Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sorry, We Still Have a Disciplinarian

Today's lectionary gave us a truncated version of Galatians 3. Here is the version heard in most Episcopal churches,
"Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, (missing verses cut at this point)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.  And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." Galatians 3:23-25,4:4-7

These verses have been a dangerous trap for those who seek to justify sins by re-visioning them as works of the Holy Spirit. To them, the sexual morality codes found in the Bible are a prison. "We are no longer subject to a disciplinarian" sounds like the perfect excuse for sexual liberation. Even today, Louie C. over at Queer Eye for the Lectionary looks at Galatians 3:25 and sees something that I could never imagine,
"The church violates Saint’s claim if it requires lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered to live under the law no longer required of hetero Christians."
Of course he neglects to mention how we "hetero Christians" are bound to live up to the words of our Lord regarding marriage, lust, and adultery.

The Saint's arguments in Galatians really need to be considered as a whole and not be reduced to the little snippets most churchgoers hear on Sunday mornings.

The lectionary editors should consider that it might be more helpful for people to hear more rather than less. Can you imagine being in a 1st century crowd listening as the letter was being read for the very first time,
"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?"  Galatians 3:1-5
If he were writing this letter to us today, perhaps he might change the last sentence to read,
"Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your following your new laws of morality and 'justice', or by believing what you have read in the testimony of the Saints? You foolish moderns, who has bewitched you?"
No, we are still subject to a disciplinarian, a loving Father, one who has gone to the ultimate lengths to rescue us when we have gone astray. We listen to and follow His discipline, not out of fear, but out of respect, gratitude, and love.

In case you want to insert the missing verses back into the readings from Galatians today, here they are:
"for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world." Galatians 3:26 - 4:3

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