Romans 15: 14-21

Paul echoes his opening rhetoric of affirmation –  Romans are full of goodness, knowledge, 

And able to admonish, guide and direct each other. He is distancing himself from condescension –  People deserve respect. 

When you offer your truth, opinion, testimony –  do you imaging your audience this way? 

Part of the breakdown of our civil society starts here –  demonizing others as stupid, ignorant, leaderless. Liberal elites caricature working people, and ordinary people type-cast professionals but Paul writes anyhow –  admitting that it is in part a bit bold –  to remind Romans (and us) of what we already know –  and appeal to us as potential allies. 

This is not command-and-control strategy, but building a movement of shared purpose, with room for different gifts. 

Paul’s gift and mission, as he defines it, crediting God and the Spirit for it, is apostolic, to the Gentiles, a minister or servant or priest of Christ Jesus, as others have the gift and mission as priests of the Temple, Paul will help Gentiles respond,  as Temple priests help Jews respond, to the grace of God.

Becoming sacrifices through offering sacrificially. We don’t use the word ‘sacrifice’ as Paul did –  search the word ‘sacrifice’ on billbrucewords.com for more on that –  lLast summer, I noted a novel by Joyce Carol Oates –  ‘The Sacrifice’ (2015) – left in the church study -  an alleged ‘white cops rape black girl’ event in New Jersey, through the voices of various characters – who is, and is not, the ‘sacrifice’ in racialized America? 

Last summer, I also noted a 2014 novel by Dave Eggers - ‘Your Fathers, where are they?  And the Prophets, do they live forever?’ (that’s from Zechariah).Again, the novelist speaks through characters’ dialogue, about post-boomer generations’ loss of purpose. Who is, and is not, the ‘sacrifice’ in post-industrial America? 

This summer, I’m enjoying ‘Radical Sacrifice’ by Terry Eagleton –  you might fairly worry that I am going to follow through -   ‘Leviticus’ in September and October –  the code of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘purity’ needs a reading, from our glib liberal and left of centre pov! 

The rest of today is Paul’s ‘boast’ –  a nod to his decade of work  from Jerusalem and Judea, 

Through Syria into Turkey, then Greece and even Balkan frontiers.

As a person seeking employment, I may be oversensitive to the conventions of boasting –  

Inflated resumes, listing successes –  and the dangers of allowing modesty to hide light under a bushel. I preached that once as ‘Humbler Than Thou’ –  Imagine Paul in 56CE,  pausing to acknowledge change since Jesus’ death –  and accelerated growth in the movement in its second decade –  God was up to something, and Paul was participating, but not running the thing! 

Our most recent decades, perhaps since 9-11, or a burst ‘tech bubble’ see accelerated decline in our movement. Is God chastising our liberal vanities? Your and I are participating, but it’s not all our fault! 

I keep preaching that God’s doing fine –  but we have lost our assurance that we’re helping God well –   ‘where does my world need mending, and who will help’  that’s ‘Mending the World’, our church’s report in 1997 how have our alliances changed, and do we feel more connected, or isolated and mistrustful? 

14 As for myself, I too am convinced,  my brothers-and-sisters,  concerning you that ye yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another. 

15 But I have written to you in part rather boldly, as one who would remind you, because of the grace given to me by God

16 to be a [priestly] minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, acting as priest for the gospel of God, in order that the sacrifices consisting of Gentiles might be acceptable [to God], sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 

17 I have then this boast in Christ Jesus with respect to things pertaining to God; 

18 for I will not dare to say anything of  the things which Christ has not accomplished through me to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles, in word and deed,  

19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit, so that from Jerusalem in a circle up to Illyricum I have completed the gospel of Christ, 

 20 being thus ambitious to preach the gospel not where Christ has [already ] been named, let I build on someone else’s foundation.  

21 Instead, as it is written:  “They shall see to whom it was not announced about him, and those who have not heard shall understand” (Isa 52:15) 

 

14 Personally,  I've been completely satisfied with who you are and what you are doing. You seem to me to be well-motivated and well-instructed, quite capable of guiding and advising one another. 

15 So, my dear friends, don't take my rather bold and blunt language as criticism. It's not criticism. I'm simply underlining how very much I need your help in carrying out this highly focused assignment God gave me, 

16 this priestly and gospel work of serving the spiritual needs of the non-Jewish outsiders so they can be presented as an acceptable offering to God, made whole and holy by God's Holy Spirit. 

17 Looking back over what has been accomplished and what I have observed, I must say I am most pleased – in the context of Jesus, I'd even say proud,  but only in that context.

18 I have no interest in giving you a chatty account of my adventures, only the wondrously powerful and transformingly present words and deeds of Christ in me that triggered a believing response among the outsiders. 

19 In such ways I have trailblazed a preaching of the Message of Jesus all the way from Jerusalem far into northwestern Greece. 

20 This has all been pioneer work,  bringing the Message only into those places where Jesus was not yet known and worshiped. 

21 My text has been, Those who were never told of him - they'll see him!  Those who've never heard of him - they'll get the message!