Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Wednesday, March 3rd

Romans 1:28 – 2:11

When he wrote this letter to the Romans, Paul was planning to travel to Rome. In the letter, he tries to give a concise but compelling account of the Christian faith. This early part of Romans paints a grim picture of the state of humanity. (NRSV: “God-haters…deserve to die.”)  N.T. Wright imagines that this part of Romans is describing a tree that has an undiscovered rotten core. It is the unveiling of God’s love and salvation that provides the cure to a suffering humanity.

This notion of the suffering of a needy but confused human heart calls to mind Evelyn Waugh’s first novel about the importance of Christian hope in the modern world, A Handful of Dust. In this darkly comic novel, Tony Last suffers from catastrophic losses and betrayals, yet assiduously declines and avoids redemption. His hell on Earth is not wicked, evil, covetous and malicious, but instead is foolish, shallow and exhausting. (The novel closes with Last doomed to spend the rest of his life reading the works of Charles Dickens out loud to a lunatic in the Brazilian rain forest.) Similar to Waugh’s narrative, this part of Paul’s letter to the Romans shows us that seeing the pointlessness of making ourselves the object of worship is a vital step to our redemption.

Lent is the season of pulling back the veil to see and experience God’s love. In Waugh’s second book of Christian faith, Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder witnesses a thoroughly selfish man’s deathbed conversion. Ryder is so moved by the sight of this dying man making the sign of the cross as his final act that Ryder invokes the image of the “veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom.” Our future, with the unveiling that is Lent, is indeed finer than any past.

Will Hill Tankersley, Jr.