Fourth week in a six-week series called Expanding the Table. Last week, we read about the Council of Jerusalem and the discussion about the requirements for being a Christian, a follower of Jesus. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians flushes out the arguments for a more inclusive community of Jesus. At the time the Jewish practice of circumcision was thought to bring the Christian experience to perfection. The Galatians, struggling with the demands of living out their calling in a pagan environment, were no doubt vulnerable to what they felt were a security and guarantee for a fruitful and prosperous life. And in the middle of this tension, conflict, and unsettling turmoil, Paul makes the case for a gospel of grace. It is from Galatians that we get the definitions for law and gospel. We come to understand the theology of justification by faith. In a sense justification is the transition from brokenness to a right-relationship, a whole and healthy relationship with God. Faith is the belief that God will keep God’s promise. And to Paul, this happens through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And then we as followers of Jesus respond to God’s grace through love of neighbor and stranger.
In this six-week series, we look at how the followers of Jesus after his crucifixion went from disciples to apostles. Jesus instructed them that they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. But this commission wasn't as easy as they anticipated. Conflict arose with the growing numbers of followers. They had to figure out how to be a gathered community of Jesus across the world. They had to discover what it means to expand the table. Being a follower of Jesus no longer meant that you came from a certain people, place, or nation.