August 6, Romans 9:1-5
This week’s passage is about privilege. Paul lists the set of privileges that his own people, the Jews, have enjoyed: adopted by God, in covenant relationship, with the gift of law, the privilege of worship, and the whole array of the promises of God. (These form the basis for the discussion in Romans chapters 9-11)
In the Bicentennial Year, 1988, the Uniting Church issued a “Statement to the Nation” which identified some of the privileges within Australian society: justice, equality, mutual respect, care for the least, a welcoming society, expressing solidarity and friendship across divisions of race and culture.
Reflect on that list. How much does it express who we are as a society in 2017?
August 13, Romans 10:5-15
This week’s passage contains Paul’s supreme claim that “Jesus is Lord”; something to be believed in our hearts and confessed with our lips. This short, snappy slogan guides and shapes all that Paul writes in his letters, and all he did during his years of activity among the fledgling churches.
How do you respond to the statement, “Jesus is Lord”? What does it mean, for you?
The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church cites Paul’s claim that “Jesus is Lord”. Alongside that, it places the affirmation that “Jesus is head over all things, the beginning of a new creation, a new humanity” (paragraph 3).
How do you understand the idea that Jesus is head over all creation?
In 1977, the Uniting Church also issued a “Statement to the Nation” which made the claim that life in Australia was to be guided by “the concern for the welfare of all persons everywhere”, following the example which God has made known to us in Jesus, “the One who gave His life for others”. The Statement calls us to show our concern for others by our actions, which are motivated by what God has done in Jesus.
How do you confess Jesus with your lips? Is he the One whom you want to believe in with all your heart?
August 20, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Chapters 9-11 of Romans are about the relationship between the long-established people of God, and those who have more recently responded to the good news. It is a fascinating exploration of how the old and the new can relate to one another.
Has this been something that you have had to deal with? How have you negotiated the challenges?
At the heart of this discussion, there is a key question: Has God rejected his people? (11:1) It gets a short answer (By no means!) and then a longer response (11:29). The message is clear: God keeps promises. God’s mind will not be changed. That is reassuring to the long-established people of God. But Paul argues for space for the newcomers, the Gentiles, alongside the long-termers.
Is that the case in your life? In your family? In your community of faith?
In 2015, the UCA National Assembly adopted the “Space for Grace” document. It proposed that, in any discussion among people of different views, we must be intentional about ensuring safe space for considering various viewpoints, perhaps even space for competing theologies. That reflects the challenge Paul set before the church in Rome. Is there space in your discussion, for God’s grace to be present? Is there space for respectful hearing and understanding of different points of view?
How are you grappling with this challenge?
August 27, Romans 12:1-8
This section of Romans is considered to be a key turning point in the overall argument of the letter. The first eleven chapters set out Paul’s theological foundations: God justifies by grace, we are invited into a community of believers, old and new are welcomed into the same space. Now, Paul’s attention turns to the practicalities of living your faith in daily life. One of the first instructions that he writes is: “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (12:2).
The Uniting Church values “the life of the mind” and encourages its members and ministers to be active in reading, thinking, and studying. Our Basis of Union expresses gratitude for “faithful and scholarly interpreters of scripture … those who have reflected deeply upon … God’s living Word” (paragraph 11).
Can you think of someone who has lived out this form of ministry? What impact did they have on your faith?
These Lectionary Reflections were prepared by Rev. Dr John Squires.