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Daily Devotional • January 24

Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Galatians 1:18-2:10

18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days, 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 But because of false brothers and sisters secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us — 5 we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. 6 And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) — those leaders contributed nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned came from a book I never could finish reading: William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.  

Faulkner starts from the perspective of his first narrator, a young man with an intellectual disability, on the premise that looking through his eyes will give us an unbiased perspective and the exact truth. When that character proves to have certain biases and limitations, he turns to three other characters and records their testimony about the events, all in an attempt to nail down the truth of what happened. But when he finally ends the novel, there are still questions.

The whole New Testament hangs on eyewitness testimony. John tells us straight out at the beginning of his epistles. In today’s lesson Paul insists he is not lying. The gospels themselves are compilations of eyewitness statements. We have the benefit of theology about the inspired nature of Scripture, but the original readers did not. And  we all know that human memory is fickle. Even those with the best of intentions will misremember, misinterpret others’ words and reactions, and enshrine those misinterpretations as clear memories. So, I want to ask why the Galatians should have trusted Paul’s account of just what took place with the other apostles in Jerusalem.

The lynchpin is this: they believed him before, when he first taught them the gospel. They deemed this as something worthy of belief, worth changing their lives over. This built a crucial, foundational trust. So we, too, at some point, deemed Jesus Christ as worthy of belief, worth giving our whole lives and selves to. To compromise that faith, to diminish the truth, Paul says, is like spying or slave-dealing — an act of treason against the kingdom of God.   Paul warns against this in the strongest terms, inviting faith and dispelling doubt. 

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. John's Episcopal Church, Corsicana, Texas
The Diocese of Panrieng – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
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