Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When in Romans...

On Sunday, as I mentioned, I found myself tasked with leading the second installment of our congregation's Sunday morning Bible study on the Epistle to the Romans.

Looking around at the dozen or so expectant faces around me, I realized I'd forgotten how hard it is to teach a class...on anything. And I realized that we were heading into the territory, in Romans 1, of the dreaded "clobber verses." Oy gevult.

So being the expert procrastinator that I am...I changed the subject.

I started off with a review of what I've always thought was the brilliant advice I've received from more than a few instructors over the years regarding how to responsibly and mindfully engage Scripture: What does this say? What does this mean? What does this mean for me/for us as a faith community now? I talked about how, as Lutheran Christians, we honor all these questions; I talked about how, historically, whenever Christians focus exclusively on one of these questions to the exclusion of the others, they get themselves and others into trouble.

Then I launched into a Cliff Notes review of the historical and cultural contexts of Paul's letter -- the conflicts between Rome's Jewish community and new Christian believers, the conflicts between Jewish Christian converts and pagan Christian converts; Paul's tackling these and the larger theological issue of soteriology from a distance.

When we finally got around to reading from the text, we found ourselves at Paul's thesis statement about justification by grace. That was good for another quarter-hour discussion about why this is the linchpin of Paul's theology. And then we had to stop, so we could get ready for the worship service.

Like I said...when it comes to putting off difficult things, I am an expert.


toujoursdan said...

When I lived in Texas and was involved with a Bible study of Romans (in 2003 when the Gene Robinson storm was raging) I also dreaded the passage. Luckily, I found a good resource on the subject (Paul, the Goddess Religions and Homosexuality) and used it to launch more into a discussion on the struggles the Roman congregation had in the face of Roman paganism and how they mirror our struggles with our larger culture. Instead of sexuality, we discussed how we should work to apply Christian values of agape love to all, while trying to reject the egoism, celebrity worship and materialism of modern life.

While discussing that, one always had to look ahead to Romans 2 which reminds us that we are sinners in the same boat as our neighbours and not to carry a false sense of superiority.

The participants came to the conclusion that the sex acts mentioned in v.25-27 were a reflection of that materialism and paganism all by themselves. (And if you read the paper, it isn't as clear as we think it is that the passages were discussing homosexual sex acts at all.)

toujoursdan said...

Another tact may be to walk through the passage and substitute something that hits close to home for all of us. Replace the out-of-control (homo)sexuality mentioned in the passage with out of control spending and debt accumulation. The "due penalty for their error" might be the symptoms of "affluenza" - isolation, fear, depression, divorce, etc.

LutheranChik said...

Dan -- thanks for that link...I think it will be a helpful reference.