Saturday, September 09, 2023

Pentecost 15A

Psalm 119:35
Lead me in the path
of your commandments,
for I delight in your way.
Psalm 119:35

Romans 13:8-14

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The 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." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides 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; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Law and Gospel

When we interpret scripture, we sometimes contrast law and gospel, 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, it's about ceremonial-sacrificial-ritual law and not about the Ten Words [decalogue] or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant; but this time, he definitely means the commandments. He even specifies four of them!

All the words translated "love" in these verses 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 that were God's gift to the people after their liberation from Pharaoh's Egypt, yet before they crossed the Jordan River into land where they'd settle and farm, where they'd live amidst people who practiced a very different religion and lifestyle that didn't acknowledge or honor the God of Israel.

Can you name some political, economic, consumerist, and other types of empires in our contemporary Western context? Entities that are in your face most of the time and that come close to demanding our allegiance and obeisance? Both visible and invisible structures that amount to very different religions and lifestyles?


Economics is the guiding principle or law (nomos) of the household (oikos). Scripture is full of information and counsel about money, wages, payments, and related obligations.

Today's second reading tells us we owe each other only love!

Rather than barter or trade, a cash economy as the primary means of payment and exchange evolves when a population becomes large enough. To get through every day, 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 a less expensive similar version or not buying anything at all?

In the world of the bible, debt and sin essentially were synonymous. As God's agent, Moses lead God's people out of slavery to the Egyptian empire, yet Jesus walked, talked, and taught in a world colonized by the Roman 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

The bible has two different "time" words: chronos on clocks and calendars situate an action at a measurable point—our regular appointment every Thursday at 3:00, another day, another dollar on October 25th are chronos or chronological time. So is your annual birthday celebration!

Kairos is unrepeatable, life-transforming—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 major kairos punctuation (exclamation!) marks within the chronology of normal days.

"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

In this short reading, Paul says this right now, this very moment, is the right kairos time to practice love for everyone. Don't wait! Just do it!

You Are What You Eat / We Are What We Wear

"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 13:14

This literally is "Clothe yourself in Christ," the same word as putting on clothing. Your attire (at least partly) reveals who you are. Some professions have a distinctive uniform that announces the worker's identity and mission. Other workplaces and situations have more flexibility. Is today work, play, gardening, hiking, or something else? 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. Agape love regards everyone and everything as created in the divine image.

Romans 13:8
Owe no one anything
except to love one another
for any one who loves another
has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8

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