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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 11:1–2, 29–32

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. (NRSV)

After a chapter in which Paul boldly proclaims that salvation through Christ is given for all—Gentiles included—Paul returns with a similar message, in this eleventh chapter, to those in Israel who have rejected Jesus’ authority. Many of Jesus’ early followers, particularly those with ancestral ties to Judaism, struggled with the fact that Jesus’ ministry was so coolly met by the majority of the Jewish people. They struggled to reconcile clear biblical references to God’s unbreakable covenant with Israel, as well. In this chapter, Paul seeks to make clear that God’s covenant relationship with Israel has not changed.

Drawing on the idea that each of us—even those of us who follow Christ as best we can—are disobedient to God, Paul asserts God’s sovereignty above all else. “For God has the power to graft them in again,” Paul argues in Romans 11:23, and “has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (verse 32).

These words may feel inapplicable to our present day—a remnant of an earlier theological struggle within the church—but they actually are a beautiful and heartfelt reminder of the expanse of God’s love and grace. Even those whom we would not or could not imagine, God has welcomed into the fold—maintaining not just promises from long ago, but expanding promises in the future. So, in light of this open-hearted mercy, may each of us seek to expand our conception of who God’s people truly are.

Holy God, inspired by the way you welcome all people into your kingdom, may I too live with a spirit of openness and grace that allows me to see everyone I meet as one of your children. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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