Re:Verse passage – Galatians 2:11-21 (day three)
“When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.”
The account Paul relates here foreshadows his statement later in this epistle that life with Christ transcends the categorical divisions that have defined civilizations and societies and groups and families. Peter [Cephas] made the politically expedient decision to distance himself from the gentiles while Jews were present. But Peter’s maneuvering amounted to a denial of Christ’s way every bit as vehement as his denial of his friend on the night before the cross. Paul confronted a man who was heading right back into yet another denial of Christ. If ethnic group still separates from ethnic group, if men still lord it over women, if the powerful still enslave the weak — if these distinctions still define the way one person regards another — the church has nothing left to say.
(Credit to Aaron Hufty for pointing out to me the consistent pattern in Peter’s behavior)
Re:Verse passage – Galatians 2:1-10 (day three)
“Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem…”
What happened to Paul in that interval of fourteen years? Scholarship is of several opinions. Timelines are sometimes notoriously thorny in biblical studies. But overall, one can see that a substantial amount of time elapsed between Paul’s cataclysmic life-rearrangement and his full engagement with the church. Why? Because change happens in one’s life at the speed of trust. What appear as instantaneous existential shifts have in fact been long in the making. Moses fearlessly faced Pharoah only after he had spent 40 years in desert exile contemplating his life (which prepared him for the burning bush encounter). Abraham ascended Moriah only after he had known God for the better part of a century. Whether 100 years, 40 years, or 14 years, change takes time in you. That doesn’t bother God.
Re:Verse passage – Galatians 1:11-24 (day three)
“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“The Revelation of St. John the Divine” is the heading of the last book in all the old King James Bibles. Turns out St. Paul clocked in a little ahead of St. John in the revelation experience. Paul had given his whole life to the pursuit of his faith. From boyhood, he learned the scriptures from Gamaliel. Paul studied diligently to become a scholar of scholars, literate in the most influential philosophical and theological bodies of knowledge the world had ever produced. He put all that intellectual and spiritual fire into making the world safe from the Jesus Way. His encounter with Jesus completely undid him. It took Jesus himself to bring Paul through that trauma and into God’s work.
Re:Verse passage – Galatians 1:1-10 (day three)
“…a different gospel; which is really not another…”
What makes the good news good? In a word, welcome. Heaven receives you as is, not as you or somebody else would prefer you to be. If the invitation from God comes with a checklist, it’s not the gospel. It’s just another person’s low regard for you. But when God sees you, he sees someone he made and loves. You talk about accepting Christ, but the gospel is Christ’s accepting you. And this is where repentance arises: the welcome itself so speaks to your deepest longings that you would do anything – anything – to leave behind your old way and live in something as comforting and healing as God’s reception of you. The welcome, the open arms, precede anything else. The good news is actually that good.
Re:Verse passage – 1 John 5:14-15 (day three)
“If we know that he hears … we know that we have…”
When your voice surprises a loved one with joy, when an important person answers your call, when your favorite musician takes your request, you’ve been heard. There’s a deep assurance that you matter. Being heard is so important to the core of your being that the actual details of your petition become less of the central issue, because being heard in your deepest place of longing affirms that you are valuable. With God, hearing and providing are two dimensions of the same attribute – his love for you. The one who takes the time to hear you will take the time to care for you in a way that will fill you with comfort, hope, and an unsurpassed experience of well-being. The one who made you will hear you.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 9:1-23 (day three)
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.”
The first clause of the above passage of scripture is news; the second clause is gospel. Where in all the world will be found pity and pardon despite adversarial behavior? Only with God. These are the tidings from heaven that Paul never got over: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Repentance and salvation are both swept up into that joyous summation. Indeed, throughout the entire cosmos ring these words from Daniel which announce all is not lost: “even though.”
Re:Verse passage – Luke 11:1-4 (day three)
“Lord, teach us to pray…”
You might ask why it would ever be necessary to pray that God wouldn’t lead you into temptation. It would seem to go without saying that God would refrain from such a thing. But you could say the same about other components of the prayer: it would seem to go without saying that God would care that people regard him and his activity highly; that heaven would prevail; that God would provide for one’s needs daily; that God would give mercy and forgiveness to human beings. And yet, here’s this prayer asking that God do all these things. If all that goes without saying, why pray? Because you don’t live in an impersonal, algorithmic universe. You live in a personal one. Life proceeds in conversation with this person – God – or it doesn’t proceed at all.
Re:Verse passage – Nehemiah 1:1-11 (day three)
“The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”
Whatever your experience of your actual home, there’s a longing in you for a place where people welcome you, where they are patient with you because they know you and make space for you and wait for you. That longing is what lends weight to the words hometown, homecoming, homeland, homesick. Nehemiah had heard all his life of the place from where his people had come, and though he had never been to Jerusalem, that was his home. If the dream of home is shattered, the soul is cut to the quick. Have you lost your dream of home? The Savior has lived that sadness. Our Lord had no place to lay his head. He will cradle yours.
Re:Verse passage – Mark 11:22-25 (day three)
“All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”
When a child says, “Don’t go to work,” her words request that you skip going into the office. But is that the heart of what she asks? Or is she rather saying, “Help me feel you close to me so that I know I won’t lose you?” Maybe you can take a day away from your job, maybe you can’t. But either way, you can address the request beneath the request, the heart of her longing: that you help her feel your closeness. Roger Ebert used to say, “A movie is not about what it is about, but about how it is about it.” There’s something underneath your request to God. It’s the heart of your longing. And God always attends to that.
Re:Verse passage – John 17:20-26 (day three)
“I have made your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
There’s a deeper source of loneliness and despondency than one’s conclusion that God is unknown, and that is one’s conclusion that God cannot be known. To remain permanently sealed off from even the possibility that inquiry and exploration could lead to an experience of God’s existence would be the kind of life in which atheism would make sense. In such a reality, belief in God or religious inclination would make no practical difference to a human being whatsoever. In his prayer, Jesus reaches through and beyond such a chasm between divine and human. He’s getting a message out from heaven that God is here. All things are now possible.