“Grace to you and peace from God the Creator and Jesus the Son.” (Galatians 1:3)
Paul begins each of his letters with some variant of this greeting. Yes, this was a very traditional Greek and Hebrew greeting. However, Paul’s words of “grace” are more than the traditional rote greeting. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul clearly articulates God’s universal and unconditional love, God’s grace. The call of Paul’s heart is to share the gospel, the good news of God’s love, with the Gentiles, with those who are not a part of the Judean faith family. Jesus was a Judean. All the early leaders of the Christian movement were Judeans. As Paul traveled far and wide sharing the good news with persons outside the Judean faith family, more and more participants in the early Christian movement were not Judeans. The practices, customs, traditions of the Judean faith family were not their practices, customs, traditions.
This brought questions, uncertainties, controversies, conflicts.
What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?
What practices are essential for followers of Christ?
What is the relationship between the law of Moses (Old Testament law) and participation in the Christian faith family?
These questions continue to be at the center of our controversies. Persons on various sides of our controversial issues call ourselves “followers of Christ.” The controversies lie in what we think this means, in what we think are the associated “essential practices,” in how we believe this relates to the OT law. Paul’s letter to the Galatians directly addresses these questions that were at the center of the controversies of the early Christian movement, these questions that remain with us today. I encourage you to read Galatians each week this month. It is only six chapters long – a chapter a day, with a Sunday Sabbath, will accomplish this. I encourage you to read Dr. Elaine Heath’s book, God Unbound – a chapter or two a week will accomplish this. I also encourage you to greet persons you meet each day with Paul’s greeting of grace, even if only in your mind. Maybe we can develop a habit of seeing each person we meet as a person on whom God’s grace is extended. As we worship, study, meditate and fellowship together this month, may our vision of God, neighbor, tradition and mission broaden. May we find new ways to live into our vocation as the church, which Heath describes as, “Participating with God so that we can give this world a glimpse into God’s great heart of love.”
Grace and peace,
Our July-August Worship Series is “God Unbound,” focusing on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The series is based on the book “God Unbound” by Elaine Heath. A book study group is meeting on Monday evening at 7 p.m. at Franco’s Italian Restaurant, 824 E 5th St, Dayton, OH 45402. Books are available for purchase in the church office for $8. All are welcome to join us Sunday morning at 10:30 at Grace and Monday evening at 7 p.m. at Franco’s.