Monday, July 28, 2008

Romans 16:1-16

It is interesting that this reading should come up as we interns prepare to go back to college and the new Assistant Rector Anne MacNabb prepares to join Saint Matthew’s. I have only met Mrs. MacNabb once, and then just in passing, but when I did meet her she seemed very kind and very genuine. So, even though you don’t really need me to tell you, I would echo Paul’s sentiments and urge you to welcome her with all the love and warmth that you have shown us interns this summer.

Beyond, though, the interesting coinciding of these events and this reading, one must ask what can be taken away from such a passage. These exhortations mirror the lineages and laws, seemingly boring and quite easy to skip over; but it is often in these passages that we can find great meaning.

Notice how many different people the Romans are urged to welcome: Jews, women, workers, prisoners, mothers, and Gentiles. This is quite diverse list, but it tells us something important: that we should welcome other Christians with love and open arms despite denominational differences or theological squabbles. I am not saying that we need to ignore our convictions, but Paul’s letter speaks to something greater than that, which is recognition of the one fact that should matter — our acknowledgement of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

I would suggest that this unity is important for two reasons; the first a practical one, which is that it is important to present a “united front” to the world as Christians. No one is drawn by a religion plagued with in-fighting and schism; I am reminded of a friend who, when I asked them to come to church with me, responded with something along the lines of “Oh, your church is too Catholic for me.” Until we are able to reconcile our, relatively small, differences it will be hard to draw others to the Lord.

The second reason is that it allows us to experience God in greater ways. Our missionaries who have just returned from South Africa spoke yesterday about the need to “pray big,” and it is hard to do that without support from others. Imagine how big we could pray if all Christians came together regardless of denomination, united in the fact that Jesus is our savior: there would be nothing too big to pray for; and that is a beautiful vision indeed.

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