Monday, July 1, 2013

Life Together

Romans 1: 1-17 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. 9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10 asking that by God's will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-- 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 --hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith." 

Paul writes of his joy in being with others (“I am longing to see you” v11) because such encounters become moments when everyone is “mutually encouraged by each other's faith”(v12). This resonates well with all of us who follow the way of Jesus, because we know that spending time with others who walk the Christian path is refreshing.

What Paul says next, however, is not as comfortable: I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (v14). It would seem that Paul – the deeply Jewish Pharisee – has been ‘hanging out’ with people considered ritually unclean by his faith and tradition. Not only has he been associating with them, but he admits to learning from them! This would be read with shock by the Christ-followers in Rome, who were doing their best to stay within their Judeo-Christian circle and were insisting that any new converts did the same.

This kind of behaviour still exists within Christian circles today. Many who follow Jesus avoid people who do not believe like us. And even when we associate with “non-believers”, we try to tell them how to live their lives, assuming that we have nothing to learn from people who do not see life as we do.

Our world needs Jesus followers who will listen to the stories of all the people on this planet. We need Jesus-followers who will learn from people who are Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Atheist. We need to hear the call of Jesus to embrace the wise and the foolish, the good, the bad, and the indifferent; the gay, the straight, and everyone in-between.  For only then will the love of God become a tangible reality.

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Words: C. Her­bert Wool­ston (1856-1927)

Fifth Sunday after Trinity
36 The Power of the Gospel

The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 219.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

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