8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Prayer Psalm 119:33-40
I desire the path of your commandments, the path of life in you.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in your way.
Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
I desire the path of your commandments, the way of your love.
Climate Justice – Racial Justice – COVID-19
Anyone who tries to comprehend the scale of destruction caused by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires, the centuries-long history and ongoing reality of white supremacy (in the USA and other countries, too), the immeasurable losses and increasing uncertainty from COVID-19 realizes no individual or group can change any of this on their own by themselves…
Again today we have a reading from the letter or epistle to the Church at Rome. Romans is the seventh and the last of Paul's undisputed epistles. "Undisputed" means writings that carry marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, sentence structure, and theology. At the time he wrote Romans, the apostle Paul hadn't yet been to Rome.
Law & Gospel
Sometimes we contrast Law and Gospel when we interpret scripture, but God's law and God's gospel both are gifts of grace that mirror each other.
"Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8
Almost every time the apostle Paul uses the word law, he refers to ceremonial-sacrificial-ritual law and not to the ten words [decalogue] or commandments of the Sinai Covenant; but here he definitely means the commandments. He even specifies four of them!
In today's reading from Romans, all the words translated into "love" are agape in Greek. Agape love is God-like, grace-filled, unconditional, life-giving care not based on emotion or whims. Agape love guides and fills the Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant that was God's gift to the people before they crossed the Jordan River into land where they'd settle and farm. Inspired and enacted through us by the Holy Spirit, as "Working Papers" for our life together, the commandments help us create heaven on earth.
Politics & Economics
Every since solitary Abram left Ur of the Chaldeans as the beginning of his descendants becoming more in number than grains of sand on the shore or stars in the night sky, being human has meant being governed and/or governing others; being human has meant barter and exchange in order to meet everyday needs.
• Political? Scripture is loaded with verses and passages about living together and interacting with each other.
• Economic? Scripture is full of information and counsel about money, payments, and related obligations.
A cash economy (rather than barter or trade) as the primary means of payment and exchange evolves when a population becomes large enough. We necessarily think and act in transactional ways. How much do I owe on my car note? Do debits and credits on this spreadsheet balance or not? Can I afford this purchase or would it be wise to compromise by getting something less expensive or not buying anything at all? Wants versus needs?!
In the world of the bible, debt and sin essentially were synonymous. Jesus walked, talked, and taught in a world colonized by yet another empire, where "regular people" constantly got slammed by imperial taxes, where most of the "little people" owed their souls to the company store.
Today's second reading tells us we owe each other only love!
This Time / This Now
"Besides this, you know what time [season / kairos] it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers." Romans 13:11
The bible has two different words we translate into "time": chronos is similar to our clocks and calendars that situate an action at a measurable point—our regular appointment every Monday at 3:00pm, another day, another dollar on 25 October 2024 are chronos or chronological time. Kairos is an unrepeatable, life-transforming point—the birth of your child on a particular Wednesday at 6:32am; the Declaration of American colonial Independence from Britain on 04 July 1776 are kairos moments.
In this short reading from Romans, Paul says this right now, this very moment, is the right time to practice love for everyone. Don't wait! Just do it! We've heard about living on borrowed time, a phrase that often refers to someone whose physical life has continued beyond a predicted "expiration date." We've been learning verifiable facts about COVID-19, planet earth, and groups that have been left behind, left out…
You Are What You Eat / We Are What We Wear
"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 13:14
This is the same word as putting on clothes—literally "Clothe yourself in Christ." What you wear at least partly reveals who you are. Some professions have a distinctive uniform that announces who you are and why you're here. With fire and law enforcement personnel (for example), official garb and gear can be necessary and functional. Other situations have more flexibility. Where do I plan to go today? Which of my identities will I mostly rock? What's the weather forecast?
Baptism clothes us in Christ; "dresses us up" in the Holy Spirit of creation, redemption, and sanctification. Baptized into the Trinity we wear a life of agape love that regards every human, critter, and natural neighbor as infinitely valuable and not as objects to be used, exploited, and discarded. During Luke's lectionary year we discussed neighborology – the word about the neighbor – a lot! Agape love is a major word and action about our neighbors. Agape love regards everyone and everything as created in the divine image.
• Are love and hate opposites? I've heard indifference is the opposite of love. What do you think?
• Or can both be the case?
In addition to the gift of prayer that connects us to the heart of God, how can we fulfill God's obligations and demands by loving right here and now (especially in the USA) related to:
• Environmental degradation and climate justice
• Racial/ethnic justice and reconciliation – would these possibly include reparations for certain groups?
I frequently point out our actions are synergistic and add up to more than the sum of their individual parts. There's been too much online pushback related to mask-wearing; apparently physical distancing is most effective around other people, but masks help some. Along with the rest of the world, the USA needs elected and appointed leaders who will love Planet Earth into revitalization and restoration. One person=only one vote? Yes, but those votes add up and countless elections have been won or lost by a single yea or nay. It feels to me that in those cases indifference would be the opposite of love.
• What actions would you ideally take related to these three concerns?
• If ideal can't happen, where would you start?