In the reading from Romans, God is the ultimate enamored lover--who draws us to himself with grace before we were ever aware of Him. God not only lavishes his love and grace upon us, but God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves--that is making us right with God. Jesus restores our broken relationships with God the Father.
The revelation of God’s great love was made clear to Martin Luther in the Book of Romans. It’s words opened Luther’s eyes to God’s wondrous grace. Concerning Romans, Luther wrote:
This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. (Martin Luther’s Bible Commentary)
A portion of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy provides the background for today’s lesson, emphasizing the nearness and accessibility of God’s promises to Israel. As Deut. states, “the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deut. 30:14).
God graciously reached out in the direction of his ancient people. God had drawn near to them and had come to be within them. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God is faithful to the original promise made to Israel.
In the clearest way, God brought his word near in Jesus Christ. Jesus lived, ate, drank and played while he was here on earth. The Old Testament promises find their fulfillment in the two confessions of today’s passage -Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead.
Paul writes, “No one who believes in [Jesus] will be put to shame” (v. 11). A better translation is “All those who have faith on [Jesus] will not be put to shame. “Faith on Christ” puts the emphasis on Christ, instead of on us. Christ’s faith, which is given to us through the Holy Spirit, saves us, so that Christ’s faith might live in us. His faith living in us makes a new creation, which affects both our doing and believing.Those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord will not be disappointed because God will fulfill the promises made in the gospel.
We live in a very divided world where people are continually building walls of separation: Democrats and Republicans, with no middle ground, moderate Republicans and more conservative Republicans attacking each other. Factions of Democrats sling mud at each other. We also divide by race and income, by sports teams and universities. We are all placed into categories.
There are spiritual categories as well--Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist etc. There are those Christians who feel they have an inside track on God. They believe that God speaks directly to them in a way that is uniquely theirs because they have more of the Holy Spirit than other people do or because they have experienced some special blessing. This creates an imaginary spiritual hierarchy that ostracizes some as not being “spiritual enough.” Luther refers to such notions as works righteousness, meaning relying on one’s ability to please God as opposed to letting God work in us.
In the days of the early church, the relationship between Jews and Gentiles was not always an easy one. There were differences in culture, values, belief systems to name but a few issues. In spite of this, Paul insists that the word of the gospel brings both groups into the family of God: Jews by virtue of the covenant, Gentiles by virtue of Christ--all by virtue of God’s promises.
So, how does this reading from Romans apply to us today? God’s love is for everyone, not just for a certain hand-picked few. God keeps reaching out to us. God is the God who always comes down to us. God is so enamored with us, that he wants us to spend eternity with him. We don’t have to do anything. All we have to do is acknowledge Jesus as Lord and God does the rest. That’’s the good news for today and that is the love story we need to share with everyone.
Carl R. Holladay, Preaching Through the Christian Year C
Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Bible Commentary, http://www.christianity.com/bible/comments/romans/luther/romans10.htm
Paul Nuechterlein, http://girardianlectionary.net/reflections/year-c/lent1c/
Gail Ramshaw, Sundays and Seasons