Hello! Welcome to the first of our epistles, Romans! Romans is probably one of the most well known epistles as it contains some of the most beautiful examples of text about Jesus, God, and our relationship to Him. As odd as it might sound if I were to have someone read only one book in the Bible I would probably skip past the gospels and send them to Romans. An epistle is a letter, so it will begin with a formal greeting, then a long body, and formal ending. Despite being a letter, Romans is written quite differently than Paul's other (confirmed) letters. So, (most) scholars have concluded that Roman's is more of a "thesis" than a letter. Lastly, of all of Paul's letters this was written last which makes it kind of confusing that its the first one in the canon. It's viewed as a summery of Paul's thoughts at the end of his career. I think it's fitting we are reading this around the time we celebrate our nations freedom. While we give God praise and gratitude for the ways God has led our leaders throughout history to create a space for free thinking and expression, we also must remember that God does not show favoritism (you'll read this in Romans today) and that God does not exclusively bless the USA, love the USA more than others, or lead the USA into victory over our enemies in war. God is a God of peace and mercy. God knows no east or west. God is God of all the nations. Finally, our freedom is not secure because of a nation bound to this earth as we are made free by the atonement of Jesus Christ. Amen and amen praise be to God and His boundless love.
Have you read Romans before or this is your first time?
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
Paul distinguishes that a law is only as good as it is acted upon. Do you agree or disagree?
Do you agree that God shows no favoritism? yes or no? How about in scripture?
When you think of God's judgement what comes to mind? is it something to be feared or appreciated?
- Commentary -
I don't have much to share on this today as there is a Bible Project video that will do a better job at (literally) illustrating the themes of Romans but I do want to say a brief word on Romans 1: 26-27, one of the popular scripture passages used to condemn LGBT+ people. I know, I know, we all differ on this topic and the point of this journey together isn't to sway you or force you to believe one thing but its also important we are reading the scripture accurately and not just how it has been translated. So, I share with you a little context on this scripture passage. Mind you, this comes from someone who believes in an open and affirming church so read that with whatever lens you deem necessary.
Romans 1:26-27 Here, Paul is condemning the sinful and harmful acts he perceives in Roman culture at the time. Since same-gender and non-heterosexual attractions are natural, this condemnation is not directed at LGBTQ people. In Romans 2:1, Paul condemns those who misuse God’s teachings to judge others
The word translated as “homosexuals” and “men who have sex with men” is the Greek word arsenokoitai, which more accurately translates to “men who sleep with male prostitutes”.  The word “homosexual” is not found in the Bible in translations written prior to 1948, implying that it was likely added as a result of the translators' own prejudices. 
 Rev. Justin Cannon. “The Bible, Christianity and Homosexuality” https://www.gaychurch.org/homosexuality-and-the-Bible/the-Bible-christianity-and-homosexuality/
 Kathy Baldock. (March 2019). “How the Bible Became Anti-Gay: Forging a Sacred Weapon.” http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/forging-a-sacred-weapon-how-the-bible-became-anti-gay/
See also “My Quest to Find the Word Homosexual in the Bible”, by Ed Oxford, Bible News Network, Aug 10, 2020. https://baptistnews.com/article/my-quest-to-find-the-word-homosexual-in-the-bible/#.X6BLltBKi9I
And now I invite you to watch this Bible Project video :)
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is hymn 293 in our hymnal - Behold the Savior of Mankind. I invite you to join with in praying this hymn either aloud or in meditation. I've never heard this hymn before today and I find it very pretty. This is one of the things that makes this year long journey so wonderful is learning new scripture stories and new hymns! Also, this hymn was written by Samuel Wesley, father of John and Charles Wesley. So that's cool!
1 Behold the Savior of mankind nailed to the shameful tree; how vast the love that him inclined to bleed and die for thee!
2 Hark how he groans! while nature shakes, and earth's strong pillars bend! The temple's veil in sunder breaks, the solid marbles rend.
3 'Tis done! the precious ransom's paid! "Receive my soul!" he cries; see where he bows his sacred head! He bows his head and dies!
4 But soon he'll break death's envious chain and in full glory shine. O Lamb of God, was ever pain, was ever love like thine?