Monday, July 31, 2006

Romans 16:1-16

We come to Paul’s wrap-up of his letter to the Christians in Rome. As we recall, Paul had not yet visited Rome, though he desired to do so in the near future, God willing. He did, however, know some people in the church in Rome, as evidenced by his long list of greetings in chapter 16.

What a remarkable thing to be remembered in history through this letter! Paul, one of the “stars” of the early church, warmly commended – by first name! – certain people in the Roman church whom he knew and loved in Jesus. (We too know how meaningful it is to be recognized by a person held in high esteem by us and by others.) Some of the people are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, with more details about them. Some are mentioned only here, with nothing more known than Paul’s reference to them. Clearly, though, they mattered to Paul as his true sisters and brothers in Jesus. He wanted them to know that he remembered and cherished them.

Across time and space, God creates a new people – a family of women, men, and children. In theological terms, we call this the church. It is a communion of saints throughout history and the world. Saints are not those who are perfectly holy (though God wishes us to be and works to make us so), but those who are made new in Jesus and joined together in community through the Spirit, not through flesh and blood. We remember some by name, such as Paul and the other apostles, Phoebe and those in this list, as well as many more in the New Testament and church history.

Yet comparatively few of God’s saints are remembered by name in a letter or other document, or in the church’s tradition. Only God knows the names of the vast majority of those who have striven to follow Jesus in the history of the church. Likewise, few of us will be long remembered by future generations. Yet, as with all the "past" saints in Jesus, God knows us and holds us dear. Whether we live or die, we live now and ever in Jesus. And, as we set our hearts and minds on Jesus, not on ourselves or things of this world, we find that to be remembered and cherished by God are grace and glory enough for this life and the next.

Gregory Strong

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