Morning Prayer: April 5th

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Psalm: 97, 99
Old Testament: Jeremiah 17:19-27
New Testament: Romans 7:13-25

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 8:21-25)

I recently listened to a sermon that made a very important point about Scripture. Oftentimes, we assume that we are reading and interpreting the Word of God…without realizing that sometimes, the Word reads and interprets us.

Here in Romans, Paul talks about his will to do the right thing. His mind and heart are in the right place, but the power of sin and the flesh force him to do something different.

While this could be seen as an excuse to behave badly….but I don’t think that’s what is being pointed to here. Rather, I would say that the Apostle to the Gentiles shows his incredible humanity.

There are many times in my life when I have started to do something with the best of intentions…only to fall flat on my ass. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

My own greed and want for attention and love always mitigates how fully I can love others. My desire to get ahead always overshadows my concern for those who are less fortunate. I am held back by sin.

We need someone to rescue us. We need someone to point us in the right direction, and we need someone to clear our vision. Save us Lord, for your mercy is great. +

Morning Prayer: March 26th

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Psalms: 75, 76
Old Testament: Jeremiah 5:20-31
New Testament: Romans 3:19-31

For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 5:28-31)

Here we come to one of the pivotal passages of Romans. Not only does it have significance for the theology of Paul himself, but to a whole slew of Protestant interpretations.

One of the problems with traditional Protestant takes on this passage is that it holds up the decision to place one’s faith in Christ as the way to becoming righteous. If that happens, it is no longer the faith of Christ that makes a difference, but rather the individuals personal choice.

The danger here of course is that there can be a tendency to turn that choice into a “work”. Pray the sinner’s prayer, and you’re good to go. Get baptized and continue sinning…..it doesn’t matter if you ignore morality……you will be saved because you have faith in Jesus. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Obviously, I don’t think that’s what Paul intends here, otherwise he would not have made a specific point about upholding the Law. He would have been aware that Jesus constantly called his disciples to holiness….saying that it was not the family of blood that made up his brothers and sisters…..but those who did the will of his Father.

Christ also said that he came to fulfill the Law and not to abolish it.

As has been explained in earlier verses, the purpose of the law is to expose Sin…..to uncover those times when we miss the mark and fall short of our full potential as the sons and daughters of God.

We can’t let go completely of the moral compass of the Law. It is what keeps us balanced and keeps us in check. The big difference is that we do not place our hope on the Law. Rather we place our trust in the hope and faith that God will forgive our clumsiness and our mistakes…..even those times when we screw up royally! ๐Ÿ˜›

Together as a faith community, we strive to follow the will of God and cling to Jesus as the one who will keep us safe and cover our sins for us. May we never grow lazy in our call to holiness, and remember that God will catch us when we fall. +

Morning Prayer: March 24th

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Psalm: 71
Old Testament: Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28
New Testament: Romans 2:12-24

In the introduction to his book, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics Stephen Westerholm has a hilarious episode of Martin Luther wandering into a book store and being astounded by what he finds. In a fictional dialogue with the author, the great Reformer from Eisleben is confused to find out that modern literature on Paul depict him as a devout Jew who never completely let go of his attachment to the Mosiac Law.

You see, in Luther’s commentary on Romans, there is a fundamental conviction that Paul turned his back on Judaism and embraced the new religion of Christ. Trading in a religion dedicated to following law and sin for the new faith that emphasized total depravity and the saving message of Grace.

In reality, the “Lutheran Paul” created a false dichotomy. In Luther’s defence, there are lots of conflicting messages abut the efficacy of the law in the letter to the Romans….but let’s concentrate on the idea that surfaces today:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in Godโ€™s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all….

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God….You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, โ€˜The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.โ€™ (Romans 2:13-16;17;23-24)

As you can see from these texts, the law is important for Paul. It is a constant in the universe. A moral compass that directs both Jew and Gentile. For the Gentile, they know of the Law despite their ignorance because they strive to do the right thing. For Jews, the Law is important because they have both the moral compass of their heart, and the written specifics about how to go about living.

As a devout Jew now committed to preaching to Gentiles, Paul readily admits that there are Jews who fall short of the Law, and highlights the essential goodness of Gentiles. Yet again, we see role-reversal. The chosen people of God are depicted as apathetic to their call to holiness, while the outsider is seen as the one who is living up to the command to walk humbly with God. This irony is a constant theme in Biblical literature.

We will get some other conceptions of sin as we move through the letter to the Romans……but one of the questions to reflect on today in light of the Church might be: What do those outside our congregation’s walls, and absent from the pews have to teach us about how we are living our lives…..are we the ones who need to be put on the right path??? +

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