paul’s initial time among them others visited to teach among them. They came in thinking that their understanding of the Christian life was the most proper and insisted that these Galatian believers conform to their ways.

Paul presented the Gospel within their cultural context, where these others brought their culture with them and attempted to remove all previous cultural identities. This is a common theme throughout history. It is a concept of colonization, which is in many ways at the root of many of our nations’ current international struggles. To remove the previous cultural aspects and replace them with the ones we see as being better or more righteous. It is a common theme throughout history, the Greeks attempted it, as did the British, and even the United States. We see our culture as being the right culture and everyone should conform to us. This way of thinking divides. It causes tension because people are acting in ways that they are not accustomed to and eventually the tension breaks and wars break out.

Paul is writing this letter to them because he can see that tension is on the rise. There is a division within the newly formed tribe of Christ. Those caught in the middle are choosing sides and instead of encouraging one another judgement is being cast. There is a perversion of the central message. Instead of maintaining a proper focus on the essentials of the faith people are being pulled into a battle of religion. Instead of blessings being giving, curses are thrown.

I am astonished at how quickly you deserted. What a prophetic statement. Because we can quickly be swayed if we are for a moment distracted. We can get caught in the webs of issues and be consumed. How quickly we desert and can begin to regard other perspectives as being absolutely wrong. We see it in the battles between traditional hymns and praise choruses, or even which translation of the bible we should be reading. Just so you know God probably does not care what we sing to praise Him only that we sing, and that none of the translations of the scripture are more sacred than the others only some are older translations. This can even go deeper is the gospel a personal faith or a community faith?

Paul is astonished at how quickly they turned from the gospel. What would he say about us? Jesus came and presented the gospel, the good news. When he taught he said that the kingdom of God was at hand. Which means that God is all around us calling us to return to him. This return is made possible through Jesus, who lived among us because of his great love. Who showed what a life with God in the kingdom would look like and exemplified it in the rhythm of life he shared; a life of worship, prayer and service to others. He then made the way for us to fully embrace that lifestyle by taking on the wages of our sin or rejection of God by dying on the cross. He then overcame the wages of our sin by defeating death through his resurrection. God so loved the world that He took all this on himself, for us. And he is calling us to follow him. He isn’t calling us to follow a tradition or a sect but to follow him. The various faction within the church are important only because different people speak and express themselves differently, some need exquisite beauty to help them center on Christ, some need music, others need ceremony, some need rhetoric, while others need silence. It doesn’t matter how as long as we follow.

That is the gospel the God that can overcome nature is calling us to be part of his family, and as members of that family we are called to encourage others to return to God. It is a beautiful message that so often gets perverted or skewed. God loves you and wants you to return to Him. He wants you to come home and live with all the members of not just His family but yours. Will we return and simply follow?

As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, I encourage you all to reflect on Christ; his life, sacrifice, and glory. Reflect on what that means for us personally and also what it means for us as a community. I also encourage us to consider the culture around us and how we are encouraging those that may not fully understand the gospel; are we speaking their language?

Galatians 1:3–5 (NRSV)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

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About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.

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