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.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Following Romans as the argument builds

One thing to remember as we follow Paul's letter to the Romans is that he is building step by step in a dynamic way, clarifying chapter by chapter, the truth of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. I am trying to hear what Paul says in chapters 1 & 2 before moving on. That is the best way to read this letter. Take to heart what Paul has said in chapters 1 & 2, and then move on to chapter 3. I can see that some readers of this blog might read my last post and think: "he sounds like it's all about what we do, not what God does that saves us." At this point, I am just saying what Paul has said "to this point." And, in chapter 2 of Romans, he is emphasizing the goodness of God and the patience of God and the truth that we are completely accountable to God for our deeds. We need to let these teachings sink in and then build upon them as we read more of the letter.

I think a couple of things become very clear in Paul's teaching here: 1) Paul is most interested in proclaiming/celebrating the righteousness of God as the foundation for everything that follows; 2) Paul begins to explain that God's righteousness is revealed now in God's patience and concern for the salvation of human beings. Paul's focus is upon the character and glory and kindness of God. It is on this foundation that he builds his teaching about God's revelation of God's very self in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ of God.

It is significant to note that once Paul begins his argument in chapter 1:18, that he doesn't mention Jesus again until end of chapter 3. He speaks of God without speaking of Jesus again until the end of chapter 3. Paul is establishing our understanding of Jesus in the context of the relation between the Creator to the creation, particulary the relationship of the Creator to humanity. As Paul explains the rift between Creator and created humanity in these first 3 chapters, he moves towards the declaration of God's gracious and decisive response in Jesus. But, I have moved into chapter 3 a little. That's what I'll cover next.


  1. It occurs to me that Paul's development of is theology begins much like the short book of the prophet Amos.

    I've always argued that the book of Amos reads like a speech at a national, religious festival where Israel has gathered to celebrate its "life" with God. Amose begins, as does Paul, by listing how God is going to "take care of" (ie. destroy) those who have harmed His people. And as Amos names each of the nations who have done evil in God's eyes, the people lift their glasses and cheer him on. In the end, Amos also passes judgment on those who believe themselves to be holy and righteous and deserving of the goodness God has poured out on them. And it is here that the people shake off their drunken stupor and begin crying out for Amos to be silenced.

    In the same way Paul's development of chapters 1 and 2 in Romans challenges the Church (then and now) to rethink its understanding of who is holy and who isn't... of who is loved by God and who isn't... or who deserves God's mercy and God's grace and who doesn't.

    It is so easy to see the commandments of God as a means of separating the sheep from the goats, the unholy from the righteous, or the good from the bad. Amos and Paul both come to the conclusion that no one keeps the Law... that no one lives completely as God intends us to live. We decry the lifestyle of others when we should be offering them compassion and forgiveness. We demand justice from those who have done horrible things, while passing off our sins as minute in comparison. We expect others to forgive us our mistakes and miscues, but we are quick to pass judgment on those who aren't like us.

    Amos and Paul challenge us to be honest with ourselves and then to be gracious to others. Our lives, here and in the world to come, are not of our own making... they are gifts from God to be used to the glory of God. To the extent that we use our days to honor the One who gives us the breath of life, we praise Him who calls us into His family. To the extent that we waste our lives on unimportant matters, or even take part in that which is unjust or evil... God forgives.

    Thanks be to God!

  2. Malcolm: Thanks for recalling for us the words of the prophet Amos, who pronounces God's judgment on the enemies of Israel first, and then, gets down to the real business of the prophecy: calling those who say they are "God's people" to give an honest look at themselves. Or, as Johnnie Lee Hooker once sang, those outside the church might also sing:

    "Before you go and accuse me, take a look at yourself."