Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the 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.
You may or may not be aware of the that we have a group from Alcoholics Anonymous that meets here once a week. They call themselves Saturday Night Live. The fellowship consists of wonderful people that have realized that the addiction they have cannot be handled on its own. The twelve step program that they follow has probably been one of America’s greatest gifts to spirituality. It connects God with people that are broken, like all of humanity, with the realization that it takes a higher power to give us strength and see us through the challenges in our lives.
While I do not have much experience with the AA group, I am a little more familiar with a group that was called together in my last call. It was the Meth Diversion Task Force that sought to steer people from their past lives of addiction and possibly other illegal behavior. It was the task force’s responsibility to interview and select inmates within the county correctional facility that would be eligible for an early release program and work through a process that involved three different levels, as well as incorporating meeting involvement in Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. Some of the stories that I heard at these task force interviews were heart-wrenching. For example, at one time their were three generations from one family in the correctional facility at the same time under meth related charges. I heard stories of lives that were broken and thought to be beyond repair.
You may wonder why I bring this up today as we venture into our second week with Galatians. If you recall from last week, we were made aware of Paul’s unhappiness with the practices that they were now following after others came in, teaching them a gospel that was counter to his preaching. Yet, in spite of his condemnation of their current actions, he still blesses them with God’s grace and peace.
In today’s passage Paul continues to build up his case for the gospel he proclaimed to the Galatians earlier in his ministry. Part of his defense of the gospel comes in the reminding of the Galatians of his background. At this point, Paul may not be our best example of humbleness. He points out that he was a star pupil, beyond many of the same age and he was far more zealous for the traditions of his ancestors than others. He grew up living and breathing the law that was brought to the Jewish people by Moses and knew little of God’s grace. While Paul may not of had an addiction to alcohol or meth, he lived for the law and felt called before Christ came to him to persecute those that were not following it. He did not see another way, much like someone that is addicted to something.
Luke shares with us in Acts the full conversion story of Paul, also known as Saul. Paul was the source of great violence and attempting to destroy the church that Jesus had became the foundation for. It is in this persecution and violence that Jesus comes to him and calls him to stop, for he now has a new calling for him. As Jesus is revealed to him, he is made blind for three days and neither ate nor drank. He learns what it is like to live in the darkness and it is through Jesus Christ that his sight is restored by Ananias. It is in this that Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit and is baptized.
In baptism Paul is washed clean of his sins and called to serve Jesus Christ and proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. “But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles…” (v.15-16). It is through the Grace of God that Paul’s path in life got on a different track.
Regardless of our sins, those we know we have committed and those we do not know, we are given the gift of God’s grace. In our brokenness we should be reminded of the new life that we were given in our baptisms and remember it on a daily basis.
Paul finds community with those that he proclaims the gospel to and it breaks his heart to see the Galatians turn away from the true gospel of Christ. It is through him that the grace of God is shared for all people. It is the grace of God that works in the AA meetings that are held here every Saturday evening. It is through the grace of God that those seeking to dig themselves out of their meth addiction find those that can help and a group to support them. It is the grace of God that supports all of us throughout the week when we may need it most.
In baptism we are made new, like Paul, and join the community of Christ. Through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection we are reminded of the grace of God and are called to live into it on a daily basis. May you go out this week experiencing that grace and share it with others when you are called to do so.