Monday, April 19, 2010

Stunned by Grace

Hooray!  We've begun our Book of Faith:  Romans study here at Bethany Lutheran Church in Denver!

(We've been lucky to have already worked our way through the Proverbs study, authored by our own Pastor Ron Glusenkamp and his good friend, Peter Mayer.  Click here to learn more.  I'm sure it will re-surface once again in our congregational homes in the coming months - there's always room for more conversation!)

We're a Book of Faith congregation at Bethany, and I'm happy to share some adventures and personal thoughts on the happenings behind this exciting initiative!

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Session One:  What Must I Do to be Saved?

    Focus Statement:  We are not saved by anything we do, but by God's grace alone.

    Key verse:  They are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:24

Well, Amen and hallelujah for that focus statement!  I think that about wraps it up.

Ok...a few more thoughts:  we discussed in our small group our personal perception of salvation, and how we view it.  An event?  A process?  A journey?  I responded with a hearty YES!  All three - and then some!  Salvation is something I think about daily, something I'm appreciative of each minute.  It's not a competition.  It's not a hierarchy where only the top class is saved.  It's not a ranking system where only the top echelon shall be granted its presence.   It's grace.  GRACE!  It's all encompassing.  It's for me!  That is huge.

Each week, our study will explore the four interconnected contexts:  Historical, Literary, Lutheran, Devotional.  Talk about giving us a whole-picture approach!  Love it.

Pastor Carl provided us with some background knowledge of our good buddy, Paul.  How reading Romans is like 'reading someone else's mail' and that the letters would have been read out loud.  That was an important point for me - keeping in mind the style of oral transmission of that day.  I've switched to reading our weekly passages out loud, as if sharing the information with a gathering.  (Mind you, I live alone, but perhaps my neighbors will start to tune in if I read in the breezeway...)

Romans 3:  9-31:  We read three different translations (which I think will be a super important strategy to continue each week) and one of them said this:  "believing not achieving".  Dang.  There you have it.  Talk about going against the status quo.  Even yesterday, as I'm walking through Target, there are wall signs and hangings all over that said, "Achieve".  Now, as a teacher, I'm certainly behind the efforts and thoughts put into achieving, and I think achieving brings you to a deeper level of understanding.  But, if that's the end all, be all, we're in a world of trouble.  Or at least I am.  

Grace.  Lots of grace in Romans.  One of those gifts you can't believe you've received.  We're so human in our understanding of gifts, that I think we fail to fully comprehend the overwhelming and TOTAL gift grace really is.  We measure it.  We rank it.  We put our own limits around it.  SO not the point of grace.  I marvel at grace - I'm thankful for grace - I'm stunned by grace.  

Ponderings:  I think the term 'justification' confuses me as a Lutheran, as a Christian.  When I'm justifying something, it sounds as if I'm defending it.  As if I have to give reasons behind the choices that were made, and allow for supporting details to win my case.  Justification is a hard concept to reconcile with the notion of grace.  They seem to be in conflict with one another - it's clear I need to ask more questions and do more reading!  And pray.  Definitely pray.  I'm guessing that the Holy Spirit will jump all over ponderings such as these!

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Book of Faith Adult Learning Series - ROMANS

Writer:  Matthew J. Marohl

Augsburg Fortress 2009

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