This Sunday we begin a short three-part series from our Revised Common Lectionary that continues through Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. We will frame this short series as #ThreeSteps in a Christian’s walk.
In this week’s Epistle reading (epistle is a word rooted in ancient Greek that means “letter”), Paul begins a short exploration of what faith means. Today, faith is sometimes described as something irrational. The phrase “leap of faith” is commonly understood to be believing in something that is unbelievable, or believing in an outcome or existence that is unprovable. Here’s what Paul writes:
5Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from the Law: The person who does these things will live by them. 6But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don’t say in your heart, “Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7or “Who will go down into the region below?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the message of faith that we preach). 9Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. 11The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame. 12There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. 13All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.
14So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news.
Consider these questions:
- In reading Paul’s letter to Rome, how do you understand his description of faith?
- What does Paul’s description of faith require us to do?
- What does Paul’s description of faith empower us to do?
Post-sermon Update on 8/15
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
As noted in Sunday’s sermon, what I expected to talk about on Sunday is not what I ended up talking about on Sunday. Instead, I found myself moved and grieved and heartbroken as I heard about the racism and violence in #Charlottesville.
I said in the sermon on Sunday – and will continue to say – that it is our Christian duty to speak on behalf of those whose voices are silenced. This is as true for our racial-minority siblings as it is for our LGBTQIA siblings as it is for our economically disadvantaged siblings as it is for all who find themselves outside the privileged class.
I also noted a social media post that came indirectly from author Brian McLaren, who was onsite in Charlottesville. He described a courageous group of clergy who – as noted in other sources and photos as well – knelt down in the street facing armed “militia” (I’m not sure what else to call them) and sang “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” In a later blog post describing in more detail his experience (and here’s an alternative link), McLaren noted that these clergy persons were spit on, insulted, and exposed to tear gas.
It is my opinion that these actions from white supremacists, those gathered with nazi flags and confederate flags and yes even US flags, those singing about “blood and soil” and chanting “white lives matter” are nothing short of domestic terrorists. As a person of faith and as a Christian, I believe it is my responsibility to name this as it is and decry its direct and obvious conflict with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a Christian and as a Pastor, I choose to speak my faith and to actively oppose this hatred and violence and bigotry and racism.
Consider these questions:
Note: These questions are the traditional baptismal questions from The United Methodist Hymnal.
- Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
- Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
- Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?