“Mercy Upon All”

Romans 11:25-36

From Grief to Celebration – Following the Paths of God
Paul began Rom 9-11 with great grief for his Jewish kin – so many were missing out on what they should have delighted in, what was their own story. He ends celebrating what God is doing in this complicated history that reaches back across scripture and into the lives of the believers in Rome. It is challenging and complex! God made human life complex. It’s often hard even to understand ourselves, our own rebellious wills, our hopes, our loves.
If the problem were simple, we could have a book of do-it-yourself resolutions. It would not have required the incarnation and death of God, the defeat of death, resurrection life.
Paul sees the drama of Jews and Gentiles, played out in his own life and ministry, as a sign of God’s choice of a particular human path leading to his faithfulness and mercy to all people.

Foreigners and Family

Romans 11:5-24

Tensions in a Diverse Community
In building a community, there are basic principles, and also particular problems that arise. The church in Rome likely started after Pentecost (ad 30) as the “visitors from Rome, Jews and proselytes” (Acts 2:10) who became believers returned home (25 yrs before Romans, ad 56). Many Roman Jews were from freed slave families, from Pompey’s conquests a century earlier, not citizens. In c. ad 49 emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome because of conflicts over the new faith (Aquila & Priscilla, Acts 18:2). Claudius died ad 54. Jews returned. The church had been non-Jewish (Gentile) and now has returning leaders. How is all this supposed to play out. Some Gentiles said God rejected the Jews and brought in Gentiles.

Paul, the Pharisee who became apostle to Gentiles, wants to deal with the issue. Not just with practical advice but by understanding the whole narrative of Scripture and their place in it. He has worked with many of the returning Jews and is committed to the nations/Gentiles.
The Troublesome Grace that Makes New People

“I Myself Am...” - Identity

Romans 10:18-11:6

Communities of Identities – God’s complex Creatures

We are finite beings, defined, limited. I’m the child of two parents, and theirs ... an ethnic descent, a gender. I’m from a location in place and time. I’m shaped by a family, society, culture, traditions, political possibilities, power structures (race, gender, money, etc.), history. I’m shaped by my own story, choices, relationships, actions, experiences, faith, beliefs, education, hopes, abilities, dreams.... It’s a God-given complexity that makes every person distinct and interesting. A world of fascination and conflict. In communities we interact and shape each other’s identities. Jews & Gentiles faced such conflict in Rome.
Paul is telling the event of Jesus, a very specific person in a limited time, place, history, faith, who sends a shock wave out into the world that can influence every human identity. God is working within human 

Hearing the Good News of Jesus

Romans 10:10-21

Wrestling with God’s Good News
In Rm 9-11 Paul is striving to express the journey of struggle and discovery that has defined his life. All his life he knew that God defined his relation with the world through Israel and Torah all his life. A crucified Messiah did not fit. He fought it. Then Jesus confronted him.
God called him to proclaim a crucified Messiah to Gentiles, to people outside the ancient covenant, to people not even interested in Israel’s God or Messiah. Wrestling began.

Paul is taking us through a highly compressed summary of his journey of scripture study and experience in preaching, seeing inclusive communities breaking down society’s barriers. Even in Rome a community of Jews/Gentiles, Greeks/Romans/barbarians/slaves/women. New words shine in scripture: “Everyone,” “all the earth,” “those not seeking me.”

Jesus – The Aim of God’s Story

Romans 10:1-13

Israel, the Torah, and the Messiah
In Rm 9-11 Paul explores a powerful dynamic of Scripture. God creates us humans to whom he gives life and freedom. He desires our good, but the greatest good is bound to that freedom: moral choice, love, trust, faithfulness, creativity, relationship. We rebel. God promises to open a path to a renewed relationship of love, forgiveness, right standing. He chooses Abraham as the conduit for all the world to deal with human sin and death. 
Then the path has twists and turns as God makes choices, creates a covenant people, gives Torah, promises a Messiah, deals with deep division and rebelliousness, begins radical transformation through exile, empires, oppression ... all the way to a Messiah crucified! 

Stumbling Over Trust in God

Romans 9:19-33

Reading Scripture to Understand God’s Ways

In Rm 9-11 Paul moves from grief to perception and hope to praise through scripture. He develops key points of Rm 1-8: “Righteousness”: both God’s righteousness in faithfully being true to his promises and the way he draws humans into a righteous standing with him through Jesus. “Faith”: both God’s faithfulness embodied in Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and resurrection and our faith/trust in what Jesus has done.

But Paul is painfully aware that many of his fellow Jews do not trust that God was at work in Jesus. Rather Torah/Law is God’s final revelation defining an ethnic people marked by circumcision, purity laws, temple, and Torah. The Messiah must fit and confirm these. 

God’s Unstoppable Mercy

Romans 9:1-18

Paul’s Joy and Grief in Telling about Jesus
Paul in Romans 9-11 takes up the message he celebrated in Rm 1-8 but with a new focus and intensity. The section begins in cries of grief and ends in exclamations of wonder (11:33-36). 
He continues his focus on God’s faithfulness to his promises (God’s righteousness) that leads to salvation for both Jews and non-Jews in God’s people. 
Paul’s grief flows from the repeated experience of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah of Israel in synagogues in many Greek cities. Some Jews were convinced, but many refused to follow a crucified teacher and make the leap into a community that was not ethnically defined and without clear boundaries of legal practice to separate it from pagan society.