This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 2,2017.
Romans 6 has traditionally been divided into two sections, with verses 1-11 viewed as the justification passages and verses 12-23 as those dealing with sanctification. The first eleven verses are packed with indicative statements about God’s work of reconciliation. They emphasize God’s declaration that a sinner is not made righteous by anything the sinner has done but only because of God’s decision to count the righteousness of Jesus Christ as belonging to the sinner. The second half of Romans 6 is filled with imperative declarations to live as righteous people. This is in line with sanctification- the process in which a sinner is regenerated into righteous living. Both justification and sanctification are gifts of grace.
While the first half of Romans 6 may lean more towards justification, and the second half more towards sanctification, it is important to note both themes show up in both passages. Paul’s discussion of “walking in new life” in verse 4, hints at the regeneration that is a theme of sanctification. And in verse 14, Paul says the baptized one has moved from the dominion of sin to the dominion of grace. That is a statement of justification. When the passage is neatly divided into two theological parts, we are in danger of missing significant truths. Namely, there is a human role in justification. That is seen in the call to accept Christ’s free gift of grace. And there is a divine role in sanctification. If Christ is the vine, and we are the branches, the branches only come to new life by staying connected to the vine. The sanctified life is not merely an obligation imposed on those who have received the gospel. It is an essential part of the gospel. We were made for holiness. Becoming righteous is our deepest longing and greatest joy. Verses 12-23 should not be preached as imperatives for living that the baptized just need to suck it up and get after. Instead, sanctification should be preached as a beautiful, compelling invitation to become who we are most created to be.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on June 18, 2017.
Those who think of Jesus as a kind of religious wallflower will be surprised by Matthew 10:24-39. Upon careful consideration of the passage, they will find that their wallflower image of Jesus says more about them than the Jesus Matthew portrays here and elsewhere. A wallflower Jesus allows for a wallflower Christianity. In this passage, Jesus brings the hammer to that kind of Christianity.
There are several threads running through this passage, and depending on which one wants to pull, one can go in several directions. Overall, the picture Jesus seems to be portraying goes like this:
(1) I, Jesus, do things that will get one in trouble.
(2) Inasmuch as you, disciples, do what I do, you’ll get in trouble too.
(3) But don’t worry too much about that as you’ll be taken care of.
(4) If you find yourself overly worried about getting into trouble that means you are confused in one of four ways:
(4a) that the things I do are not so significant that they should cause trouble;
(4b) that who I am is not so significant that what I do should matter very much;
(4c) that the significance of what I do and who I am do not bear on your long-term welfare;
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 15, 2016.
It has been said that often we are in the midst of a history-making, life-altering moment and do not realize the full impact of it until much later. Certainly, the Americans who were alive on November 22, 1963 instantly were aware that a horrific tragedy had occurred. However, they never could have dreamed that the assassin’s bullet that pierced the bright Texas morning would also shatter the foundation of trust and comfort on which American culture rested. The iconic photographs of an American President and First Lady hugging strangers and then riding in an unprotected vehicle with Secret Service agents nowhere near them would never be repeated. Rules changed, laws were passed, and Presidential limousines would henceforth be fortified to withstand bombs and equipped with everything from a self-sustaining oxygen supply to several units of blood matching the President’s blood type. The same lack of awareness of history-writing moments could be said of September 11, 2001. All Americans knew they were witnessing the unthinkable as they watched two airplanes obliterate two towers and almost 3,000 lives. However, they did not know that within hours armed soldiers would be patrolling every airport in America. They did not know that the airplane rides they casually used for business or family vacations would forever become tedious hours of scrutiny, security screening, and unending stress. In a matter of minutes—in 1963 and again in 2001 and many times before and since—life changed, and nothing would ever be the same. The same is true for individual lives. A child learns to walk or talk, a job is lost, a tumor is found, a promotion is awarded—for good and for bad, life changes in an instant, and nothing is ever the same again.