Hey ya'll! Welcome to this next week of blogs. We only have two chapters to read this week - 12 and 13 - before we bring it to close next week with 14,15, and 16. Maybe you've fallen behind a little bit or just got started this week; consider using Friday and the weekend as a chance to catch up so you can close out the series with me.
Couple words of business before we get going with Romans 12.
We're going to be rolling right into our next worship series for Lent called "Drink from the Fountain of Grace" This will be a thematic based series looking at different examples of how God has "filled the cups" of weary people throughout scripture and how that relates to us. Check out this short excerpt to see just what we'll be getting into:
Throughout Scripture and today, God sustains God’s people in the most basic of human ways – physically, with food and drink, and spiritually – with food and drink for our souls. This Lent, as we remember what it means to be human, we find refreshment from God’s fountain of grace. The different images of cups shown in Scripture will serve as a touchpoint for exploring aspects of our relationship with God. What does our brokenness say about us? What does discipleship look like? What does it mean to seek justice? This exploration culminates in the most exciting celebration of all – that Jesus is risen for us and we have new life in him!
That starts March 2nd at 7:30pm for our Ash Wednesday service. Hope to see you there!
Finally - we would love to collect some feedback from you on how the worship series have been going for you. Feedback like this is so crucial in helping Joyce and I decide what comes next in the future. It should only take about 2-3 minutes of your time to fill out. Thank you!
Scripture to Read
It's going to be a little hard to not just repeat everything I said in this Sunday's message here but I'll try to keep it a bit more pointed than the half hour I spent on that. :P However, if you're looking for an audio blog you can review that message here!
Romans 12 begins the shift from the first eleven chapters right away in verse 1 when it says "therefore." Therefore is pendulum that says everything we just talked about in these last 11 chapters about sin, salvation, and God's relationship with us - you are to do this in response. What is this? Offer our bodies to God. What does this mean? That sounds weird to our modern ears, perhaps even a little funny. To offer our bodies is in direct contrast to the ritual offerings that defined the relationship between humans and their gods (and our God) for years. Previously, we would offer up a choice cut of meat or first pick of the harvest grain as an offering to God as an act of gratitude or repentance. Paul argues here that God is not interested in our offerings - God is interested in ourselves. God wants to be in relationship with us and not just be transactional in our needs and desires. Do you consider your faith life to be something transactional or relational? In other words - do you find yourself going to God more often when you need or want something? Do you find yourself going to God just to talk more?
Verses 3-5 offer a powerfully forward thinking plea from Paul encouraging everyone to not think too highly of themselves. This was in response to the uncomfortable meetings that would happen at the Romans churches. Consider that these churches were filled with men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and masters (awkward), rich and poor, influential and outcast, etc. People might worship together under the same house but they definitely brought with them their own thoughts and prejudices about their status and the status of those around them. (Status was the name of the game for Roman culture after all.) In my message I shared that I sometimes struggle with thinking about jobs that below me. "I'm too good to be a gas station attendant, or a barista, or a fast food worker." I have a fancy degree and I've sat at a fancy desk, and I own more suits than I do socks. (that's sadly actually true. I really like suits.) But is that true? Do I command more respect because of my job titles, my income, my education? I don't think Paul would agree. Of course, we need executives, we need business leaders, we need civil leaders and other 'Important' jobs. The distinction is we must do our best to resist the temptation that as we climb the ladder of cultural success that we don't also "Look down" on those below who are still trying to climb. Everyone plays a role in the functioning of society. Instead, Paul would suggest that we find jobs that align with our gifts rather than our hopes that it would fulfill our status. If we can see our jobs, and the jobs of others, as gifts rather than status we might be less prejudiced. Do you have to catch yourself doing this? What tips have helped you over come it?
Finally, verse 9-20 offer some of the hardest challenges that Paul lays before us as he says that a true Christian "lives in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly" and "do not repay evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all." This past verse is one that I have been reflecting on much that last week or so in the ever evolving tension between Ukraine and Russia and what the US response should be in all of that. Is our place to interfere? Is that noble in the sight of all to defend the weak? But is it really defending the weak by engaging in acts of violence? Wouldn't that simply just be repaying evil for evil? Of course, I trust that our top military advisors know what is best so I'm not being critical of our response (whatever it ends up being) but to allow Russia to get away with any type of bullying over Ukraine seems like we're complicit in evil and injustice. Verse 18-19 seem to provide the answers for Christians: "If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." If injustice is done (and thank God it has not so far) than Paul would argue that all we can do is pray and ask for the intervention of God. This feels frustrating, I admit. It feels like "thoughts and prayers" in the face of evil. But maybe that's all we're called to do. How has your faith been shaping your response to the actions happening across the globe? How has it helped in previous crises?
Praying with Praise
Yesterday in church we sang "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" as a response to our prayer of confession. However, we sang it to the tune of "The Gift of Love." It was fun to see the reactions for many of you as you adapted this familiar hymn to a new tune. For those that enjoy things like this I thought I would share with you the full version for today.