Posts Tagged ‘Romans’


Anti-semitism, isolationism, wars, Islamophobia, dominance of Christendom are all traps that words like Paul writers centuries on can be used for (Romans 9). He writes about the faith journey, the journey of discovery. How it is not always the words said, but the heart presented. That is that in the journey one has to realize it is the one that takes the risk. These are examples being used in his writing of Israelite and Gentile, the same we would use examples in our own world to make a point. Like Jesus did with his parables of the Good Samaritan, one seen as a traitor but turns out to be the hero. So Paul is writing about those that are seen as “holy” and “with God” yet they are just show, and it is the struggling heart of the outsider that shines through the love.

It is an astute heart that looks beyond the literal, and sees the way a philosophical discourse is structured (Romans 10). It is a structure that Paul reminds the gathering in Rome, it is not an exclusive love. It is not meant to be horded or lorded, but rather shared. It is a journey- a pilgrimage of discovery, renewal and rebirth. It is like a comic book universe that reboots, so it is with our lives and the release of baggage as we release the old and let the new in. It is not just the summation of knowledge, ritual and rites, checking off the right laws followed. It is more than that.

It is the deep dive of actions in faith that moves beyond legal and illegal, into the right and wrong territory, it is a life lived that others can look to and knows what you held to be true. A life lived that shows others and, upon remembering, ourselves what we truly value.

The new path though may mean bucking from the old, as Paul points out, the fear of change (Romans 11) can create a freezing like stone or cement. This is a big shift, much ink and video has been spilled on the topic of change management, saving x, y, or z organization or denomination- mainline, non-profit, corporation, etc. What it comes down to is the shift will challenge the norms of the old that harm or rest power in a few. The shift to the new that is healthy will inspire and carry through a good transformation for society. The journey will entail grieving over the loss that if not counselled properly will lead to destruction, and pain that is unnecessary. In the midst though, one needs to be present to what is happening, deeply listening to find the divine guidance to what is truly meant to be birthed. Not what one wants to birth for their own ego (or as we would say back then, sin).

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c]but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

Romans 12:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Be the authentic you. Understand what vocation your life has shaped you for. It understands that we all have our role within each group we are a part of, and that our gifts are meant to be used. It is a tough call, because one would then assume the gifts should lead to money. In a perfect world this is true, but in our imperfect world it may be that other employment or source of funds makes it able to chase your purpose in life. It truly is a vocation by tent making, or vocation of career, or a mixture of any and all of the above (Romans 12:3-21).

Paul’s words have also led to 3 ways that believers will engage with politics, either an attempt to convert the whole to their morals (social conservatism); create a Just Society (Social Gospel) or disengage entirely as it is all in God’s hands, and as such one should not participate (Romans 13:1-7). I believe Paul was laying out another point that one should not resist just being problematic, ensuring you are a citizen above reproach so that when you do speak out or acting out in accordance with love it is noticed and has an impact:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

-Romans 13:8-10 (English Standard Version)

For it comes down to the point that the greatest commandment is love. That is the root of our actions, and that we are to love self and neighbour (Romans 15). This means one cannot disengage from public discourse, but one needs to understand how they are engaging and what is the goal (Romans 13:11-14). The goal is the kingdom that was near, being here as it was presented in the Gospel of Mark. It is about a transfigured world where the hungry are fed, the sick are cared for, the elderly and the orphan have homes and are loved, homelessness is over, peace reigns, oh hope is the core that lets love shine through.

The transfigured world is one where we accept one another as we are. We understand how some things we do have ripple effects that can affect others, and we care for that person and vice-versa. It is worlds where one is loving of self and neighbour, not wrapped up in selfish pursuit of the material, and that we understand our individual human rights, come with communal responsibilities. When both are in harmony a world is humming along, all are cared for and can be authentically who they are (Romans 14).

As always Paul signs off with plans to visit, greetings and thanksgivings (Romans 16:1-23). It is a winding path this Labyrinth of Rome, unlike a maze though, it may be winding,

but there is no dead ends, it takes us to the centre where we can rest. Rest, reconcile, renew, and reflect.

Who are we meant to be?

Who are we now?

Who are you?

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

-Romans 16:24-27

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Sin, righteousness, our old self crucified (Romans 6), living as slaves or freed are words Paul has chosen to communicate with the folks of this gathering for where they are in this life. Paul is laying out the transformation, and ritual of renewal. In life coach we speak of discovering the gremlin-saboteur, acknowledging, thanking (yes, even if it was not helpful in becoming the full you, this gremlin had kept you safe), then a ritual of drawing out, writing out the words used, naming the gremlin… then destroying the gremlin when you are ready. The old you dying. The old you being crucified so that you can step into the new reality and begin the practice of living out of authentic love of self that shines through in your love of neighbour. A stark reminder in verse 21 for when we let new gremlins creep in, or in times of stress and struggle old ones reassert:

21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

-Romans 6:21, (English Standard Version)

The old life is a living death for you are not whole, you are not living into who you are meant, and created to be. When you are in the new life, looking back may bring shame upon your past through your new eyes, but that too can be a path for a saboteur. Instead, focus on who you truly are, affirm the divinity of love that is you. Live into and out of that.

For we can default into legalism, the judicial system of life of what is legal and illegal as living under the law and rules produces (Romans 7) and it will guide us into a decent living this life. For we know what the end result should be, and the loopholes to work around when the means may not be completely “legal” but have we lived fully into the divine right and wrong?

I think there was a reason.

-Jesse Stone, Stone Cold (2005)

It was a cryptic comment from Chief Stone, after a gang rapists father tried to get the victim’s Dad arrested for assaulting his son when the son had called the victim a bitch. The Dad’s defense was the assault was for no reason. The function of legal/illegal versus right/wrong. There was yet to be a case made against his son, so it was not a crime. But there’s still a reason.

Reading Paul’s words around law and legalism, and more importantly living, I reflect on this scene and many others from the film and book series where a prophetic police chief keeps reminding folks that the police deal with legal and illegal, and all the loopholes that brings. While right and wrong, is a more inherent gut thing that when one is on the path of health, or whole, they just know how to live.

For Paul, that is the emerging life in the Holy Spirit. Some believe it is something that comes down upon us when we “convert”. To those, I believe a point has been missed. The Holy Spirit (Ghost for some) is the living breath of the Holy Mystery (God). It is what bonds communities together. It is what was breathed into creation of humanity on Day 6 of the Hebrew Poem in Genesis 1. It is not so much a coming down, but a coming out. That is we finally let it burn through the sludge we have used to bury it all this time. We allow our true nature to evolve within us, and evolve us.

We connect to the Cosmic Christ, so it becomes easier to live out the hard life lessons. We can move beyond what is allowed, what coding of other people say about them, we are able to look upon people as persons. Individual and not by grouping, you become able to see the divine within them even if they cannot see it within themselves. You begin to understand that life is not a quick fix, that there is preparation needed, and that inherent worth and dignity of the person. It is when your light, becomes able to connect to the spark, and perhaps, just perhaps a new healing journey can begin for another.

Like a game of Blob tag as a child, so is the game of connection of Holy Spirit.

Emergent light of community through self (Romans 8).

To the true you.

 

 


Much of the conversion drive is using points of Romans to prove that it is necessary to convert as noted previously. What is missed though is Paul’s beautiful discourse that echoes in many ways the wisdom teacher of Ecclesiastes. He is writing to the gathering of Rome, a diverse community struggling to understand a way forward in unity. Each has their own understanding of culture, norms, law, prophets and yet here they all are together. What is one to do?

Paul moves into the second chapter (Romans 2) presenting a very young type of God with creation. That is one that is wrathful, but proxies the wrath though and the mercy dependent on how the individual carries their whole being. Do they carry these judgments, hatreds and doubts? If so what is being done to help them move forward healthily, and be complete. Paul points out that it is how we live our life is what we will reap, will we need to be purged completely to enter the afterlife, or sail seamlessly from this to the next?

Works grow out of faith. Many try to create the false dichotomy between Paul and James, but as Paul had pointed out in Corinth he was involved in Jerusalem. He was aware of the teachings and the living of the life. It is the life lived that had transformed Paul that allowed Paul into the leadership circle of the Way. It was not position, but character transfigured that shone through. This is a very Franciscan principle. Many view the Franciscans as anti-learning as it is not the major pursuit as say with the Jesuits. But what Francis of Assisi had stated was simple, once you are living the first lesson then move to the next.

It is as Paul was laying out, faith becomes second nature, there is times when we are first entering and growing into our new life where we may need to pause and practice but eventually it becomes second nature. Like remembering to take your medications or practicing mindfulness (or DBT/CBT) or other forms of Soul Work. It takes practice, but eventually they become a part of who you are (Romans 3). That is that you have awoke the holy love that created you, you are becoming and have become whole, this is where you are living out of now. Not out of fear, or out of desire to be acknowledged, but simply because it is the right heart to be in (Romans 4). Like Abraham and Sarah learned, the means justify the ends, and the ends need to be achieved through a moral way, not through things that tear down, but that build up.

In the darkness we knew hope. Think about that. Anyone that has ever stepped out of themselves and sought aid, whether a spiritual director, a mentor, a life coach, a therapist, a doctor, a friend…in that moment we acknowledge we cannot do it alone (Romans 5). In that moment a courageous safe space is created. We know the cycle we are on is destroying us. It can be literal or we just know we are in the wrong groove and need to shift paths. We may need to stop a destructive behaviour, or end a toxic relationship or employment. Perhaps it is something good dangling before us but our inner quiet voice is a saboteur, or as the ancients would say a demon? That voice that keeps us frozen to keep us in what we believe is safe. But safety also has a price to pay for we are truly not who we are meant to be.

This is the step of faith. The step of opening ourselves up in hope to connect with another’s love to carry us through into our own soul-self actualized. That is right, a true whole person. It is what Jesus spoke of in the Great Commandments, the Love Commandment, connecting self-neighbour-Holy Mystery.

The bedrock of true community.

Living out of faith,

In love.

 

 


In his third missionary journey, while chilling in Corinth (ah Leather & Letters anyone?) Paul takes up the quill once more (circa 56 CE) and writes to the gathering in Petrine Christianity, in Rome. It is believed this gathering grew from Roman present at Pentecost (both Romans and Jewish, or as the Christian Testament and Hebrew Bible would phrase non-Jewish, Gentiles). As Paul awaits heading on to aid in Jerusalem, he does not write to Rome to deal with any such issues, but rather to lay out his style of Christianity to them, a mix of the mystic and traditional. The Epistle of Romans has been one of those go to books in the Christian Testament for weaponized texts of hate, but also of “conversion driven” Christendom.

Is conversion driven a harsh stance? It is, but only because I have seen it be more about numbers and quick altar calls and not authentic life lived together. Having taken evangelism courses in Bible College, I still cringe at the concept of our final assignment was to have a project person to lead to salvation—seriously? Even the tried and true “Romans Road” was taught and that we should memorize it (well y’all know how well memorization works with my ol’ noggin).

romans roads

What happens in these instances sadly is that the longer game is ignored. The longer game is holistic growth of self. For Paul does not write from a place of completion, but from a place of pilgrimage in understanding who he is each day in the new journey laid out. Not resting, but moving forward (okay there is times of rest he lays out), but this letter to the unknown was one to encourage growth and pilgrimage to continue:

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who [a]was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

-Romans 1:1-7 (New King James Version)

The Romans Road is an excellent allegory for the journey of Pauline and  Petrine Christianities into wholeness, but also the winding journey of connecting paths of one’s own life. What brought you to the heart self you are today? Have you allowed the Cosmic Christ to emerge? Connect into the Holy Mystery that is already within? Or are you still hiding in the comfort of the gremlins, those that have protected you this long from the unknown?

For what is a saint?

A pilgrim on the journey of discovery of the Holy!

 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve [b]with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

-Romans 1:8-15 (New King James Version)

There is much as Paul has done with his writing you can learn from books. But Paul also points to the need of presence in community. That is having a plan of discipleship/mentorship, succession planning, strengthening of members in their wholeness, and growing healthy community where planted. Paul is pointing out that he is not just a Jewish theologian, or a Greek Philosopher, but a tradesperson, a traveller, one who has connected with all types of the world. A person who has been involved in the mosaic of the Empire, experiencing it and seeing it as such in crafting this goal to come and live life with the gathering for a time.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel [c]of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

-Romans 1:16-17 (New King James Version)

The term gospel coming through here in a communication heading into Rome is a major act of sedition. Showing his bravery, but also pointing out the strength of conviction Paul carried in how he was aiding communities into coming into their wholeness. The living by faith is knowing that there was risk in changing direction, that there would be loss of social connections, possibly status politically, religiously or socio-economically if it had not already happened. We were still 8 years out from the purge of Nero, but I am sure there was unease within the gatherings. Especially since Paul still had to stroke the traditionalist ego and point out the hierarchy of wholeness. Some may state well it is historical, but is it historical, or simply the way it was understood?

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who [d]suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is [e]manifest [f]in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [g]Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like [h]corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their [i]women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the [j]men, leaving the natural use of the [k]woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, [l]sexual immorality, wickedness, [m]covetousness, [n]maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 [o]undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, [p]unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

-Romans 1: 18-32 (New King James Version)

What is ungodly? What is unrighteous? How has this text been used for hate? We drill down into verse 26-27 and many have used this against LGBTTQ2+ community members to make them less than. But back up the boat, what is being talked about leading up to those two verses? What is being talked about is oppressive religiousity that builds power and wealth for a few on earth and supplants the Holy. It talks about practices that degrade who they are created to be. It is not about “homosexuality” (a term that did not exist in this time), but about sexual violence, sexual degradation, assaults, harassment, coercion, rape, paedophilia, all under the auspices of being “the worship of God”.

Perhaps a new heart needs to take these verses to the religious leaders of today who are hiding abuse behind false flags?

And then one will say but verses 28-32 says the practitioners should die so is Paul not using God to victim blame? Like a paedophile priest saying they were seduced by the child? Or a fundamentalist pointing to the victim saying he/she asked for it?

NO!

Paul is pointing to the perpetrators. The predators. The monsters. He is pointing out that they need to be removed until they are willing to heal and reconcile. If it is not possible to heal and reconcile then they need to be gone for good. Roman jail systems allowed a time for term served, then they were given a white stone upon release to show the clean new life that laid before them. Wisdom of restorative justice, but Paul knows for some monsters the heart beats in darkness and unwillingness to change and for those, the communities must protect themselves. In a Canadian Context this would be a Dangerous Offender designation ala Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olsen. It is a hard driven point into the heart of the Empire. Paul takes the risk.

He understands the challenge of life change of emerging from the pain of violence and trauma for a person, for generations, for a community. The ancient world may not have had the terminology, but they knew what was happening and the damage being done.

The road is a winding path. Healing is a peeling of the onion. Understanding the layers that have created our current situation, but that is not the core of our being. It is about becoming who we truly are, whole, as Paul points out, it is when we act contrary to who we are meant to be. Contrary to how we were created due to outside forces that we are truly outside of ourselves.

As 2019 begins, will we go down a different winding road?

That of a labyrinth to our core self?


Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

-Captain (Admiral) James T. Kirk opening monologue to Star Trek; Star Trek the Animated series and Star Trek I thru VI

Ah Star Trek, a good sci-fi world to explore many things of morals/ethics and yes, even spirituality.  Thanks to the wonders of Netflix Canada I have had the fun of re-discovering the animated series, a simple 22 episodes from 1973-74. It was a show designed as a continuation of the original Star Trek series, though declared outside of canon. Which frankly I don’t give a damn about, I enjoy good stories with characters I love, this idea of which is to be paid attention to is simply a pain in the butt. Anyways, I digress and back on point. (Full episode guide here.)

The show was fun because with animation instead of live action many more aliens could be added to the crew and worlds, as well, many new things could happen. Many of the scripts were adapted from those that were too costly to make a go on the original show. Much like the comics series and book series that followed the shows, it opened up new alien worlds explore.

The series was voiced by most of the original crew, sans Walter Koenig due to financial constraints, but Leonard Nimoy refusing to be apart of the series if the rest could not speak to a high volume of community and friendship. Yet Koenig was not absent from the series, he was the first Trek actor to writer a Star Trek story in season one’s episode The Infinite Vulcan.

It is a story of creation of a master race, imposition of peace and what truly emerges as a choice between control and free will.

Is the reader starting to see what can happen with these 23-minute episodes over a 22-week period? They work for all ages with viewing, a group of them could be used during specific times of the church year as well (ala Advent or Lent) as a special discussion series.

They are stories that can be tied into discussions, teachings for all ages, or used to craft a specific children curriculum for a part of the children’s ministry as each episode would lend itself to game/craft creation out of the story, and can easily tie into different topics from the epistles.

Considering season one’s episode Mudd’s Passion is a treatise on living as you were truly created (a nod to St. Paul’s writings in Romans that have been oh so misinterpreted as scriptures of pain over time).  There are 21 other short stories like this, that are accessible for all ages.

Basically, I do not want to offer up what a curriculum could look like for spiritual growth and direction. I do not want to say it should only be tied to the Christian Bible, for it can be used within any religious or humanist settings (as Gene Rodenberry was a rationalist humanist). What it is, is another medium for discovery and learning that can be overlooked so easily.

What it takes is someone willing to be creative. Someone who is good with craft/game/music creation or working with kids/adults to create these things on their own. Tying it into some discussion questions and launching. One thing I always stood on when I was working in churches was that money is not what was needed to create multi-generational communities. What was needed was passion, fun and purpose that when lived out becomes contagious. It creates the space for belonging for all, and that is the space that is needed.

Here is some thoughts on a simple tool that can be used.

And to quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard…

“To Boldly go where no one has gone before.”