I've been engaged with an unfortunately on-going conversation regarding the place of gay men and lesbians in the ordered leadership of the United Methodist Church. As we argued about polity, my friend Jeff entered a word about this lection:
I've been thinking about our friend St. Paul. It's probably not wise to use Paul in support of a position that he seems not to affirm, but in the lectionary reading for Sunday (Gal. 1:11-24) Paul is in the process of defending his decision to move outside of the established "church" and offer the good news of Christ to people who were considered to be outside of the accepted community. Paul was willing to include persons who hadn't been "marked" as Jews without insisting that they go under the knife and change who they were. Even Peter came to the realization that people outside of the Jewish tradition were OK as they were. We seem to have taken a step back.
This catches a dilemma of community - it takes a wrenching experience to have the church move forward in extending and expanding the love it has experienced. Paul and Peter each had their transformative vision of Jesus and G*D that allowed them to step outside the legalism (read theology) of their community. An outcome of church is partly that of desiring and instituting stability and this is a set up for instability. If we don't keep up with changes they build up within and around the church. Just as the longer an earthquake takes to shake loose its entrapment the larger its effect will be, the more people will be lost. Can we not change and change? Theoretically, but not historically.
There have been a series of seismic slips (earthquakes) in the church wherein we make significant leaps forward. Always, though, there is a breaking of some ideal unity as those who cannot keep their balance with the new landscape rebuild over the old fault rather than move on.
A mystery is how the next vision/revelation change will occur. In this instance verse 23 may need to be adapted: ["Those the church persecuted proclaimed their faith in the face of their destruction by the church." G*D was glorified because of their faith.]