Romans – Our Renewed Selfhood, the male and female of God’s creating

July 22, 2015

     We are finishing the Letter to Romans tonight, but I have still been thinking about “first fruits” since it appeared in our readings last week.  The term appears again this week in identifying Epaenetus, one of the first Christian converts in Asia (Europe of today) in Romans 16:5.   In looking up Epaenetus, I discovered another definition of first fruits — that it is a sense of “first of many,” or “first with the prospect of more to follow.” Having followers and starting churches is definitely what Paul demonstrated, and his listing of helpers in Romans 16 includes many women.  In fact, there is a reference to our sister Phoebe, a church deacon, in Romans 16:1, and in the King James Version, there is a footnote at the end of Romans entrusting Phoebe with delivering this letter to Rome. If Jesus could trust the Samaritan woman at the well to tell her village that he was the Christ, then Paul, a follower of Jesus, could trust his communication to this Greek woman. No wonder scholars think that I Corinthians 14:34-35 (women should be silent in the churches) is a “later non-Pauline addition.” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, page 2019).
     You will find many sermons and commentaries on the names in Romans 16. Here’s a link to a pdf of one such list:
     Here’s a lovely thought –
Could our first fruits also be Genesis One – Man in God’s image, male and female?
     Romans 13 is about the “theology of the state” – that the civil authorities may punish, but the individual Christian may not.
     Romans 14 is about tolerance for others’ beliefs and observance. There was a time4thinkers blog applying this chapter to vegetarianism (or even eating sweets in front of someone on a diet). There are also some thoughtful verses about reasons to abstain from social drinking.
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. 
(Romans 14:20, 21)
     Paul calls us “saints,” which the NRSV Glossary defines as “the term for all Christians or for what all Christians are called to be.”  So, my fellow saints, enjoy the readings.

Romans – Christ’s inescapable salvation applies to all of us

July 15, 2015

     We are continuing with our readings through Romans with Mrs. Eddy’s references from Science and Health.
     Paul is amazing to me. He has given a glorious meaning to theological terms that we usually think of negatively.  Here is part of a testimony from a 1910 Christian Science Sentinel about the true meaning of predestination, a topic in Romans 8 & 9:
I wish I could enumerate the many wonderful proofs of the power of Truth to reduce all error to the nothingness from which it sprang. One of my old opinions to which I held in a sort of unconscious way, was the doctrine of predestination, and my thought was not wholly cleared up until last winter. In going over one of the Lesson-Sermons, the eighth chapter of Romans brought back the thought, and for a few minutes it seemed to be a stumbling-block; but as I read the context, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” like a flash of light came the thought, Why, that proves clearly that only good was predestined, and not both good and evil, and that I now believed in the doctrine of predestination in the truest way. I not only believed that good alone is predestined, but I knew it. To me, it is wonderful and beautiful that through spiritual discernment we can prove this truth, and reject all false beliefs.
     In chapter 9, Paul outlines the plan of salvation in the Bible, beginning with Abraham’s faith and including Pharaoh.  Gentiles were included because in Paul’s argument, the “seed of Abraham” was not descendants in the flesh. It was Abraham’s seed of faith which would call all people. None of us is ever excluded by God because we each have a remnant, a seed, remaining to be nurtured and grown by God’s grace. It occurs to me that this outlook explains why Paul could be such a good missionary — because he saw that Christ-seed in everyone.
The Message gives a great paraphrase for the stumblingstone in Romans 9:32:
Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
    a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
    you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.
Many companies and schools (and countries) have “diversity and inclusion” talks, and Paul gives a similar discussion in Romans 11:17 using an analogy about an olive tree grafted with wild branches. What a contemporary topic!
     The term “first fruits” appears in Romans 8:23, 11:16, and 16:5, as well as elsewhere in Paul’s writings and in James and in Revelation. It is not a term that I understood metaphysically, so I looked up the definition in Strong’s which was: “the first-fruits, the earliest crop of the year, hence also for example, the earliest converts in a district; there is evidence in rendering in some passages sacrifice, gift.”
     Romans 11:16 reads as follows in the New Revised Standard Version:  “If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.”
     The annotations had a footnote to Numbers 15:18 where the first dough is offered in worship, and this sacrificed dough purified the whole lump.
     Here is the Aramaic translation:  “But if the first fruits are holy, so is the substance. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
     So after walking through these references, I really love what Paul is telling us — that if Christ is the first fruit and holy, then we are of the same substance and also holy. If the root is the Christ-Truth, then all of us, all the branches, are the true man.  In other words, Paul took his understanding of Jesus Christ and applied it to himself, his life, and mankind.
     Sorry for such a long email today, but I have been very inspired by my trip to Rome!

Romans – Freedom from sin, our spiritual warfare

July 1, 2015

     I hope you have been able to read along with me as we cover more ground in Romans — this week chapters 5 – 8:18 unabridged. Do you remember how last week I was marveling about being part of this larger body of Christ since Sunday’s scriptural selections were so comforting for the Charleston violence? This week I think the One Mind is connecting us to other Christian Science churches. My topic for today is “Romans – Freedom from sin, our spiritual warfare.” The readings from 17th Church in Chicago for today are “Whose battle is it?” How cool is that!
     In citing Romans, Chapter 8, Mary Baker Eddy wrote:
Because of human misstatement and misconception of God
and man, of the divine Principle and idea of being, there
seems to be a war between the flesh and Spirit, a contest
between Truth and error; but the apostle says, “There
is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the
    On our subject, St. Paul first reasons upon the basis
of what is seen, the effects of Truth on the material senses;
thence, up to the unseen, the testimony of spiritual sense;
and right there he leaves the subject.
    Just there, in the intermediate line of thought, is where
the present writer found it, when she discovered Christian
Science. And she has not left it, but continues the ex‐
planation of the power of Spirit up to its infinite meaning,
its allness. The recognition of this power came to her
through a spiritual sense of the real, and of the unreal
or mortal sense of things; not that there is, or can
be, an actual change in the realities of being, but
that we can discern more of them.  (Mis. 188)
I had not thought of that before — how Mrs. Eddy recognized that she was picking up where Paul left off.  She also quoted these chapters in Romans several other times in Prose Works which are cited below the Wednesday readings.
Later comment – I had listened to a Madelon Maupin’s talk on Bible Women awhile back, and she mentioned being at the Natural Gallery in London after 9/11. Madelon said that everyone was clustered around Titian’s “Touch me not,”  I think because it showed the process of resurrected thought. This morning I happened to look up the painting on the internet, and then I listened to the art curator explain it which is on the link below:

Did you see the two witnesses – the male and the female, the Christ and the Comforter, forming the X?