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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Galatians 5:2–15

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I 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. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

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. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (NRSV)

This passage for today pushes us to get at the root of our faith. Paul spends much time highlighting how focused the people of Galatia were on the practice of circumcision. He pushes the community to consider that it’s not about the practice; it’s about the faith. Above everything, we must love our neighbors as ourselves. That’s the most important thing. Sometimes we become so consumed by our traditions that we can forget the point of these traditions: to connect us with our faith, which helps us love one another.

Recently when I was serving communion, a young child chose a piece of bread and then threw it into the cup of juice with the force of an aspiring professional baseball pitcher. The child’s mother seemed mortified, but it really was fine (and quite hilarious). Although the child didn’t exactly get the “tradition” right of how we practice communion—pensively and cautiously dip the bread into the juice—I could turn to him and tell him that this bread and juice helps us remember how Jesus loves us. That’s the point. If we were too worried about the bread now floating in the cup of juice, we’d miss God whispering in our ear, calling us to love one another just as God loves us. He’ll learn how to take communion with time, but above all, he’s got to learn about God’s love.

Loving God, help us be rooted in your love. Let the traditions of our church be reminders of your love, empowering us to love one another in new and radical ways. Stop us when our dwelling on traditions separates us from you and from our ability to love one another. We do what we do for you and because of your love. Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident

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