Monday, June 4, 2018

Story from the Small Space ~ Galatians

Prelude ~ Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia is one of the most passionate prose in all of Scripture.  At one point, Paul calls them, "foolish"...showing us once again Paul really knew how to win friends and influence people.  Often when we read a book like Galatians we feel disconnected or distant from these words.  This is due, in part, to the fact that we are reading someone else's mail.  We stepping into a conversation midstream, like you might at a cocktail party.  No wonder we can feel flummoxed as there is no one to explain what is going on here.  We know that Paul established either one or a few house churches there.  We know that Paul was nursed back to health by the Galatians, (4:13-16).  So there is a sense of intimacy and interconnection here.  Paul is writing out of care to people he believes are going the wrong way, which we will explore in this small space story.  Perhaps one way to hear this letter is like a parent standing at the window watching a child play in the front yard with a ball.  When the ball rolls out into the street, the child goes to retrieve it, but the parent sees that a car is coming, starts to scream/yell.  In Galatians, we overhear the last part, the passionate plea to pay attention and we might think, "Good Lord, Paul, chilax a little."  But Paul senses danger.

Paul paced back and forth with frustration fuming.  His feet pounded the foot to the beat of his pounding heart, you could see the tiny vein in his neck pulsing.  His face was flush with anger.  His eyes wild with a dangerous cocktail of outrage, disbelief, denial, and determination to right the wrong.  For several minutes all he did was mumble and mutter to himself and to the few standing close by all they could overhear were tidbits like, "After all I did...."  "How could they do this...."  And the hardest question that leaves any of our lips, "Why..."  Each time Paul's words would trail off and the sentence would be left incomplete, because his own thoughts were incomplete.  Inside of Paul his heart, mind, and soul all wrestled like caged animals.  Maybe he should go to Galatia...he felt like he had enough energy to run there.  Maybe he should just ignore it...after all he had problems of his own with the Roman empire right now.  Maybe he should send Timothy with a message.

As the tension swirled in the air and internally within Paul, eventually he decided to once again to write to them.  Maybe hearing from him would help the Galatians get back in the groove of the Gospel as Paul had preached and taught them.  Yet, if Paul tried to write physically, he knew he would press the ink feather so hard it would break through the parchment.  He asked someone standing there to be a scribe.  Paul forced himself to follow the custom of letters.  But soon as he opened his lips, he could not contain or confine the emotions stirring within his body.  Soon as he offered words about grace and peace, he knew what was expected next was to give thanks for his friendship and relationship with the Galatians.  But before he could say those words, he heard instant, "I am astonished and appalled that you've abandoned the faith so quickly."  And like a dog loose from its lease, that one sentence opened the flood gates.  One sentence full of pain to be processed, even as he recognized it was being passed along to people he cared about.

Why is it that those close to us can hurt and harm us, sometimes seemingly so easily?  Perhaps it is because of the nearness.  Their heavy words crash down quicker and don't have distance to be slowed down.  Perhaps it is because we expect more of them than we do the stranger or causal friend.  Perhaps it is because to be in relationship is to be vulnerable; to care is to open yourself; which is a feeling of being exposed.

For better or worse, Paul felt the hurt pulsating in his words.

Pause right here with Paul and me.

Where is there wounded-ness in a relationship right now?  Maybe with a close friend or family member or even yourself?  The hurt/harm that is self-inflicted can cut the deepest.  Name the source of one you would say, "I am astonished by what you did/said/acted..."
What was that moment?  Can you describe it like a color commentator would on TV? 
Paul gives us permission to say, "That hurt," to people we care about.  And to be sure, perhaps the Galatians wrote Paul back with an equal expression of dismay and disappointment.

Sit for just a moment, silently, with the broken careful as the edges of what you are holding are as shape as glass.

Is there any trace of God's grace in this for you?

Please pray with me: God take this messy moment, take this brokenness, and move in our midst with a creativity that might lead to reconciliation.  Amen. 

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