Do God’s promises offer lessons, or limits? The audience for this Romans passage, the early Christian community in Rome, is caught up in questions of identity and belonging; those from the Jewish faith and those of Gentile background are working to figure out how they all fit into the scriptures and stories of God’s people. In the midst of these tensions, Paul proclaims God’s expansive welcome. He tells the young church community that all that was written before is intended to teach, to encourage, and to offer hope—not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well. For Paul, the Hebrew scriptures and tradition are not an exclusive boundary of God’s action but an expansive, welcoming example of God’s glory. God’s promises are not limits but rather lessons of God’s faithful, steadfast love.

Questions of belonging and identity neither begin nor end with the early Roman Christians. Such questions are alive and active in our communities today too. Paul’s words invite us to ask whether we treat God’s steadfastness and encouragement as restrictive or instructive. It is tempting to let the ways that we have experienced God’s promises and faithfulness become benchmarks for success or boundaries for exclusion. We can start to use the rich legacies of our denominations or congregations as signs that we have the corner on God’s blessings. We can start to see our own testimonies of God’s goodness as measuring sticks against which to hold up the worthiness of others. Paul’s words to the Romans remind us that our experiences of God’s love and faithfulness are not for us alone; God’s promises are not limits but rather lessons that we can share for the hope and healing of all creation.

God of hope, I want to learn from the steadfastness and encouragement of your word. Help me not to limit your promises but to welcome all people to glorify you as together we live into your will. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 11:2-11

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Lectionary Week
December 2–8, 2019
Scripture Overview

The readings from the Hebrew scriptures look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah describes a root from the family of Jesse, that is the family of David, that will rule fairly and usher in an age of peace. The psalmist extols the virtues of a royal son who defends the poor and the oppressed and causes righteousness and peace to abound. Christians traditionally read these psalms as prophecies about Jesus Christ. Paul in Romans quotes several prophetic passages from the Hebrew scriptures, but he begins by emphasizing that those writings were given for our instruction. Christianity without the Hebrew scriptures lacks its foundations. Just as we prepare our hearts during Advent for the arrival of the Christ child, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus in Matthew.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 11:1-10. What appeals to you in Isaiah’s vision for The Peaceable Kingdom? What challenges you?
Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. Consider the ways you lead in your church, community, or work. How do you nurture the life God has created in these environments? How can you better lead toward God’s righteousness, justice, and peace?
Read Romans 15:4-13. How can you welcome others as Christ has welcomed you?
Read Matthew 3:1-12. How can you prepare yourself to accept a wild or risky proclamation of God’s kingdom?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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