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Reading Romans 6

Hello there friends! I hope you've been safe and warm these past few days as the snowstorm comes through. Prior to writing this blog I was outside shoveling snow for what feels like the 900th time in the last two days; my back was hurting, my hands were half frozen, I kept slipping on ice, and was just in general very much done with all this snow. But then I thought of Paul. I doubt Paul had ever seen snow in his lifetime but I imagine if Paul had seen snow he would have treated it far differently than I did. Paul would have seen yet another example of God's majesty and likely would have been fascinated to imagine about all of the other ways God shows Godself to people around the world that he, or I, will never know. In my time and study of Paul this past year I've started to grow appreciative of his nearly always optimism and focus on searching for the good, the grace, the love, in all situations at all times. So, while you've been barricaded inside the house with all of this snow how have you, or can you, focus on looking for God's goodness? I'd be curious to hear your responses to this by replying to this email or leaving a public comment below.


Today we're going to read Romans 6 which will conclude this weeks "homework" before Sunday. Today's chapter picks up on the theological questions presented in chapter 5 regarding Original Sin and how baptism can act as a bridge to take us from a life of inevitable sin to a life of grace, mercy, and life through Christ. I'll break it down a little more below in the usual spot. For now, take a quick moment to read through Romans 6.


 

Scripture to Read



 

My Thoughts


(Minor rant incoming)


One of the things I've always disagreed with when it comes to the Methodist church is the idea of infant baptism. I don't like the idea of parents making that decision on behalf of children because they could never possibly understood what that means. While we, and others that baptize infants, offer confirmation classes to teenagers in order to "confirm" their baptisms the deed has already been done. In effect, this waters down (I'm sorry. Haha.) the power of baptism to this careless act we do 'because we should' rather than some major life changing decision. A baptismal vow, as laid out by Paul in chapter 6, should carry the same weight as a wedding vow. Much like the idea of an arranged marriage makes us gag why are we suddenly so okay with an arranged baptism? Hey there kiddo - you're committing yourself to God as revealed through the Christian lens and you're vowing to fight injustice and be evangelical about Christ's grace on your life. I know you're just a pooping, sleeping, hungry mess right now but someday this will all makes sense. It's weird - at least to me. I mean, just look at the number of baptisms we do where we promise to help raise the child (and people promise to raise their child in church) and we never see them again. It has to at least be 90% of cases. As a result the act of baptism for the congregation becomes less and less meaningful over time and the words we vow just become more words we read from the projector. The last thing the church needs right now is more apathy especially around something so critical as baptism. I'm being harsh here - I'm aware - and those that support infant baptism can offer you countless reasons why its a beautiful ceremony. I just do my best to avoid having to do them when I can.


BUT


Since this is an official blog through our United Methodist website I want to share with you the official wording (and biblical justification) for infant baptism from the UMC website. See below.


Baptizing infants

As the circumcision of male children is the initiatory act into God's covenant with the Hebrew people (see Genesis 17:9-14), baptism is our initiation into the new covenant in Jesus Christ.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter offers the promise of baptism without regard to age, saying it is for those present, their children, and those far away (Acts 2:38-41). Later in Acts, we read of Paul and Silas baptizing Lydia and her household, and later their jailer with his entire family (Acts 16).
We continue this practice by baptizing the children of those who reaffirm their baptismal vows, receiving them into God's mighty acts of salvation.

Alright, so now that you know how I feel about baptism let's look at Romans 6 a little closer to see what Paul suggests about it.


What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul's argument about baptism is that when we are baptized we can wash away the sin of Original Sin from Adam and Eve in Genesis and thus live fully into the new covenant that God made with all people through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, we bury our past covenant to make room for the new one. In essence, this is no different than an Israelite child being circumcised at birth to mark that they are a member of God's chosen. So, I should clarify that Biblically and theologically, infant baptism does make sense. I'm just weird, but what else is new?


6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

But then this is where things get a little muddy for me. Paul then writes that the purpose of baptism is "to destroy our old selves" so that "[our] body of sin might be destroyed." Hmm. I agree with the whole "destroying sin" thing...we already covered that up above. Where I get stuck is the idea of "our old selves" being "destroyed." Baptism then should be a conscious recognition of our sin, our failings, our faults, our mistakes, our regrets. Baptism should be an act of ultimate confession and repentance. We change our lives in response to baptism. We use our sins, failings, faults, weakness, mistakes, regrets, as fuel in our inner fire of redemption. Much like justifying grace is working to repay a debt that can never truly be repaid, baptism comes at a moment of realization that true injustice has been done by us and we seek to atone for that.


Theologically, Paul’s view on baptism is that it is a journey or a process and its effects are not only for a moment but for an entire life. Believers must understand that the baptism Paul is talking about in Romans 6 does not just wash away the stains of sin, but rather, it is a participation in the death of Jesus Christ and an anticipation of his resurrection. The result of this participation and anticipation are that one has to believe in and embody a resurrection life. Christian life is basically a life of resurrection and that is what makes Christian faith unique from other religions. Secondly, baptism does not erase sin, rather it puts it in check. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, baptism builds a wall around a believer and sets boundaries on what to practice and what not.


20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification.

This to me is one of the most beautiful lines of scripture in all of the canon and explains for me why a relationship with God is important. Paul argues that without a relationship with God we (people) are likely to fall into pits of shame when we become aware of the self destructive behaviors, thoughts, and actions that we did in our more 'free' days. For example, someone with an alcohol addiction might become aware of it and as a result of their addiction might have cast away all friends and family in their lives. (those boundaries are important! You know if you need them.) But without someone to lean on they might fall back into a destructive cycle. Paul suggests that no matter what God loves you and believes that you can be the person God created you to be. God can be and wants to be an eternal support system for that person, for you, and for me. When we come to realize that our path isn't shame, but sanctification. Sanctification is the 'final' step of the grace journey according to John Wesley. Sanctification is the pursuit of perfection - to become as close to Christ as possible while shedding our own selves away. Everyday that we get a little less angry we become more like Christ. Every day we become a little less judgemental we become more like Christ. Everyday we love our neighbors we become like Christ. At the end of our lives we can look back on who we were and who we became and feel pride in ourselves, not shame on what more we could have done.


Of course, I am not suggesting that those who lack faith in some institutional system or God are doomed to experience shame. Most likely will likely find a healthy relationship with family, friends, partners, co-workers, etc. But, I do believe that God plays a very important role in the life of those on the margins or whose lives are really unsteady. I think that's why religious based anonymous groups tend to be more successful and popular than non-religious options. If you ever find yourself in a place where life feels unsteady and you don't know where else to turn try a simple prayer: "God, I'm open to your mercy." I bet it will lead to a wonderful journey.


Alright I've typed enough here. I hope you'll join us on Sunday for part 3 of our Romans series. You can find that on our YouTube page or we'll send out the video by way of app, email, and Facebook on Sunday morning. See you on Monday for more reflections!


 

Praying through Praise


There's really only one song that I think of when it comes to this topic - No Longer Slaves. The words are beautiful and the passion that builds as the song goes on is infectious. It's almost impossible to not shout out "I'm no longer a slave to fear" by the end as you join in the chorus of angels speaking that into existence. This particular video is powerful to me as it takes place in a prison. Much like the Johnny Cash playing in Folsom Prison, Zach Williams, brings the Spirit into a place of hopelessness and brings the house down. Just wait for that moment at 6:13 when the room says it for themselves. Goosebumps. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.




You unravel me with a melody

You surround me with a song

Of deliverance from my enemies

'Til all my fears are gone


I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God


From my mother's womb

You have chosen me

Love has called my name

I've been born again to a family

Your blood flows through my veins


I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God


I am surrounded

By the arms of the Father

I am surrounded

By songs of deliverance


We've been liberated

From our bondage

We're the sons and the daughters

Let us sing our freedom


You split the sea

So I could walk right through it

My fears are drowned in perfect love

You rescued me

And I will stand and sing

I am a child of God


You split the sea

So I could walk right through it

You drown my fears in perfect love

You rescued me

And I will stand and sing

I am a child of God


Yes, I am

I am a child of God

I am a child of God

Yes, I am

I am a child of God

Full of faith

Yes, I am a child of God

I am a child of God


I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God

I'm no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God



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