Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Staying with the Thanksgiving for this Post

After the very helpful comments of Malcolm, I want to linger on Romans 1:8-15 for a while. I focused on Paul's apostolic commission to preach, whereas Malcolm focused on the mutual identity of Paul and the Romans as members of the body of Christ. Generally the primary function of the thanksgiving section of the letter is certainly to celebrate that unity in Christ as God is praised for it. And, clearly Paul does that with this passage, so I would have to say that Malcolm's reflection arises right out of the language and meaning of this scripture. At the same time, Paul is also advancing another point: the foundation of his apostolic authority in the commission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. A simple way to put it might be this:

Even as Paul is celebrating the unity of the Roman Christians with him and his mission, he is beginning to define and clarify exactly who he is and what his mission in the Gospel is all about.

Our experience of unity as Christians must be deeper than simple recognition of the fact that we are part of the visible Church. It must be grounded in a real experience of God and the living Gospel of God. Part of the experience of God is to experience unity with others in faith as we celebrate something so much greater than our unity - the living God of all creation. And, this celebration because it is first of all a celebration of God, should reach out and catch on with people who are not part of the visible Church.

Sometimes when you start to celebrate real loudly and enthusiastically God's grace for others, some people in the visible church will tell you to tone it down. Like when Paul started celebrating God's grace upon the Gentiles, and lived out that celebration by eating with Gentiles and ignoring the racial-ethnic barriers imposed by society and religious rules. Jerusalem Christians at the time wanted Paul to tone it down (see Galatians 2:1-11).

Sometimes when you start to celebrate the fact that it is God's business to set the mission of the Church, and we can only wait upon God and when we see God's way, take up our cross and follow. . . Sometimes when you begin to experience God's calling directly, your praise of God can lead you into some conflict with others in church. Sometimes, thank God, it leads to mutual celebration. Paul writes his letter in this hope, but time will tell. After the Romans receive this letter which clarifies the relationship of the Church to the history of Israel, which clarifies what it means to come to "the obedience of faith," and after this letter makes plain the hope of the coming glory of God over all the earth . . . after the Romans have been able to see how God has made himself known in the flesh and blood life of Jesus, the Christ . . . after the Romans have been able to see if what they are celebrating is what Paul is celebrating . . . then, their mutual celebration will have even more sound to it, more power to it - just might reach around the world.

The unity of faith is a unity of heart and mind; a unity of allegiance to the living God made known in Jesus the Christ.

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