Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bethany Bullet - June 28, 2011

St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans has been considered by many theologians, from many traditions, and over many centuries to be the diamond of the New Testament epistles. Martin Luther was so moved by St. Paul’s letter that he called it, “The daily bread of the soul” and said, “Every Christian should know it word for word by heart.” Whether or not we memorize it word for word by heart, this summer we will seek to know more deeply its teachings, truths, and concepts. We will spend our Sunday mornings hearing, reflecting, and proclaiming this “purest gospel.” (All quotes are from Luther’s Works, volume 35:365)

How do you know what you know? What we know is a result of what we have seen or what we have been taught. Observation and information via conversation is the source of our knowledge. St. Paul begins with the former and moves to the latter. Verse 20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” God the Creator, who by the way is still at work in nature and in history, has given witness to His existence and even now attests Himself to men. The invisible God is visible to the mind of man through the works of God.

I don’t know if you heard about the events at the 2011 U.S. Open Golf Tournament and the editing of the Pledge of Allegiance or not, but during their telecast NBC edited out the words “under God” from its coverage.

My goal is not to engage in a discussion about the wisdom of this or the history of the Pledge but rather to reflect upon how humanity is prone to deny or capitalize on that which we know. Take for instance this story, NBC edited out ‘under God’ from the Pledge in its coverage. I am willing to bet you that in regards to its coverage, contractually for things it is and is not responsible for it has not edited out “acts of God.” You can deny Him, try to suppress Him, or simply use Him as a concept when convenient, but you do so by ignoring that which is clearly seen.

There is a difference however between knowing that God is and knowing who God is! God is most clearly known through His self-revelation made in Jesus. Paul did not always accept the revelation of God’s goodness and love in Jesus. Perhaps that is one of the reasons he begins this chapter’s main premise with a negative. Verse 16: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Why start with a negative? Why start with, ‘I am not ashamed?’ Clearly Paul knew what it meant to be shamed. The past persecution of the church at his hand and under his command was clearly shameful. Yet, Paul also knew how the revelation of the Gospel “looked” to eyes not opened in faith.

“The Jews stumbled over a crucified Messiah and called Jesus accursed. The Greeks shrugged off the message of eternal life through the death of a substitutionary sacrifice as foolish. Paul would meet both Jew and Greek in Rome. He is not ashamed because the Gospel is not a product of Judaic dreams meant to satisfy Judaic hope and pride; nor is the Gospel a philosophical design of plausible system of thought to compete with other philosophical systems for which the Greeks were famous. This Gospel is not the invention of men; it is the revelation of God.” - Romans a Commentary by Martin Franzmann pg. 32

This revelation from God is for the “Salvation” of mankind. I suppose in our world the word salvation or it’s more common form ‘save’ has been all too normalized. Save, it is what happens when we put a penny in the piggy bank, or by taking a coupon to the store, or when Mariano Rivera takes the pitcher’s mound. (P.S. as one who despises the Yankees it really hurts to record that truth.) The truth being recorded in the biblical recording of the word salvation is that of, “radical deliverance out of a desperate situation.”

Take Luke for instance - not the author but the pilot, not the guy who knew about the Magi but the one who wanted to learn the way of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker. He was done for, though he was in striking range his wing men were lost, the evil Lord Vader was about to claim victory and the movie was going to end with the good guys losing. Only intervention from on high could save him - then in came Han Solo.

Click on the Youtube link:
Star Wars Episode IV

Or copy/paste this web address to your browser:

If you prefer biblical analogies there was Moses. He and the Hebrews were cut off - Pharaoh and his chariots behind them, a big deep body of water before them, without hope unless there is a miraculous intervention from above. Then in came God “solo” – alone that is – God and God alone could help and He did. Not with blasts or staffs the salvation of which Paul speaks miraculously descends to us. Through the holy blood, innocent suffering, and death of Jesus; God has miraculously intervened and salvation has come to us.

Our situation was no less desperate than Moses’ or Luke’s. What is the desperate situation in which we find ourselves? Verse 18: “The wrath of God is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness that suppress the truth.”

What “godlessness and wickedness” is Paul speaking about? The rest of the chapter describes this. Paul begins by identifying idolatry, adultery, and depravity.

Idolatry, adultery, and depravity are quite a three-some. Quite often we give more press to certain things that put others in desperate situations while ignoring our own perilous position.

Notice that Paul doesn’t stop at what we might call the ‘biggies.’ Nor does His list present a hierarchy of sins. By the time you get to the end those are the ones that don’t really alarm God nor put us in need for deliverance. After those big three, Paul goes on to include greed and gossip to name a few. Some sins are not so serious right; especially ours?

With idolaters and adulterers, Paul includes the arrogant and disobedient. Those who boast about what they’ve accomplished cannot be equated with those who have kept quiet about what they’ve done with ones they ought not to have done it, can they? Those who replace the true God with an image or item to worship can’t be equated with those who’ve replaced their parent’s directions with their own decisions can they? Next to the idolater and the adulterer Paul places the rumor spammer (whether online, face to face, or in the courtyard - it is still wrong) and the kid who refused to clean up his/her room as told. Why?

Observation tells us that we are better than many and worse than others. This revelation, however, declares that before God we have nothing to offer and are in the same desperate situation as everyone else. Only when we see ourselves carrying the same deep disease; only when we see that in the “gossip” we share so freely, lays the same disease that has led others to share partners so freely, can we comprehend our need for deliverance and receive the gift God brings in Jesus.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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