Hello friends! Today we will read wonderful philosophical prose from Paul about human nature, law, and what defines good and bad. It also concludes with some of the best words of scripture boldly proclaimed at nearly every funeral I've been a part of - that nothing can separate us from God's love. Remember on day 1 of romans I said if you could only read one book from the Bible this would be it? Starting to see why now? :)
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
Do you agree with Paul that the purpose of the law is to set a plumb line for what is good vs bad? If so, who decides if a law is good or bad? By what standards of accountability can we apply to the "plumb line" so to say.
Do you identify with Paul's struggle of "I know what I should do but I do the opposite?" How does grace help you with this?
yThe most common type of prayer we think of is one that is spoken aloud but Paul speaks of different type of prayer in Romans 7 when he says the spirit helps us pray where words cannot be expressed. How do you pray? Do you have a type of 'wordless' prayer?
So this isn't quite commentary as its not widely accepted but its also not my thoughts as rather it's someone else's thoughts so I don't really know what to call this one. :P
When I think of Pauls writings in 7 and 8 I immediately think of (controversial) (ex)pastor Rob Bell. Rob Bell was the pastor of a mega church in Michigan that was somewhat conservative in theology when he had a revelation that he no longer believed in "selective" theology (God chooses some and destroys others) and specifically he no longer believed in the traditional understanding of hell. (fiery pit for bad people who will suffer for eternity.) After leaving his church he wrote a widely popular (again controversial) book "Love Wins." I LOVE this book. Bell explains that he does not believe in the traditional sense of hell, but does believe in hell, hell that we all go through. For Bell, hell is simply lift that is separate from what God intends, or life that is void of a relationship with God. For example, Bell argues in his book that hell is when a child dies, when substance abuses causes a person to lose their job, home, and family. Hell is when you're at a funeral for your mother or father and the world feels silent and cold. Hell is that feeling that I know you know - when your heart feels as if it is tearing in more pieces than you can sustain. When Bell reads Romans 8 he cannot believe in the existence of a fiery hell where sinners go because by definition that has separated you from the love of God, but, if hell is simply a state of being, than Romans 8 is a message that says even in the lowest points of your life God can overcome and relieve you and give you life. When the pastor reads those words at a funeral they are not only speaking about the one we lost, but they are speaking to you reminding you that life goes on, that color will return to the presently gray world, and that you will learn to find love yet again and that while grief will always remain, love will always win. If the concept of hell is something you've struggled with I highly recommend the book. In some avenues Bell can be a little bit too "spiritual" for me but I think he nails it on this one.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 296 in our United Methodist Hymnal - Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle. Please calm your mind and open your soul to the movement of God in your life as you join in praying aloud or in silent meditation.
1. Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
sing the ending of the fray;
now above the cross, the trophy,
sound the loud triumphant lay:
tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer,
as a victim won the day.
2. Tell how, when at length the fullness
of th' appointed time was come,
Christ, the Word, was born of woman,
left for us his heavenly home;
showed us human life made perfect,
shone as light amid the gloom.
3. Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
went he forth from Nazareth,
destined, dedicated, willing,
wrought his work, and met his death.
Like a lamb he humbly yielded
on the cross his dying breath.
4. Faithful cross, thou sign of triumph,
now for us the noblest tree,
none in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peer may be;
symbol of the world's redemption,
for the weight that hung on thee!
5. Unto God be praise and glory: to the Father and the Son, to th' eternal Spirit honor now and evermore be done; praise and glory in the highest, while unending ages run.