Part IV of the series “Romans: The Road Less Traveled.”
I was digging around in my office at home this week (always making room for more books) and I came across my baptismal certificate. I was baptized on September 13, 1964 at the tiny Presbyterian Church in Tunnelton, PA—my grandparents’ church. The elder who held me at my baptism was my great uncle Joe, and the other witnesses were Alice Long (who became my Sunday School teacher when I spent time there in the summers) and Nathaniel Nesbitt, who was old enough to have had a grandfather who served in the Civil War.
When I looked at the certificate, however, I noticed that they put down the wrong birthdate for me. I was actually born in December of 1963, but the certificate mistakenly says I was born in December of 1964 (though I wouldn’t mind being 49 again) which means, according to the certificate, that I was actually baptized before I was born.
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Part III in the series “Romans: The Road Less Traveled.”
We continue our road trip through Romans today, and whenever I think of a road trip, the first thing that always comes to mind for me is, “What needs to be packed and how will we pack it?” I’m pretty sure that I have some mild form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that gets aggravated whenever it’s time to pack for a trip. There are weather reports to be consulted, itineraries to be evaluated, space considerations for both the suitcase and the car. Everything needs to be laid out, and I tend to drive my family crazy with my packing and repacking of the bags in order to get the optimal configuration for travel. And it’s not like I can figure this out once and remember it, make a list, etc. No, I go through the same frantic conundrum every time, trying to figure out how to organize all these different pieces and parts into a cohesive whole. I’m guessing many of you think about this in the same way. It would be great to have an organizing principle to help put it all together.
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Part II of the series “Romans: The Road Less Traveled.”
I saw an article pop up on Twitter this week that said that the Church of England is trying out a new baptism service that drops all mention of the devil and sin. Among the phrases abandoned are those referring to “the deceit and corruption of evil”, “the sins that separate us from God and neighbor”, and a promise to “fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world, and the devil.” Instead of that specific language, baptizands or parents make a broad pledge to “reject evil.”
The idea, according to the Church of England, is to provide a baptism service that uses more “culturally appropriate and accessible language” without words that “don’t resonate with the knowledge and experience of parents and godparents who aren’t regular churchgoers.” It’s a trial liturgy that will be tested until April.
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First in a series on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
Artist conception of the Millarium Aureum in the Roman Forum.
In the central Forum of Rome, there once stood a monument, erected by Caesar Augustus around the year 20BC, that marked the center and beginning of all the roads leading to and from Rome. All that’s left of the monument, the Millarium Aureum, today is the stone base, and scholars debate what the bronze monument actually said. Some believe it marked all of the distances from Rome to the outer flung cities of the empire. Others believe it was simply a milestone marker for Augustus. Most everyone, however, believes that the stone marked a very important truth in the first century world: “All roads lead to Rome.”
The roads throughout the Roman empire were a marvel of engineering, with many of those road beds still in use today. Romans roads allowed for the safe passage of people from one province to another. The “Pax Romana” or the peace of Rome was made possible by these roads—the stones marking the way to the center of the empire.
Interestingly, we might think the same way about the letter that Paul wrote to the fledgling Christian church in Rome sometime in the middle to late 50s AD. In many ways, all the roads of Christian thought and theology go through Romans, which is arguably the most comprehensive look at Christian theology in the whole New Testament.
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New Sermon Series Begins Sunday, January 5
In the first century world, it was no exaggeration to say that “all roads lead to Rome.” Rome was the center of the empire, the capital of commerce, and a symbol of power that still echoes in the modern world. One of those who took the road to Rome was the apostle Paul, but rather than go to marvel at the might of the empire, Paul confronted Rome with the news that the world’s true Lord didn’t live amidst the temples and marbled halls of Caesar’s palace. Instead, Paul preached that the true king of the world was a crucified Jew who was also God in the flesh. It was to a small community of Jewish and Gentile believers that Paul wrote his greatest exposition of the Christian faith: The Letter to the Romans.
Many of us learned read Romans more like a shortcut, using a few verses to construct a “Romans Road” theology of how individuals can get into heaven. But like any shortcut, taking out just a few verses of Paul’s great treatise on the Christian faith can cause us to miss the greater journey and destination of faith to which the gospel calls us. When we explore the whole map of Paul’s theology of Jesus, Israel, salvation, justification, and community, however, we discover a road that not only invites us to consider our own salvation, but also God’s saving plan for the whole creation. Romans was the key biblical text that brought John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, to a new and dynamic faith in Christ, and it can do the same for us. During this series we’ll discover how the truth of the gospel can call us to a new life and reconciliation with God and each other, just like it did to those in Rome and millions of other Christians since Paul put pen to paper.
Join us for an epic journey through the foundational truths of Christian faith as we take the Romans road less traveled beginning on Sunday, January 5 and running through March 2. You can read the sermon texts here on the blog, or listen to them here.