Because of God’s grace and love, because we have been transformed, because we know that this world does not have the last word, as disciples of Christ, we are invited, not just to have a passive faith in a deity some light years away, but to be encouraged to embody a life grounded in the promises of the resurrection, in the hope of the good news.
July 23, 2023
“Lessons From Paul’s Letter to the Romans”
Hope of Resurrection
Romans 6: 1-14
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Romans 6: 1-14
So what are we going to say? Should we continue sinning so grace will multiply? Absolutely not! All of us died to sin. How can we still live in it? Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power.
But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. So then, don’t let sin rule your body, so that you do what it wants. Don’t offer parts of your body to sin, to be used as weapons to do wrong. Instead, present yourselves to God as people who have been brought back to life from the dead, and offer all the parts of your body to God to be used as weapons to do right. Sin will have no power over you, because you aren’t under Law but under grace.
Hope of Resurrection Romans 6: 1-14
We wrap up our conversation with Paul’s letter to the community of faith in Rome. Again, Paul is pointing out that God’s grace changes everything, that the Gospel message changes how we view the world, that God’s love changes how we interact with other people.
Paul tells the community of faith in Rome that God’s grace has given us a new identity. It has put us into right relationship with God. It leads us to right living, meaning that as people of faith, we can no longer accept sin in our lives and in our world. Now, clarification…Paul is not talking only talking about individual sin. Paul is also talking about social and cultural sin as well, like the brokenness in the world, like the hurt and hate which fills our world, like poverty, hunger, climate change which are affecting our communities.
Paul puts “sin” in the context of missing the mark, of continuing behavior both as individuals and as a society which go against the values of the Beloved Community, values such as love, peace, grace, mercy, justice, and kindness.
Please hear me say, Paul is not telling the group in Rome that they are awful people because they are not perfect. Paul understands that they, that we are human, that we are going to get it wrong from time to time, that we are imperfect and yes need grace and second chances.
Rather what Paul is saying is because of God’s grace, because of God’s love, because we have been transformed, because we know that this world does not have the last word, as disciples of Christ, we are invited, not just to have a passive faith in a deity some light years away. Rather, we are encouraged to embody a life grounded in the promises of the resurrection, grounded in the hope of the good news. We are encouraged to embody the vision of God’s Shalom being fulfilled here on Earth for all of God’s people.
Or let me say it this way…as people of faith, we have a different narrative to tell, a narrative which is not filled with gloom and doom. Our faith narrative is filled with stories which constantly tell us our God is loving, steadfast, and faithful from generation to generation. Our narrative as people of faith reminds us that God calls imperfect people, that God calls grumpy people, that God calls leaders and faithful people and they get it right in so many ways and whoops…they screw up, some of them in the worst way possible, Our faith narrative reminds us that God call people who don’t get it right every time now and yet God is still able to work through them to bring about God’s Kingdom here on Earth. Our faith narrative tells us that in the beginning, God’s Spirit was here, moving in and among us, bringing about healing and wholeness for all of God’s people. Our faith narrative tells us that as people of faith, God invites us, us imperfect, grumpy, people who don’t get it right every single time, to embrace God’s grace not only in our own lives but to also share God’s grace with others as well. Our faith narrative reminds us that we are called to live out the promises of God, promises which never fail, promises which never disappoint, promises which remind us this world does not have the last word. Promises which bring us to our text….
When Paul gave this advice to the people in Rome, Paul was speaking out of his own experience. Paul wants the group to know that living out his calling has not always been easy for him. Instead more often than not, he has experienced suffering because of his work trying to share the Gospel message. He has been beaten. He has been thrown in jail. He has been shipwrecked. He has had everything taken away from him, all because he was a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
As an apostle, Paul lived day in and day out, not knowing if he was going to see the next day. When he came into a town, he was just hoping that he could just stay on people’s couches and possibly not get thrown in jail. More often than not, Paul was usually as low as he could be on his travels because usually when Paul entered the town, he was immediately treated and seen as an outcast. He even had stones thrown at him a few times. On more than one occasion, he was run out of town all because the people didn’t like what he was saying.
Being a follower of Jesus Christ, living out the Gospel message of Welcome was not easy for Paul. Because of his vocation, because of his calling, because of his commitment to Christ, Paul knew darkness. He knew disappointment. He knew what it was like to be at the bottom of the barrel.
So when he tells people, to live in the hope of the resurrection, Paul knew what he is talking about. He is speaking from experience. Because this phrase, this promise of walking in the newness of life was not just words to him. It was a description of a way of life for him. These words were what shaped how he lived out his faith. These words were what shaped how he perceived God working in this world.
Now, Paul probably would have been the first to admit that life would have been so much easier for him if he had just ignored his calling and gone back to the life he knew before he knew Christ. But he couldn’t do that. He was no longer that person. He had been changed, changed by God’s love and grace. And this change, this transformation was not an experience that he was willing to forget, just for the sake of an easier, seemingly simpler life.
So he made a choice and that choice opened him up to a new way of being. It freed him from the gloom and doom. This transformation opened his eyes to God’s grace and God’s love in his midst. This understanding gave him a new narrative to share with all of God’s creation. The same narrative that we all have as well.
You see, when Paul shares this advice with the people in the Roman church, when he shares these words with us some two thousand years later, he is not being naïve or unrealistic. He is sharing with us the very foundation of his faith. He is giving us a testimony to how God has acted in his life in the past, how God continues to act in his life now and how God has promised to act in his life in the future.
And we are called to do the same. We are called to testify to how God has worked in our lives, time and time again, to bring light to our darkness, to bring hope to our despair, how God has surprised us time and time again with God’s grace and God’s love, gifts that have no end.
We are called to let go of the person we were before we encountered God’s grace in our live, not because that person was bad or awful. Rather, because that is not who we are anymore. We have been changed. We have been transformed. We have embraced an invitation to become the person God created and calls us to be.
And by embracing that invitation, we realize that sin, that the brokenness, that the hurt and hated which fills our world is not what God intended when God created this world and called it good. And because we have encountered the hope of the resurrection, because we have encountered God’s grace in our lives, because we live in the knowledge and promise of God’s Beloved community coming to fruition here on Earth for all of God’s people, we cannot accept sin, we cannot accept the world’s narrative of oppressive systems, of the necessity of division among people, we cannot accept the narrative that power and might are the way to go, we cannot embrace or accept that anyone is seen as less than God’s own Beloved, created in the image of God, and loved more than we will ever know.
What Paul tells the community in Rome, what Paul tells us some two thousand years later, is that God’s grace is here, that God’s grace is for each and everyone, what Paul tells the community in rome, what Paul tells us some two thousand years later is that God’s grace will not accept anything less than God’s Beloved community coming to fruition here on Earth for all of God’s creations and as disciples of Christ, we shouldn’t either. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, July 23, 2023 – Hope of Resurrection Romans 6: 1-14.