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Pentecost 3C Sermon
Galatians 1: 11-24

June 5, 2016


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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us, in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

“But when God …” They are but three little words, and yet they tell so much about Paul’s message in this second half of the opening chapter of his letter to the Galatians. Before them, Paul talks about himself and his earlier life. He was quite the Jewish leader in his younger years. He was a Pharisee, and as such had command of the Torah law of his people. He knew who was right and who was wrong – who was in and who was out, and the believers in Jesus as messiah were definitely wrong and out, so he chased them down. He violently persecuted them, trying to destroy this church. Because of this and because he was so zealous in following the traditions of his ancestors, he advanced in Judaism much quicker than anyone else of his own age. He was definitely a man who had accomplished much in a little bit of time when he was younger.

“But then God …” After these three words, Paul turns the talk away from himself and toward the one who he had formerly persecuted, and was now serving. God called him to a new venture, revealed Jesus to him, and gave him the ability to proclaim Jesus to the Gentiles. Paul’s life turned around by a gift of God’s grace to him – he went from chief of persecutors to chief communicator of the gospel. And it wasn’t his own doing, but an act of grace by God. We know some of the details – about how he was knocked off his horse on the Damascus Road, blinded by a bright light, called by Jesus and placed into Ananias’ care until he was strong and ready to be an apostle. We don’t know the details of his three years in Arabia and trip back to Damascus that he mentions in today’s passage, but we can imagine that this was a time when God was revealing his message to Paul. And as he concludes this first chapter, it is because of this man who was changed by God that many people have come to glorify God. His life went from people crying out to God in fear, to people crying out in praise of God. And it all comes from three little words:

But when God …
We all have “But when God …” stories to tell. We could all talk about how, when we were younger we put our energy into achieving so much, not really caring about the people around us or how much we hurt them. Maybe it was achieving good grades, a good job or a good income. Possibly we tried to drink or party as much as we could, or we tried to be the ultimate follower of our favorite team. But when God gets ahold of us, things start to change. We care about those around us. We don’t focus so much on our own achievements or notoriety, but we focus on our relationships and how much impact we can make on peoples’ lives around us. And when we continue in this mindset we discover that it is not really we that are doing these things or impacting lives around us, but it is the grace of God at work in us that is doing it.

We all have our, “But when God …” moments in our lives, and I hope that you can reflect on yours and lift them up and celebrate them. This is the grace of God that we celebrate with music and song as we worship today. This is the difference that God makes in our lives and the lives of others through us. This is the one whom we glorify in our music. Amen.