God’s Beloved People,
Looking ahead at this summer’s Sunday Bible readings I noticed that from June 11th through Sept 17th all our second readings come from Romans. Romans is a very meaty letter in the New Testament. In fact, the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans is really a theological treatise. It’s not light reading, but is a very important book. Martin Luther, John Wesley and other great thinkers of the Christian faith had breakthroughs while studying Romans I am reminded of something that happened during my Romans class in my second year at Luther Seminary. The class met winter quarter in St. Paul, Minnesota at 8:00am. This is when I first started drinking coffee seriously. One of my classmates usually came to breakfast with frozen hair after his morning shower, even though the walk from the dormitories to the cafeteria was short. Dr. Roy Harrisville was the professor: affectionately called “Uncle Roy” by the students. He was tough, but you learned a lot. It was a 16 week class and there are 16 chapters in Romans. Every Friday we had a quiz on a chapter of Romans. Dr. Harrisville gave you one verse from the chapter. You never knew which verse and you had to translate the Greek into English and then expound on the significance of the verse.
One week I had studied hard and was determined to do better. The previous week I had not done so well because I spent the Thursday evening drinking beer and eating popcorn with my seminary friends at Mannings Bar. So this time I was ready for the Friday quiz. But unbeknownst to me some students had organized a little Birthday party for Dr. Harrisville. His wife and mother were there. There was cake and coffee and donuts. Uncle Roy was so tickled he tore up the test and gave everyone an “A”.
My initial reaction was a little bit angry. I had studied hard, whereas some of my classmates were again at Mannings Bar drinking beer and eating popcorn. I deserved a better grade than they did—right? But on the other hand, I could not do any better than an “A”. Who was I to begrudge Dr. Harrisville’s generosity? The important thing, in the long run, was that I had learned the material, which I had. It was a lesson in grace for me. It was a nudge in the right direction to stop comparing myself to others and not begrudge God’s generosity to anyone.
The church of the middle ages taught that you had to earn and or buy your way into heaven. Martin Luther helped start the Protestant Reformation with Romans 3:23. “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” There is no earning to it. Our forgiveness, life and salvation are all free and gracious gifts through the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus.
God is all gracious to us. Let us be gracious to one another.
~ Peace in Jesus, Pastor Dennis