My thanks to Jason Zerbe, who did a drop-dead-droll Tertius (the Apostle Paul’s secretary), and Betty Loewen, who captured the earnestness and insightfulness of Phoebe, which made her the fitting person to take Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (Romans 16:2) in our drama in church this morning (July 20), the latest in our installments on The Things That Make for Peace. Without the help of some sleuthing and imagining into the situation that would have prompted Paul’s letter to the Roman Churches, it’s hard to know where to begin preaching on the following passage from Romans 12:9-21 (NIV):
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
But ponder the difficulties and the birthing pains of a new creation, the “one new humanity” made of Jewish and Gentile believers through Christ, and the common thread running through all these admonitions becomes clear: how Jewish and Gentile believers can worship, live and witness together when they have histories of enmity between them, and enmity coming from the world. Check out the drama at Download paul_and_phoebe.doc to see if I have followed this thread faithfully through Romans 12:9-21.