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Sunday, June 14, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 4:1–12
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”
Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. (NRSV)
The first officer’s retreat I attended years ago as a new assistant pastor focused on our faithful forebearer Abraham, who set out, leaving all the familiar patterns of life he knew, to follow God’s challenging promise. He did so with a deep sense of trust that the Holy One would travel with him and with Sarah and the rest of their party.
In his letter to the congregation in Rome, we see the Apostle Paul’s efforts to guide the early church along a faithful path by reaching back to the example of Abraham. Paul contended that Abraham experienced God’s grace not because of his dutiful obedience, but because God offered and Abraham accepted the free gift of grace through the merciful forgiveness of the Holy One. Both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were fully included in the body of Christ, by grace alone.
Centuries later, we have continued to experience the leading of God’s ever-inclusive Spirit beyond barriers of race and gender, sexual orientation, and differing abilities. Our trust in God’s welcoming love helps us build bridges rather than fences or walls. And now, in these strange and uncertain times, we are discovering ways of being church unlimited by the constraints of prior patterns, trusting in God to travel with us.
Gracious God, may the model of faithful forebearers like Abraham and Sarah inspire us when our feet falter along new paths of discipleship. Thank you for Paul’s counsel that only your forgiving love can set us right with you and with one another, through Christ the great reconciler. Amen.
Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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