Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pentecost Lectionary Readings: Hopping and Skipping Through Galatians Part 3

After our first two Sundays in Pentecost in which we skipped nary a verse of the first chapter of Galatians, the third Sunday offers up the first section to get the axe. Most worshippers today will hear Galatians 2:15-21 which contains several theological points,

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law, I died to the law so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:15-21
While there is nothing wrong with presenting this portion of Paul's letter and letting it stand alone, we miss the context and the important chronology of Paul's journey by skipping Galatians 2.1-14 which I include below (just remember that this rightly belongs before the previously quoted text). I have highlighted a few lines in which Paul's tone is decidedly different from what was/will be heard in church today,

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us— we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ Galatians 2.1-14

When we read this part of Galatians 2, we get to see a tougher Paul than we might otherwise appreciate if all we hear is the Sunday morning version. This will be a recurring pattern over the next few weeks as we hop and skip through Galatians, and is in keeping with the Revised Common Lectionary's approach, an approach that waters down and sanitizes the Bible for the Sunday pewsitters.

In addition, I think the missing verses point to something that is missing from most conversations in the Episcopal church today, and that is being frank and "in your face" about false teachings and hypocrisy.

Any guesses as to how Paul would confront our current bunch of Episcopal church leaders?

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