Reformers Reading Romans

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Daily readings for the 2017 summer Bible reading plan, “Reformers Reading Romans,” will be posted here soon.

“Reading Romans” 22: “See all the people”

2017-07-11T17:50:35-04:00July 30th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 22: “See all the people”

“See all the people.” You may remember this line from the children’s rhyme that teaches how to make a church with your fingers. The rhyme ends with open doors showing the people while the building falls aside. In the last chapter of Romans the apostle Paul makes the same point. Instead of buildings his “churches” are the friends and co-workers to whom his travels had brought the gospel of Jesus Christ. They gathered for worship in homes or wherever they could. The Greek word for church is gathering or assembly and those who worship together in every age are the church.

“Reading Romans” 21: Paul’s plans

2017-07-11T17:48:52-04:00July 29th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 21: Paul’s plans

In this passage from the epistle, many question if Paul was suspicious of his own impending demise as he writes, “join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf” (Rom. 15:30). Whether true or not, Paul does not tremble, but instead resorts to bold speech in every sense. He boldly prepares to travel safely through Jerusalem, on to Rome into the hands of those who persecute him, and through Rome onto Spain, often considered the farthest possible place to travel in Paul’s world. When faced with adversity and tempted with death, Paul’s resolve becomes even stronger. Why?

“Reading Romans” 20: Christ’s welcome as model

2017-07-11T17:46:43-04:00July 28th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 20: Christ’s welcome as model

As I read this text, the single word that stood out to me the most was hope. As a 17-year-old senior in high school, I would like to consider myself a fairly hopeful person; I have optimistic views for my future and the goals I have for myself. Parts of this passage make me super-excited and ready to take on the world and fill me with, you guessed it, hope! Paul’s prayer at the end is so uplifting and positive, you can’t help but feel ready to take on whatever tomorrow has to bring.

“Reading Romans” 19: Mutual upbraiding or upbuilding?

2017-07-11T17:45:16-04:00July 27th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 19: Mutual upbraiding or upbuilding?

Church fights are the worst, right? Because the stakes are high for my spiritual life and because sin makes it all about me, I have to win. In order for me to be right, in, or saved, you must be wrong, out, or damned. You get the picture.

We know from Acts that Paul and Peter don’t see eye to eye on how the faith calls us to behave. Peter says you have to be circumcised and observe dietary and ritual purity laws and festivals; Paul says no. Basically, Peter says belonging to and following Christ requires becoming thoroughly Jewish first. Paul, the quintessential Jew himself, balks at that notion as it reeks of or leads to

“Reading Romans” 18: On governing authorities, love, and conduct

2017-07-11T17:44:12-04:00July 26th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 18: On governing authorities, love, and conduct

I traveled to the border this May with eight Lutheran Campus Ministry-Raleigh students. We went to learn more about our nation’s immigration system by listening to the stories of our neighbors, government employees and migrants alike. We sat by the Rio Grande and listened as Border Patrol agents explained their work. We broke bread with a family who risked everything so their children could have a better life. We witnessed court proceedings of men caught crossing the border illegally and spoke with the judge about the legal process. We heard the joy and sorrow of a fellow disciple called as a pastor and negotiating the immigration system.

“Reading Romans” 17: Serving God and loving others

2017-07-11T17:43:11-04:00July 25th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 17: Serving God and loving others

We live in a world fascinated by power and violence. Hatred and revenge are not only tolerated, but praised as strength and courage. We seek fame and reputation. We are expected to do what is necessary to get what we want. Those who do not follow this way are viewed with disdain.

These things hold us in captivity. As Christians we must ask: How do we free ourselves from them?

“Reading Romans” 16: Plot twists

2017-07-11T17:41:37-04:00July 24th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 16: Plot twists

I’ve always loved plot twists…you know, those moments when you expect a story to go in one direction, and it goes somewhere completely unexpected.

This passage in Romans starts out by talking about who’s “in” and who’s “out,” so to speak, using this analogy of breaking and grafting branches on an olive tree; according to Paul, many of the Israelites have been broken off of this olive tree “because of their unbelief” (v. 20) and the Gentiles to whom Paul is speaking have been grafted onto the tree in their place. It sets itself up to be a sort of “fire and brimstone” story, where the branches that have been broken off

“Reading Romans” 15: Has God rejected or abandoned us?

2017-07-23T15:20:41-04:00July 23rd, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 15: Has God rejected or abandoned us?

When I worked in Brooklyn I used to commute by subway. One day I was on the last car of the train and the lights went out. This by itself was not unusual, the lights always went on and off. But this time, the lights didn’t come right back on and the train came to a stop.

At first, everyone just sat quietly in the darkness waiting for the conductor to tell us what was happening.

“Reading Romans” 14: Where is God in this?

2017-07-11T17:38:25-04:00July 22nd, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 14: Where is God in this?

A friend of mine had lost his wife, not to cancer, but to a reaction to the chemotherapy that was supposed to save her life. They were in their early 50s. Years after her death, he still struggled to understand. He said about his prayer life, “I tell God, ‘I don’t need to see the whole picture, but could you show me just a corner?’”

“Reading Romans” 13: Nothing can separate us

2017-07-11T17:37:11-04:00July 21st, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 13: Nothing can separate us

All afternoon a little boy tried to put together his birthday gift from his father, a picture puzzle. Some of the pieces were bright, some dark; some seemed to go together, others seemed to fit nowhere. Finally, frustrated, the boy gathered the pieces, put them in the box, and gave it to his dad. “I can’t do it,” he explained. “You try it.”

“Reading Romans” 12: God is for us

2017-07-11T17:35:37-04:00July 20th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 12: God is for us

St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15 that God’s Spirit has made us Children of God. He continues to give us the Good News of what this means.

Sometimes we hear of the tragedy that either a parent or an adult child has disowned the other. It may be because one cannot bring himself to forgive the other. It may be that their lives have become incompatible. Unlike in human relationships, we can never be separated from our Heavenly Father’s love (Romans 8:38-39).

“Reading Romans” 11: Astounding claims

2017-07-11T17:33:19-04:00July 19th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 11: Astounding claims

I’m typically astounded by the claims the Bible makes, especially claims it makes about Christians. And this passage is no exception. Consider 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you” (NRSV). What’s the nature of the whopper being told of us here? It’s not that we are no longer bodily creatures. When Paul says, “…you are not in the flesh,” he’s not suggesting that our “real” selves somehow exist apart from our bodily existence. Being Christian still means that we are “in the flesh” as bodily creatures. But as bodily creatures, Paul is claiming that the dominating influence

“Reading Romans” 10: On the law

2017-07-11T17:31:10-04:00July 18th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 10: On the law

We all know the feeling Paul describes in verses 15-24, that despite our best intentions, we end up doing the wrong things, even hurting the people we love. At the extreme is addiction, but all of us have hurtful habits and sinful ways of relating to others. These behaviors can feel impossible to change. And then there are times when in trying to help out, we only make a situation worse, because the larger circumstances are so messed up or our efforts were misunderstood. All this can be demoralizing and depressing, and sometime it makes people not even want to try.

“Reading Romans” 9: What then are we to say?

2017-07-11T17:28:51-04:00July 17th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 9: What then are we to say?

“What then are we to say?” St. Paul urges us to respond in kind to God’s overwhelming grace; but instead of using our mouths to proclaim God’s love, we often use our speech to hurt others, to render judgments, to gossip. Profanity is spewed at black professional baseball players by fans, revealing the ingrained prejudice and racial insensitivity rampant in our society. We say what we shouldn’t, and those moments reveal how strongly sin has a grip on us. But we are baptized!

“Reading Romans” 8: Peace with God

2017-07-11T17:26:53-04:00July 16th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 8: Peace with God

When our children were little our bedtime ritual included family time during which both children talked about their days, we said prayers, gave and received blessings from one another, and then when I tucked them into their beds I filled their palms with kisses. Both children would hold the kisses tightly and often fall asleep tiny fists clasping their kisses. The entire routine, but especially the kisses, assured our children that they were loved and that all was well in the world. This assurance invited them to relax and fall asleep.

7: Revelation of God’s Righteousness

2017-07-11T17:24:10-04:00July 15th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 7: Revelation of God’s Righteousness

Bouncing along the bumpy dirt road in a land cruiser, I looked out over the coffee fields of Nicaragua. I had learned so much in this week. I had met women who, due to the support of Lutherans, could now cook over clean gas stoves instead of smoky wood. I had met children who had received school supplies packed by the hands of Lutherans. I met coffee farmers who would be able to sell their crop to Lutherans at better prices so they can deliver on their dream of a better future to their children. Underlying all this is the incredible story of a country which just 27 years

6: Flipping Frames: Faithfulness of Difference

2017-07-11T17:22:14-04:00July 14th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 6: Flipping Frames: The Faithfulness of Difference

In these verses we Lutherans often hear strong echoes of our Reformation confessions around justification by faith. But just what that those echoes mean in Paul’s world cannot be distilled so readily. An odd Greek phrase appears in verse 22, dia pisteos Iesou Christou. In Greek, the phrase is rich and complex, just like our experiences of God’s grace, of faith, and perhaps most importantly, our neighbor’s faith. This phrase, often translated “through faith in Jesus Christ,” could just as easily be translated “through the faith of Jesus Christ,” or “because of the faith of Jesus Christ,” or“ through the faith Jesus enacted,” or “through the course of Jesus’ life.” All of these translations are

“Reading Romans” 5: Seeing our need

2017-07-11T17:18:33-04:00July 13th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|

Reading 5: Seeing our need

It’s hard to figure this out. It’s hard to hear St. Paul say that God’s judgment and wrath are upon those who do not act righteously, that God will repay each one according to their deeds, and that those who do good will have glory and honor (2:6-10). We call that “works righteousness,” and it makes us squirm.

We Lutherans delight in pouring on the grace at every turn, so this kind of harsh language is difficult to read. It’s difficult to square it with what we know of Jesus, of faith, of being saved by grace through faith! Many of us work hard in our congregations to help people un-learn the

“Reading Romans” 4: The Wrath

2017-07-11T17:16:06-04:00July 12th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 4: The Wrath

Wrath is defined as ‘the emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice, ‘Often translated as anger, indignation, or irritation.

Here we have the wrath of God on His righteous people; they have turned away from Him and are seeking pleasures to fulfill their desires. It’s the same for us today when we lose our focus on God. We seek out things to fulfill our longings for something more, and then slowly we turn away from God. Our lives become unmanageable and we feel like something is missing. We have a void we are empty and life seems dull, hard and unpleasant at times. We have taken our eyes off God and put them

“Reading Romans” 3: The Gospel is the Power of God

2017-07-11T17:12:33-04:00July 11th, 2017|Categories: Reformers Reading Romans|


Reading 3: The Gospel is the power of God

In Romans 1:1-17, the Apostle Paul provides a snapshot of the world in which he lived and interpreted in the light of his encounter with the risen Christ. First Century Rome, the cosmopolitan imperial capital, is described by Paul in terms of polarizations: Greeks and Barbarians, Wise and Foolish, Greeks and Jews, and Christians and non-Christians. Paul had not been in Rome and seemed to struggle to describe the city. Nonetheless, his description seems to fit the Greek/Roman culture he knew and intended to reach out with the gospel that he calls: “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

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