By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from Galatians 5:1-15
1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
7 You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? 8Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. 10I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. 12I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
In today’s letter to the Galatians, we learn that there are some early Christians who are continuing the practice of circumcision in accordance with the law of Moses. Is it really that big a deal? Some people are choosing to observe the faith one way, some people are choosing to observe it another, and maybe St. Paul just needs to chill out.
What is crucial to the faith and what is not? What could it hurt to sprinkle a little something “extra” into the faith practices we’ve received?
St. Paul is warning the Galatians: take care that you start with a recipe from a reliable cook. St. Paul also warns the cooks: if you confuse the recipe, you’ll be held accountable for the mess you produce. A well-trained cook can alter a recipe, but it must still be the same dish when it comes out of the oven. It’s a matter of discerning bad additions from good ones, and always being cautious as you add.
Believers must be sure that what is placed in our mouths, our minds, and our hearts is truly the gospel of Jesus Christ. Church leaders must be certain they’re following the basic gospel “recipe” handed down through generations, known to produce good, wholesome spiritual food. We do not need to reject inventive approaches to the gospel out of hand, but we should be cautious. A small alteration could enhance the flavor of the faith for someone, like adding a pinch of salt. But it might also irrevocably change the chemical composition over time, like adding a pinch of yeast will irrevocably change the dough. We must learn to discern, and to inwardly digest what St. Paul knew, which is that we rise and fall together, so we best be sure our cooks know the difference between salt and yeast.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Amichi (The Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Fla