SERMON Pastor Michael McAllister Galatians 1:11-24 June 9, 2013

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1 SERMON Pastor Michael McAllister Galatians 1:11-24 June 9, 2013 Within our Western culture we believe that we have certain rights when it comes to choosing how we live and what we re allowed to do. And we often go to great lengths to argue or stand up for or against issues that may be keeping us from those appointed freedoms. We even appoint ourselves gatekeepers to stand up for those whom we feel are being kept from those same rights. Borders and relationships and laws can and have become a battleground of sorts in our culture and country. The depth of passion and sometimes the depth of indifference to any social, political or religious topic can be as varied today as it has been throughout history. We may even find ourselves on different sides of a debate at different points in our lives. Events and relationships will often offer a different perspective for us to consider as we encounter each issue in various ways. Well, the Apostle Paul could be considered a gatekeeper with regard to many important issues of faith. Or at least history has made him out to be one. I don't think he meant for it to be that way. In his letters he actually relates how much he wants to tear down fences and gates, not build them; in order to offer a path to God's love for 1

2 all who want to receive it. Sometimes history and intention can get lost in translation. And God's love is lost with it. What s needed is an understanding of love within the important context of transformation. Now, Paul's letter to the Galatians that was read earlier this morning has been used throughout the ages by both Christians and Jews alike to draw boundaries. It s even created division within the Christian faith itself. Some people have sought to demonstrate their depth of love for God and God's love for them by sometimes comparing their faith commitment and personal conversion experiences to that of the Apostle Paul. It's not our fault really. The story of Paul's transformation in the Book of Acts had already given dramatic license to establish new details and timelines of Paul s maturity in faith. Men on horses, mysterious lights, blindness and divine voices calling out to you would be enough for anyone to fall to their knees in amazement. Of course, listening to the words of Paul himself may help us with a better understanding of both his journey and ours. He says, "For I want you to know brothers and sisters..." And then he goes on to share, not the dramatic details of the event itself, but the steps he took after understanding God's call to him through his 2

3 newfound belief in Jesus the Christ. What I love most about Paul s journey at this point is his honesty in being human. He goes through a natural period of faith transformation that needs to separate itself in order to understand itself. He spent time alone with the Spirit. He spent a lot of time alone with the Spirit. He made sure he touched base with those who were more mature in the faith than he was. But he also allowed his own mind and soul to be transformed by the deep and consistent work that only spiritual communion and reconciliation can supply. He was not perfect. He made mistakes and admits to them outright. He was no less human than anyone else and certainly no more divine than Christ. But what was most important was that he was guided into love by God's grace. Paul never actually refers to his transformation as a conversion. In those days, conversion wasn't even a topic of conversation. Remaining a Jew, Paul believed that the work he was being asked to do with the Gentiles was a fulfillment of his faith; a new understanding. It was a call to what God had set him apart to do. And once he understood his call...he was passionate about it, the kind of passion that only comes from a deep and organic belief in the love of God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul articulates to us that we glorify God through our love of one 3

4 another. We honor God through our faith expression to one another, and we offer ourselves to God as we surrender through grace to one another. In his book The Transforming Moment, author James Loder writes this with Paul's transformative event in mind: There can be no doubt that transforming events must be felt as one's own. Saul was addressed and authorized in his own right by this moment; he was addressed in terms of the particular struggle in his own soul. Transformation does not validate experiences of Christ, but one cannot know Christ apart from transformation. I know that my own journey and accompanying road to Damascus type experiences that lead to me eventually becoming a pastor was completely unexpected. It came purely from a consistency of listening closely to the Spirit and often fighting with the Spirit as well as spending a lot of time in the wilderness. Like Paul, I have discovered that God does much more fulfilling of faith than He does of converting it. Everything from my past life is used practically every day. And I do mean everything. All the bumps, pain, bruises, potholes and fallen tree limbs discovered and experienced along the way have been put to good use in one way or another. As well as my gifts. 4

5 What each of us is called to in our life of faith may not be as dramatic or historic as what we read about in the various books and theologies that have been written about the Apostle Paul. But they are no less transformative. We learn directly from Paul that it takes time, honesty and commitment to transform a life of faith. Boundaries and fences and gates are to be reflected upon. Possibly mended. Possibly taken down. And possibly even left in place. Relationships are to be reconciled. Possibly restored. Possibly brought to closure. And hearts are to be opened. But most importantly, the love of God is to be lived and shared and proclaimed in everything we do, to God s glory. Amen. 5

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