By David Baumann
A Reading from Romans 1:1-15
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. 9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10 asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened — 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you, as I have among the rest of the gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish, 15 hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
With this lesson, we begin the reading of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. It is arguably the most theologically complex of his letters, setting forth the means and meaning of salvation through Jesus. Unlike his letters to other churches, it is written to a congregation that Paul had not yet visited and which, of course, he had not founded. The church in Rome, in the capital city of the Empire: it had a certain prestige — their “faith is proclaimed throughout the world.” It was also the first to suffer when the persecutions began under Nero — the first of many local, regional, and empire-wide persecutions that took place during the 250 years from the mid-60s to the early 300s.
Paul begins his letters to churches with a carefully-designed introduction in which he declares his credentials, briefly sets forth a theological premise upon which he will develop the theme of his message, commends the church to which he is writing, and assures them of his prayers for them. His introduction to this letter follows the same pattern and is especially rich. In today’s passage, he is almost deferential to the believers in Rome, even acknowledging that they may encourage his faith even while he encourages theirs. Yet he retains his position of leadership as an apostle and proclaimer of the gospel. He knows who he is, whose he is, and to whom he writes. Do we have such humble confidence in our dealings with others?
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Madurai-Ramnad – The (united) Church of South India
Saint James School, Hagerstown, Md.