Archive for the ‘Romans 15’ Category

Judgment and Mercy, Part V   1 comment

Cyrus II

Above:  King Cyrus II of Persia

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 48:1-5 (Thursday)

Isaiah 49:6-11 (Friday)

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13 (Both Days)

Romans 2:12-16 (Thursday)

Romans 15:14-21 (Friday)


You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

–Psalm 65:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


I recall a hypothetical situation I heard while growing up:  There is a man whom God is drawing to God’s self.  This man responds positively to these summons, but he dies before he can make a profession of Christian faith, much less accept baptism.  Where does he spend his afterlife?

One’s answer reveals quite a bit about one’s theology.  I, unlike, certain others, refuse to relegate the man to Hell.  He was, after all, responding faithfully to God.  The man might not have been able to provide their proper answers according to a catechism, but he was not rebelling against God.  Would not God be faithful to the man who had obeyed him each step along the way?  And, as the author of the Letter of James would confirm, not everybody who can give the correct catechetical answer will make the heavenly cut.  I recall that from Matthew 25:31-46 also.

In God abide both judgment and mercy.  The combined reading from Isaiah 48 makes this point succinctly.  St. Paul the Apostle agrees.  And, regarding the centrality of Christ to salvation for Gentiles, I agree while being reluctant to make sweeping and probably inaccurate judgments.  No, I prefer to err on the side of mercy if I must be wrong.  Besides, that decision rests with God alone, not with any of us, mere mortals.

I find, as is so often true in my experience, that The Book of Common Prayer (1979) provides helpful prayers and theology.  The Good Friday service includes this on page 279 of the Prayer Book:

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;

For those who have never heard the word of salvation

For those who have lost their faith

For those hardened by sin or indifference

For the contemptuous and the scornful

For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and persecutors of his disciples

For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others

That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience.

Then, on the next page, we find this:

Let us commit ourselves to our God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world and have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection.

May we, without mistaking Universalism for reality, never give short shrift to divine mercy.  Likewise, may we avoid the same error regarding divine judgment.






Adapted from This Post:


The Paradoxical Power and Glory of God   1 comment


Above:  But with Her Babe Upon Her Knee, by Florence Edith Storer

Published in 1912

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-2669


The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:14-20

Psalm 21

Romans 15:14-21


Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 41:

Romans 15:


The readings from Isaiah 41 and Romans 15 remind us of the glory and might of God and of the powerlessness of we mere mortals to work anything more than what Lutheran confessions of faith call “civic righteousness.”  It is laudable that we perform good deeds and refrain from committing bad ones as often as we do, but that fact cannot save us from ourselves, from our sin.

Being sure not to detract from divine glory is a recurring theme in the Bible, especially in the Hebrew Bible.  That explains the Tower of Babel, Gideon’s army,et cetera.  Divine glory seems to shine brightly in both grand gestures and in small, unlikely packages.  Such glory is most concentrated in Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity.  Among the meanings of the Incarnation is that one should look for divine glory in many places, some of them unpredictable, even mundane.  The paradox of the Incarnation is multifaceted.  One facet is that God, mighty and powerful, assumed the form of a defenseless infant.

So, as we Western Christians prepare for the liturgical celebration of that birth, may we seek and find the glory of God around us, in places expected and otherwise.






Adapted from this post:


Posted July 6, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 41, Psalm 21, Romans 15

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Awe, Terror, and Wonder   1 comment

Above:  The Conversion of St. Paul, by Luca Giordano


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 4:1-5:11

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

Romans 15:14-33


Some Related Posts:

Romans 15:

A Franciscan Blessing:

Lord, It is Night:

Memories at a Moving Sale for a Friend:



Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Come now and see the works of God,

how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

–Psalm 66:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


O come and see what the Lord has done:

what God has wrought in terror among all people.

–Psalm 66:4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Come and see the works of God,

who is held in awe by men for His acts.

–Psalm 66:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Come and see the marvels of God,

his awesome deeds for the children of Adam….

–Psalm 66:5, The New Jerusalem Bible


I begin my preparations for each post in this series by reading the assigned lessons.  Usually something–a word, phrase, clause, or sentence–stands out in my mind.  Such was the case with Zechariah 6:4c.  Set in the aftermath of the Babylonian Exile, the rebuilding of the Temple and of Jerusalem seemed unlikely.  In fact, certain people attempted to prevent the reconstruction.  But they failed–not by human efforts alone, although those proved crucial–but more so by the power of God.  There were human instruments of God at work.

Another verse attracted my attention–so much so that I have provided it in four translations.  Psalm 66:4/5 (depending on the versification system) speaks of the awe/wonder/terror of God.  Consider, O reader, these words from Isaac Watts (1705 and 1719) and altered by John Wesley (also in the 1700s):

Before Jehovah’s awful throne,

Ye nations, bow with sacred joy;

Know that the Lord is God alone,

He can create, and He destroy;

He can create, and He destroy.

The Hymnal (1933), of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1869-1958)

Word meanings change over time.  ”Awful” means “extremely bad” to most English speakers today.  Yet its original definition was “awe-inspiring,” a word which the Encarta World English Dictionary defines as

impressive as to make a person feel humble or slightly afraid.

Likewise,  ”terrible” has a variety of meanings, most of them negative.  ”Very serious or severe” is one of those.  Yet the word can also mean “formidable.”  The Old French root for “terrible” derives from the Latin verb meaning “to frighten.”

Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, had a frightening–terrible, by one definition–encounter with God.  And he succeeded in his mission by divine aid, overcoming the forces of might and power arrayed against him.  The word “awesome” has become trite in my North American culture.  Yet I use that word in its most profound sense here:  The works of God are awesome.  They are formidable.  They are awe-inspiring.  They are wonderful.

I have witnesses that power and those works in the lives of others as well as in my life.  As I type these words I am watching that power from a distance as it works in the life of one for whom I care very much.  I am glad to say honestly that I was an instrument of that power in a particular way at a certain time.  And I might be such an instrument in her life again.  One lesson I have learned is that hope is always alive in God.








Adapted from this post:


Of Walls, God, and Men   1 comment

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 2:1-3:10/2:5-3:10

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Romans 15:1-13


Some Related Posts:

Zechariah 2-3:

Romans 15:


Jerusalem shall be peopled as a city without walls….

–Zechariah 2:8b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures



Zechariah 2:1 in Protesteant Bibles equals Zechariah 2:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.


A city’s walls were supposed to defend it.  Thus a Jerusalem without walls would seem to be defenseless.  Yet, in Zechariah, God will defend the city.  Walls, as defensive technology, have proven lacking throughout history.  Invaders breached the Great Wall of China.  Constantinople fell in 1453 despite its walls.  The walls of Jericho could not survive an earthquake.  So I am with Zechariah; God is preferable to any wall.

Walls also provide convenient boundaries.  The city is on one side of the wall.  East Berlin was over here and West Berlin was over there, from the East German perspective.  Over here, from the Israeli angle, is the Jewish side of the West Bank; the Palestinian side is over there.  The other is over there, away from here–with a wall to separate them.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

–Robert Frost, Mending Wall

Paul encouraged his readers at Rome to

Accept one another for the sake of God’s glory, as Christ accepted you.

–Romans 15:7, The New Jerusalem Bible

Walls work against that purpose.  God is preferable to any wall.





Adapted from this post:


True Wealth   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Romans 15:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, I have no doubt in my own mind that you yourselves are full of goodness and equipped with knowledge of every kind, well able to give advice to one another; nevertheless I have written to refresh your memory, and written somewhat boldly at times, in virtue of the gift I have from God.  His virtue has made me a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles; and in the service of the gospel of God it is my priestly task to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.

In Christ Jesus I have indeed grounds for pride in the service of God.  I will venture to speak only of what Christ has done through me to bring the Gentiles into his allegiance, by word and deed, by the power of signs and portents, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have completed the preaching of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum.  I have always made a point of taking the gospel to places where the name of Christ has not been heard, not wanting to build on another man’s foundation; as scripture says,

Those who had no news of him shall see,

and those who never heard of him shall understand.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Luke 16:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There was a rich man who had a steward, and he received complaints that this man was squandering his property.  So he sent for him, and said, “What is this that I hear about you?  Produce your accounts, for you cannot be steward any longer.”  The steward said to himself, “What am I to do now that my master is going to dismiss me from my post?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.  I know what I must do, to make sure that, when I am dismissed, there will be people who will take me into their homes.”  He summoned his master’s debtor’s one by one.  To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?”  He replied, “A hundred jars of olive oil.”  He said, “Here is your account.  Sit down and make it fifty, and be quick about it.”  Then he said to another, “And you, how much do you owe?”  He said, “A hundred measures of wheat,” and was told, “Here is your account; make it eighty.”  And the master applauded the dishonest steward for acting so astutely.  For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The dishonest/unjust manager/steward worked for an extremely wealthy landlord who charged high rates of interest on rent the tenants owed.  The manager/steward seems to have been abusing his post for personal gain.  So the landlord prepared to fire the manager/steward, who ingratiated himself to the tenants by removing the interest from their debts.  This made the manager/steward friends while making the landlord look better than he was, while bringing the landlord into compliance with Biblical anti-usury laws.  Surely the landlord could not undo the manager/steward’s final actions without looking bad.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following breaks up Luke 16:1-15 over two days, so verse 9 will fall within a reading for Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1.  Yet I must bring verse 9 into the devotion at this time:

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

This statement fits neatly into rabbinical statements of the time.  Helping the poor was of great spiritual value, the rabbis taught, and God took note.  Or, as William Barclay summarized it,

True wealth would consist not in what people kept, but in what they gave away.  (The Gospel of Luke, 2001 revision, page 248)

True wealth resides in people, relationships, and intangibles.  The wealth we have in accounts and objects are just means to an end.  And let no one think that money can buy happiness.  Studies I have read indicate that some of the most miserable and stressed out people in the world are the richest ones.  Or, as Ira Gershwin wrote in Porgy and Bess:

Folks with plenty of plenty

have a lock on their door,

afraid somebody is gonna rob ‘em

who’s out to get some more.

Paul did not “live well,” as we might think of that concept, after his conversion to Christianity.  He nearly died more than once, faced false and malicious legal charges, spent time in prisons, was shipwrecked once, and ultimately met his death on the orders of the Emperor Nero.  But, as one reads Paul concluding his great Epistle to the Romans, one ought to notice that the man is quite content.  His treasure was spiritual, and he knew that.

That is the treasure that neither rust nor moth can destroy.  May all of us seek and find it, then hold on to it.








Adapted from this post:


The Approaching Kingdom of God   1 comment

Above:  The Tomb of St. John the Baptist, Lower Egypt

Image Source = Lollylolly 78



Isaiah 11:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch will grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,

and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give the king your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness,

and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,

and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,

give deliverance to the needy,

and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,

and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish

and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

Blessed by the LORD, the God of Israel,

who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:4-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,

and sing praises to your name;

and again he says,

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people;

and again,

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

and let all the peoples praise him;

and again Isaiah says,

The root of Jesse shall come,

the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;

in him the Gentiles shall hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


St. John the Baptist was one of a line of prophets who spoke of the coming Kingdom of God on earth.  John, however, spoke of the short-term arrival of this kingdom.  And one of the concepts embedded in the canonical Gospels is that the Kingdom of God was present within and around people; God was active on the earth.  In historical context this constituted, among other things, a strong (and justified) criticism of the Roman imperial order.  Rome occupied the Jewish homeland, maintained order with fear, and encouraged slavery and economic inequity–even exploitation.  Much of this sounds contemporary, does it not?

Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, and ascended.  And yet the Roman imperial order persisted.  So understandings of the Kingdom of God changed, becoming more abstractly spiritual than concerned with the present tense.  Yet I find the older understanding powerful; I cannot dismiss it.  If the Kingdom of God was present when Jesus walked the face of the earth, is it not still here?  Could it have faded away after the Ascension?  I think not.

So I leave you, O reader, with this:  How is the Kingdom of God an indictment of your society and government, perhaps even the dominant form of organized religion in your society?  And, when you have your answer(s), what ought you to do with this (these) realization(s)?  It cost Jesus his life, and St. John the Baptist before him.  What will it cost you?





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 11, Matthew 3, Psalm 72, Romans 15

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