Monday, March 1st
Paul is on fire with the Gospel. Yes, his very long sentences ramble and tempt some of us to diagram them to figure out just what he is saying but putting yourself in his place helps to understand his writing. It’s been twenty years since his conversion and he’s been on the road for ten years establishing missions, but his excitement about the good news of Christ Jesus still roars out of him. While in Ephesus, he dictates this letter to the Romans, whom he can’t wait to see. He’s pacing around whatever space has been allotted to him, dictating to his friend Tertius, and trying to tell the people he knows in Rome how to keep their nascent church growing until his visit.
Let us try reading the letter along with the Romans. These opening verses start out like the conventional first century A.D. greeting, but Paul jumps from introducing himself right into his whole theology. In his very first (and very long) sentence, Paul attributes his authority to Jesus, who called him and chose him “for the gospel.” Beside Jesus is his father, God, who “promised” the gospel centuries earlier in the writings of the Old Testament that predict the life and teachings of Christ. Here Paul connects those earlier writings to the gospels and to his own preaching. Ultimately, though, it is “by his resurrection” that Christ “was declared to be the Son of God.”
Paul doesn’t even stop with this amazingly good news of God reversing the evil of Christ’s crucifixion to bring good to the world: the sentence continues. First, Paul says that the grace of God gave him his authority to teach in “all nations.” This includes the Romans and us, all “called to belong to Jesus Christ” and “loved by God and called to be saints.” He hasn’t yet even met many Romans (or us) but is sure that God’s promises and Christ’s resurrection have already called us to sainthood.
Finally this amazing sentence concludes with grace and peace from God and Jesus. Paul’s greeting to the Romans offers the great gift of God’s grace to them and still offers encouragement to us. He had no idea we would be reading his words two thousand years later, but they still bring much-needed good news. Despite pandemic and politics, he tells us that we have been blessed, called, and sainted. Who could be downhearted? Truly, this is the Word of the Lord. Amen.