Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 12th, 2017.

When the apostle Paul wrote the Book of Romans he had never been to Rome. In spite of that unusual fact, he knew the Romans. The Romans included a unique mix of Roman citizens, non-citizens, Greeks, Jews, barbarians, educated and non-educated persons. Rome appeared to many as the center of the world.  Roman power, government, law, oppression, and the Roman penchant for keeping Romans happy with a supply of bread and entertainment known as the circuses kept the Romans in order and believing in the Roman ideal. “When in Rome do as the Romans do,” while a cute phrase for today’s culture, became a way of life for Romans. Put simply, you did not want to violate Roman law and protocol because to do so involved harsh consequences.

The church started, more than likely, near the Jewish synagogue. Church planters taught the Christian basics of Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and how to live as a Christian. The whole realm of Christianity appeared foreign to Roman officials and to next door neighbors. What was Christianity? Was it a form of Judaism with its special practices of feast days, Sabbath rites, and dietary restrictions (Romans 14)? Or was it a religion altogether different from Judaism? And, if the church started near the synagogue and many of the first Christians in Rome were Jews, who and what kind of person should the church welcome (Romans 14:1; 15:7). Whom to welcome into the church and how to relate to others who had become Christians created questions and even problems in the church. Never mind that the answer to such a question and problem should be simply solved both then and now, the reality of “other” people different than them stirred controversy and conflict in the church.

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Genesis 12:1-4

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 12th, 2017.

These words in verse 4, So Abram left, as the LORD had told him, are essential to preaching the Genesis 12:1-4a text assigned to the second Sunday in the 2017 Lenten season. They are grounded in themes of surprise, obedience, faith, courage, grace, and a new beginning – if not a new birth – blessings, and perhaps intrigue in the context of God’s protection and provision.  They are exposed on a God-directed journey being traveled by Abram.

It is a pericope that is pregnant with much preaching opportunity for the preacher, as she focuses on these themes. The preacher would be wise to consider this text from the perspective of the hearer being on a life-journey under God’s guidance.  After all, in a sense, the Lenten season is a certain kind of release, freedom or letting go of oldness or that which is comfortable or familiar for newness that God offers. While Lenten is one season of the year, God’s offering of newness is presented daily to his people throughout their lives, even if it seems they are being asked to make a personal sacrifice leaving what they know.

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Romans 5:12-19

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 5th, 2017.

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans he both invites and opens the door for all to know Christ in a personal way. The invitation comes through these words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16-17, NIV). The open door arrives by means of additional words in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2, NIV).

It is interesting to note that Paul uses the word “peace” ten times in Romans, at the outset of his letter (Romans 1:7; 2:10: 3:17), in the middle (Romans 5:1; 8:6), and near the end (Romans 12:18; 14:17; 14:19; 15:13; 15:33; 16:20). Christ opens the door to peace (“access,” Romans 5:1-2). Paul urges Christian to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). To follow Christ in the way of peace includes an emphasis upon the way “of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NIV). If the Romans in their world called for Roman peace, known as the pax Romana, and for a Roman kingdom of glory, honor and peace, and they did; then Paul called for a new kind of peace, Christ’s peace in human hearts, and a new way of the Spirit, God’s kingdom and his people seeking glory, honor, and peace through Christ. Genuine peace comes through Christ.

Romans 5:12-19 hinges on Romans 5:1-2, Christ as the door and because of Christ we have an open door to God by faith through grace (John 10:9 where Jesus said, “I am the door…” and Romans 5:1-2, literally, “a door of access” leads to the peace of Christ).

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Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 5th, 2017.

The first Sunday in the Lenten season focuses our attention on Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7.  Those who observe this season engage in fasting, moderation, self-denial and repenting have a heightened connection with, dedication and sensitivity to the Lord God. It is also a season when one is more susceptible to temptation; one must, therefore, exercise discipline. These are major emphases of this text.

As the preacher studies and meditates on this pericope, he cannot avoid seeing themes of God giving an assignment, setting boundaries, giving freedom of choice, expecting obedience, and imposing consequences. The text also indicates that we are to have a heightened connection with and sensitivity to the Lord God, whether or not we are observing the Lenten season.

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