For the last few weeks, I’ve been teaching on Wednesday mornings from Elaine Heath’s newest book, God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church. What a great read! Dr. Heath, who was our guest speaker last year at REFRESH (click to sign up for 2017's Refresh at Home - at Hayes Barton!) and is currently serving as Dean of Duke Divinity School, is clearly one of the most significant voices in Methodism today as well as the Christian Church worldwide. When she speaks or writes, I pay attention!
What amazes me about this particular study is that the Word of God, written so long ago, can be spot on in our world today. Every time I realize this truth, I am reminded that scripture is God’s Living Word. I am in awe that the Holy Spirit infused the words Paul wrote to the church of Galatia, believed to be written sometime between 40-60 AD, and because of that, these same words are applicable to Hayes Barton United Methodist Church today. Stop and let that sink in for a moment. It is nothing short of incredible.
Here’s an example of what I am writing about. The reason why the Apostle Paul penned this letter in the first place is that the people in Galatia were at risk of leaving the truth of the gospel behind for an enticing message offered to them by those who were not Christ followers. We certainly do not lack for messages in our world that water down the gospel or distort it entirely. We cannot avoid these teachings altogether, but we can make sure that we understand the gospel well enough to recognize false teachings when we hear them. This is one of the reasons that the holy habit of reading and studying scripture is essential for us. It is also important for us to seek out teachers that we trust are offering sound lessons.
Further, when addressing this dangerous situation head on, Paul invites people to return to worship. Yep, return to the thing that most powerfully connects them to God. In the greeting, Paul writes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1:3-5) He reminds them of the great sacri- fice God has willingly and lovingly made on their behalf and the truth that Christ’s death has given them freedom. Not just any freedom, instead the freedom to live their lives in ways that bring glory to God. As Paul moves from a confession of who Jesus is to praise of God, he takes the step that we take every time we come together on Sunday mornings. Remember the movement in our services from the Proclamation of the Word to the Response to the Word? In response to who Jesus Christ is in our lives, we offer ourselves as instruments to do all that we can to bring God’s Kingdom on earth. Bringing God’s Kingdom begins with worship and praise of God. It comes full circle.
We are blessed to have three vibrant worship services every Sunday morning, and that is a huge gift. And while I am certainly aware that there are legitimate reasons why we all don’t make it to worship every week, I want to encourage you to reconsider your schedules and make attending worship a top priority. We are created to be in perfect relationship with God, one another and creation. The greatest way we can enjoy our ultimate purpose is to gather together on Sunday mornings. Along with protecting us from false teachings, we will receive all the strength and direction we need to go out into the world with hearts and minds full of grace and open to the Spirit of God. Besides, it is just plain wonderful to be able to reconnect with those we love who share the bond of following Christ. We are in this life together, and I am so grateful for you!
Blessings and love, LuAnn