I, Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ on assignment, authorized as an apostle to proclaim God's words and acts. I write this letter to all the Christians in Rome, God's friends.
The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets on God's Son. His descent from David roots him in history; his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master. Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah.
I thank God through Jesus for every one of you. That's first. People everywhere keep telling me about your lives of faith, and every time I hear them, I thank him. And God, whom I so love to worship and serve by spreading the good news of his Son—the Message!—knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God's gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don't think I'm not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you.
Please don't misinterpret my failure to visit you, friends. You have no idea how many times I've made plans for Rome. I've been determined to get some personal enjoyment out of God's work among you, as I have in so many other non-Jewish towns and communities. But something has always come up and prevented it. Everyone I meet—it matters little whether they're mannered or rude, smart or simple—deepens my sense of interdependence and obligation. And that's why I can't wait to get to you in Rome, preaching this wonderful good news of God.
Ah Romans! One of my favorite books in all the Scriptures. There is so much here in these first few verses I could spend days unpacking them. Yet, this is the knee jerk devotional, Scriptural insights for the short attention span, so days of unpacking simply won’t do.
Reading devotionally out of The Message a translation by Eugene Peterson is helpful for me in these instances because he brings out some of what is called, “semantic range” from the Greek. When he does this it often hits me in a new way.
For instance, v 14 in the NIV reads, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” But here it reads, “Everyone I meet—it matters little whether they're mannered or rude, smart or simple—deepens my sense of interdependence and obligation.” This way of rendering the Greek really struck me this morning. It speaks to what is quickly becoming my developing pastoral heart. Yeah, here’s a secret, I’m really a pretty lousy pastor. I am learning and growing into this calling. God truly has a sense of humor.
But that’s not even the thing that really punched me between the eyes this morning. What really got me was, “And God, whom I so love to worship and serve by spreading the good news of his Son—the Message!—knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God's gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes!”
I feel this in my gut.
For almost a year we have not been able to gather as missional communities the way they were designed to gather. There’s been no dinners, no communion. Just Zoom and outdoor one hour meet ups for time in the Scripture and prayer. The latter is life giving, the former, not so much. But, nonetheless, there has been a thinness to it all. The highlight of my week and ministry is to stand outside the circle of friends and watch them share life together. People who wouldn’t necessarily be in conversation or relationship with one another laughing together and listening to one another. I love watching the way the kids congregate together in their various little groupings.
And the questions. Oh I miss the questions! When we gather together around and open the Bible together in person, there are questions. The best ones are always from the kids.
There is life, joy, and energy from those gatherings.
As the time continues to grow my heart aches for being with the people God has entrusted me to care for spiritually. The longing grows and so does the heartache.
I know that the day will come when we are able to share meals together again and gather around the Lord’s table again. But, until then, I wait hopefully for that day.
What are you hopefully waiting for? Who are you longing to see and spend time with when you’re able? Feel free to share in the comments…