June 20, 2021
Yes, it’s Father’s Day, and this Sunday we’re concluding our short series on the Trinity and persons of God by focusing on the one Jesus called Father. We pray the Spirit would open our hearts to the lessons of the Word:
- The church in Galatia was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile believers, and as in many of the early church gatherings, there was tension about what was ‘required’ to be counted among the faithful. Some thought the Gentiles had to become Jewish proselytes before they could receive the good news about a Jewish Messiah in Jesus. But Paul argued that was not the case. In the previous chapter he wrote: “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” (Galatians 3:26-29). In last week’s lesson we talked about the unity of the Church in the Spirit; how does this text expand on that? How do we address disagreement, conflict, and division in the church today?
- Paul’s themes of liberation and freedom in the letter of Galatians mirror the Exodus story of his Jewish heritage (later in the letter Paul will say: “For freedom Christ has set us free…” Galatians 5:1 and following). The people had left Egypt ‘to inherit the land God had promised their fathers.’ So in this passage as Paul begins by talking about heirs, that may be part of what was on his mind. But he says that heirs who are still under guardians and trustees are really no better than slaves, unable to make their own decisions even “though they are the owners of all the property” (verse 1). He equates the law to one of these ‘elemental spirits of the world’ that enslave the people. This is a sharp divergence from Paul the Pharisee who understood the Law as a means of God’s gracious covenant with the people, which is how the Exodus story of Sinai is presented. How do you understand the Law of the Torah? What role does it play (or not play) in your life and faith? What does freedom and liberation mean to you? Is your understanding shaped by Galatians 5:13?
- “In the fullness of time, 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” (verse 4-5). Paul has gone from talking about heirs to talking about adopted children – in effect extending the conversation from the Jewish people to all the Gentiles. Adoption was not common in Jewish culture, but it was a well-known practice in Rome (the most famous example being the emperor himself! Caesar Augustus was adopted by Julius Caesar, who had no sons). Do you have a friend or family member who was adopted? How much of their story do you know? What did it mean for them to be included? How did the adoption process change them and their family?
- The adopted children aren’t viewed as any less than full members of God’s family; they too are heirs, and they call God “Abba!” This is the same word that Jesus used when he spoke to God (preserved from the Aramaic). We are so far removed from that moment, and so used to hearing God spoken of as ‘Father’ that we miss the radical significance. God in the Jewish tradition is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, so powerful and so holy that they dare not utter his name! But we’re invited to in effect call God ‘Dad’ or ‘Papa,’ a personal, intimate address. There is a reason these verses also appear in the baptism liturgy, when we are welcomed into the family as children of God. How do you address God in your prayers? Do you feel your relationship with God is more distanced/impersonal or close and intimate? How does knowing that each person you meet is loved by God affect the way you interact with them?
Beloved Child of God, may you feel God’s grace enfold you in the coming days!
-Pastor Maggie Rust