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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 9:1–5

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (NRSV)

Romans 9–11 is a three-chapter treatise on the relationship between Christian discipleship and belonging to God’s covenant people, Israel, that insists that both (a) those who were not part of Israel have been “grafted in,” like vines, through Christ, and (b) God’s faithfulness to Israel endures. It is complex, soaring, and not without problems. My seminary offered an entire course on these three chapters of Romans alone.

I’m drawn to that list of “possessions,” the items on the family crest. To the Israelites belong “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” Oh, and the patriarchs. That is a rich tapestry of history, ritual, narrative, literature, and shared struggle. It belongs to a people who understand themselves to have been pursued by God through no merit of their own and to have been given by God (again, seemingly without consideration of merit) a rule for living, a pattern of worship, even God’s own presence. Paul seems to be saying to his Gentile (i.e., non-Jewish) readership, “Do you have anything like that?”

I’m thinking about all of these possessions as we are encountering the stories of Genesis during worship this summer, stories with which Jesus was raised. As Jesus’ disciples, the tales of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar, or Isaac and Esau, of Leah and Rachel, of Joseph and his brothers, are ours too. They are ours to learn and study, yes. But they are also ours to inhabit, to ask (as one Bible curriculum routinely asks young children), “Where are you in this story? Which part of this story is about you?”

When was the last time you checked in on the family crest?

You are over all, and you are blessed forever. And yet you give your people abundant gifts: worship, law, even your very own presence in our midst. God with us, we praise you, even as we strive to become more and more the people you call us to be. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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