7 May 2023
This week the congregations of Leighmoor, Coatesville and Murrumbeena gather together to share in worship. We are taking the theme of Go Boldly and will be sharing what each congregation is doing as mission to share the Good News with those around them.
Our reading moves from the Acts of the Apostles to the Letter to the Romans written (or dictated) by Paul. At the time of writing of this letter Paul had not yet visited the faithful in Roman, but it is clear his is hoping to do so soon.
In these letters Paul is sharing his theology and putting his case forward regarding belief and faith in Jesus Christ.
The first and the last parts of this letter give us a clue to some historical circumstances. In this letter Paul expresses his “eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (1:15)—the Christian community (or communities) in Rome that Paul has not visited. Paul earnestly wanted to go to Rome (1:13, 15:23) and to “share with [them] some spiritual gift” (1:11). Paul was mindful of tensions among certain groups in Rome (Romans 14–15). It is Paul’s hope that “all God’s beloved in Rome” (1:7), regardless of their differences, will be transformed through his gospel and participating in his mission to the west (for example, Spain, 15:24, 28), glorifying God with one voice (15:6).
In this context, Romans would sound quite provocative. Paul was writing this letter to Christian communit(ies) in the imperial center and proclaiming that his good news concerning Jesus, the son of Israel’s God (Romans 1:1, 1:9), is the real gospel. By implication, this is not the good news of Augustus, the son of the deified Julius Caesar. Paul was “not ashamed of” this gospel because he firmly believed that this is truly “the power of God for salvation” (1:16).
Thus, the gospel Paul proclaims is a message that has both ethnic particularities and universal implications—it is a Jewish gospel intended for both Jews and gentiles. This gospel’s Jewishness is clear: it was “promised beforehand” in the Jewish scriptures (1:2), and its focus, Jesus, is David’s descendant (1:3). To Paul, it is the gospel of Israel’s God, focused on the Jewish Messiah, inviting the nations into the divine purpose rooted in Israel’s scriptures.
Some recent interpreters see Paul’s gospel as a Jewish gospel that only applies to gentiles—Paul is an apostle to gentiles, not Jews. Indeed, Paul’s primary Roman audience is gentile, as implied in Romans 1:5–6, 1:13, and 11:13. Paul articulates his hope to proclaim the gospel among the gentiles in Rome, to “bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5) and to “reap some harvest” (1:13).
It is with the challenge to “reap some harvest” that we head out into the world in mission. This week we share some of the ways our local cluster is doing that.