Monday, September 19

A Word of Praise
Most of us have a heavy burden of emotional junk accumulated from early childhood. The body serves as the storehouse for this undigested emotional material. The Spirit initiates the process of healing by evacuating the junk. This takes place as a result of the deep rest of mind and body in contemplative prayer.
Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, p. 110

Romans 16:1-16

Notes
This section of Romans contains more personal greetings than the rest of Paul’s letters put together. A few things to notice – –
1. Phoebe is identified as “a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae.” It is unusual to find a reference to a church official this early in Paul’s correspondence. In fact, there are no other allusions to a deaconess in the New Testament. In Philippians 1, Paul speaks of “bishops and deacons,” and one may conclude that, where there are deacons, the possibility of deaconesses cannot be ruled out.

2. Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila were among Paul’s closest friends. In I Corinthians 16:19 the couple seems to be located in Ephesus. In Acts:18, Paul finds them in Corinth and stays with them there. Now they are reported in Rome.

3. Nothing whatever is known from any other source about the other twenty individuals and two families mentioned in these verses. Only one of the names is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Rufus is found in Mark 15:21 where Simon of Cyrene is named as the father of Alexander and Rufus.

4. Three other of Paul’s letters mention the “holy kiss” of verse 16. (! Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Corinthians 16:20, and 2 Corinthians 13:12.) It is also found in 1 Peter 5:14. We know from other sources that the holy kiss was a regular part of the Roman liturgy around AD 150. This gesture of reconciliation is preserved today in the Passing of the Peace.

This Week’s Prayer

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Monday, August 22

A Word of Praise
There is a peace that comes when lowering clouds burst and
the whole landscape is drenched in rain,
refreshing and cool.
There is the peace that comes when hours of sleeplessness
are finally swallowed up in sleep
deep relaxing and calm.
The Peace of God, which passes all understanding,
shall guard my heart and my thoughts.

O Peace of God, settle over me and within me
so that I cannot tell mine from thine
and thine from mine.
                                         Howard Thurman

Romans 2:1-11

Notes
1. These words are set in the context of the Final Judgment. Until that point God holds back from summary judgment to give people ample opportunity to repent. However, the postponement will yield even more wrath on the hard-hearted who do not repent.

2. The judgment will be impartial and universal. Every nation and race will be included and each will be judged alike. “There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (vs, 9-10)

3. God will judge the people of the world according to their works. “For he will repay according to each one’s deeds.” (v.6) For the Jews, mere possession of the Torah is not a talisman to avoid judgment. What counts is doing Torah. Among the Gentiles are people who do what Torah requires even though they are not Jews.

4. The Final Judgment remains good news for millions, but we cannot downgrade that good news to a vague hope for a better life hereafter. When the clarity of the Christian view of future judgment is lost, so too are any moral imperative and the true hope of the oppressed.

This Week’s Prayer

Monday, August 1

Word of Praise                                                                                                                         We wait patiently; in silence, openness, and quiet expectancy; motionless within and without. We surrender to the attraction to be still, to be loved, just to be.                                Thomas Keating

Notes on Romans 1:8-15                                                                                                         1. Paul is thankful to God that the faith of the Romans is well-known, undoubtedly due in part to his prayers, and he expresses his deep desire, as an apostle to the Gentiles, to visit the capital city of Rome in order to encourage the church and preach the gospel there too.                                                                                                                                             But Paul is thankful, not for generalities, but for the specific fact that the church’s faith in Christ had become known in all the world. The apostle most certainly viewed this as the work of God himself, for while he is thankful for the church, his thanksgiving goes directly to God.

2. There is a specific reason why the apostle who has so focused his life on doing the will of God longs to come and see a church he did not found. It is because he longs to impart some spiritual gift to them in order to strengthen them.

3. Paul’s humility, though he has been regarded as the greatest of the apostles, shines through in this verse. Not only does he want to bring a blessing to the Christians in Rome, he is certain that he too will be encouraged by their faith, that is, that they will be mutually comforted by one another’s faith.

4. The term Greeks refers to those who were of Greco-Roman status, culture, language, and heritage. The term Barbarians refers to all other people outside Greco-Roman language, influence, and culture. Paul is not using the term “barbarians” pejoratively, as it was during the period and as it is often used today.. The reference to the  wise and the foolish is not a commentary on the first pair, Greeks and barbarians, but is simply another way of talking about all humanity. There are wise people (or at least they pride themselves on having attained some degree of wisdom) and there are foolish people in all cultures and Paul is a debtor to all of them.

5. The verb to preach sums up Paul’s entire apostolic career and fits well with the breadth of his ministry, covering other aspects such as teaching and discipleship, but nonetheless centered as it was, on proclaiming the gospel.

This Week’s Prayer

Tuesday, July 5

Romans 3:5-8

Notes

A persistent problem which Paul encountered was the presence of false teachers in so many young and vulnerable churches.

The question which came to Paul in Rome was whether God is justified in exercising righteous indignation toward the unsaved even though their unrighteousness magnified the righteousness of God?

How can unrighteousness magnify righteousness? Let me share an illustration.

An employee is fired by the owner of the company for stealing some of its funds. In anger the employee burns down the plant. He is arrested and about to stand trial for his crime. Then the employee  hears that the owner had insured his business for a million dollars more than it was worth. The employer benefits greatly from his employee’s crime. So the employee calls his boss, expecting all charges to be dropped, and asks for his share of the “profits.” So to the sinner thinks he has done God a favor – highlighting God’s righteousness through the sinner’s evil ways – and expects God to drop all charges against him.

Paul insists that God judges the righteous and the unrighteous equally. God cannot fairly judge the world if God is biased. God will judge each of us of our own accord.

 

 

Monday, July 4

Romans 1:18-25

Notes

We know that God’s ultimate revelation of God’s self is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There is where we see the clearest picture of God and discover the deepest truths of God.

Yet, many people, in Paul’s day and ours, have had no opportunity to hear the Gospel or to encounter Jesus Christ. Are they blameless? How can they be held to a standard of which they are unaware?

Paul insists that no one has an excuse, because “ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities have already been seen, because they are understood through the things God has made.”

Creation does not reveal everything about God, but it does reveal enough of God’s love and power that we are held accountable. In fact, the Gentiles suppressed or ignored the evidence of God’s love (and wrath) which surrounded them.

As a result, God has abandoned the pagans to pursue their hearts desires, which may be the worst possible fate.

This last point poses some difficulty for me, and perhaps all Wesleyans. I do not believe that God “abandons” anyone. We may choose to go another direction, and we bear the consequences of that choice; but God is still with us, wooing us, inviting us, back into the family.

Tuesday, June 14

Romans 8:26-27

Notes

Prayer is a human impossibility. Sometimes, faced with the misery of the world or the pain and confusion of our own lives, words fail us. Words are inadequate to express either our deepest needs or our highest hopes. Paul speaks of our “weakness” in prayer. Weakness is not a moral fault. It is simply a reflection of our humanity. God is God and we are not. In prayer, as in every other spiritual endeavor, our best efforts will not be sufficient for the task.

At times we are not even clear about what we should ask or seek. Circumstances can be so complicated that we can not sort them out. We may be too personally involved to discern a prayer-path. And sometimes we wander or daydream while praying, giving God our divided attention at best.

Paul assures us that the Spirit intercedes precisely at the point of our weakness or confusion, our lack of adequate words or full attentiveness. Our Spirit-assisted groanings become articulate to the listening heart of God.

We should always seek to know God’s will and pray accordingly, but we do not have to be worried about doing so perfectly. Indeed, we will not pray perfectly. Even when we pray for the “wrong thing,” the Spirit is praying for us in perfect accord with the will of God.

 

Monday, June 13

Romans 8:18-24

Notes

As creation shared in “the fall,” so creation will share in the redemption and restoration to new life. Our human-centered view of salvation is not biblical. Speaking to Adam, God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you.” (Gen. 3:17) Here Paul says that creation also shares in the suffering “of this present time” and “will be set free from its bondage.” (8:21) Indeed, creation will share “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (8:21)

Our attitudes toward environmental concerns have theological foundations. N. T. Wright expressed it this way: “If the creation is to be renewed, not abandoned, and if that work has already begun in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it will not do simply to consign the present creation to acid rain and global warming and wait for Armageddon to destroy it altogether. Christians must be in the forefront of bringing, in the present time, signs and foretastes of God’s eventual full healing to bear upon the created order in all its parts and at every level.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10, pp.605-6