Monday, August 29, 2016

Romans 9: Part 1

I taught a Sunday school lesson a few weeks ago based on Romans 9. I find Paul difficult, and Romans is especially packed with thoughts that need dissected and studied. Usually when I teach a Sunday school lesson, after I read the curriculum, I can see the structure of the lesson I am going to teach. Not so with this passage from Romans.

Part of the problem was the way the lesson was written in the curriculum. When your co-worker is attending seminary, you have many (delightful) conversations about theology. Truly, it was a gift to me. Amid those discussions were thoughts from Amy-Jill Levine. Often, the way we have been teaching and learning about scripture has an anti-Semitic slant. Those discussions have made me sensitive to that concern, so I was avoiding some of the language in the curriculum: “They have rejected the very Christ who was born from their race and for their redemption….”

When I read that to my seminary co-worker, he said, “Haven’t we all rejected Christ?” Well, yes.

And that was the seed of my lesson.

Paul’s concern in Romans 9 is the idea that if God’s word can be rejected, then will it then be assumed that God has failed? That God’s word has failed?  “If God’s word can be defeated” by our rejection of it, “then what assurances do we have that God’s redemptive word, spoken in Christ, may not also finally fail for us?”

Quoting from the teacher’s book, “Our struggle as today’s Christians is how to accept fully the conclusion that God is true to his word, that God is faithful….”
Romans 9:6-9: But it’s not as though God’s word has failed. Not all who are descended from Israel are part of Israel. Not all of Abraham’s children are called Abraham’s descendants, but instead your descendants will be named through Isaac.  That means it isn’t the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children from the promise who are counted as descendants. The words in the promise were: A year from now I will return, and Sarah will have a son.
I have to admit that I never considered the idea that the rejection of God’s word would lead one to the idea that God had failed. I am much more willing to believe that I have failed. One of my failures, though, is failing to believe that God is a keeper of promises. I believe it, but I fail to act as if I do, at times.

And I am very willing to believe that my rebellion or my lack of faith impedes God’s work.



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