1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 6The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger for ever. 10He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. 13As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Again the responsive psalm was our opening prayer. Psalm 103 wonderfully asks us to bless God! We often think of God blessing us, blessing all creation; how gracious of us to return the favor. Check out the long list of gifts as God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, renews, syndicates, justifies, bestows mercy, grace, compassion. Surprisingly, the Hebrew for "steadfast love" in this passage isn't the famous chesed we've mentioned quite a few times. It's plain old regular love. At the offertory, one of our soloists sang "O Bless the Lord, My Soul" setting of Psalm 103 from Godspell!
Being Church / Romans
We continue four months into the church's year of grace in the Season of Pentecost that's specifically time of the Spirit, Season of the Church. This year emphasizes the gospel account we received from the community surrounding Matthew, but today we'll consider another passage about living in community, living as disciples of Christ, living "in Christ" from the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome. You'll remember we've been hearing a lot of "ways to be church" from Jesus via Matthew; St. Paul backs it up, clarifies it all, even though he wrote Romans about 30 years prior to the C.E. 80 date we generally considerable most reliable for Matthew. Romans is Paul's carefully thought through, mature theology You may recall Romans is the seventh and the latest of Paul's undisputed epistles. That means writings that definitely carry marks of his authorship in terms of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, sentence structure. They still probably received some editing as they made rounds of different churches.
Paul's letters to the various churches reveal him as pastor, church planter, circuit rider. He hadn't yet been to Rome… Today we'll consider adiaphora, or things (practices, objects, etc) that are indifferent—neither commanded nor forbidden. I said a little about the moral philosophical category of adiaphora and some about worship and liturgical practices during the Reformation in terms of Lutheran and Reformed interpretations. There was a famous incident of doctrinal adiaphora that involved Luther's sidekick Philipp Melanchthon… is only justification by faith "essential" or are there other critical doctrines?
Regarding obligations, lending, debt, oughtness, payback, last week in Romans 13:8, Paul advised us "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." This week's passage reminds us being in Christ is our essential identity; aside from Word and Sacrament, most ceremonial, dietary, and other practices in church and in our daily lives are neither commanded nor forbidden. They're matters of indifference, or adiaphora. However, just as we've discussed regarding neighborology, or the word about being neighbors, we need to consider the position, the needs, histories, sensitivities, and even preferences of the other.