March 17: Who are we keeping out?
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In the season of Lent, the Christian church liturgically reminds itself who it is and what is important. This annual ritual may include a combination of reflection, introspection, self-sacrifice, service, study and remembering the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus – all edifying and appropriate.
However, today’s passage takes us in a different direction. Here, Paul is speaking to the Roman church about Abraham, the spiritual father of Israel. While superficially these passages may look like some academic treatise on faith, grace and law, Paul’s intent is more pastoral. He is creating an intellectual framework for the young church to be inclusive and invitational, welcoming believing Gentiles as fellow children of Abraham. Paul’s efforts to tear down the barriers of law and culture that kept the gentile world outside of the church made possible the Christian faith you and I profess today.
In gratitude to Paul, let us ask ourselves today, who are we keeping out of the church?
God, your grace and love are open to everyone. From rough and unrefined beginnings, you transform us day by day as we follow you. In this Lenten season, help us to find ways to invite others to know you and grow into your likeness. Amen.
1What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.