Monday, December 05, 2016

compatriots

Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the churches of Christ greet you.  Romans 16:16

This simple little verse comes after a long listing of people mentioned by Paul at the end of the letter he is sending to the believers in Rome.  It doesn't have the great theological implications of chapters 4 and 5, it doesn't resound with the high notes of chapter 8, it isn't urging folks to a new lifestyle like chapter 12, but this often overlooked part of the letter tells us something very important about the early church.

Paul mentions women, as well as men.  He speaks of individuals, as well as faith communities which gather in another's home.  He speaks of people who are never mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.  He tells of those who have been imprisoned with him, as well as those who supported him in his journeys, in his ministry of spreading the gospel.  He calls them friends, co-workers, relatives - thinking of all these people not just as people who attend church with him, but who have shaped his life in profound ways.

They are Jews, and they are Gentiles.  They are folks whose names reveal they are Greek, while others carry Latin names.  They are Romans, and they are Asians, and some are folks who come from places not mentioned.  They are rich and poor, there are young and old.  Paul considers them all to be saints, not because they are more pious than we, but because they are believers just like we are.

They are the constant reminders that the early church was a diverse community, which welcomed people from every culture, from every background, from every economic status, from every sort of work, with every level of education.  They lived out the good news that Jesus came for all people, not just a few; that the church is the household of all people, not just the privileged; that faith is shared and learned from every imaginable person.

They are us, or who we could be, if we just dared.

Prayer:  We sing about the roll that will be called up yonder, Generous God, so remind us of those who are living out your trust and hope in our midst, not waiting for it to take place in the future.  Amen.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

No comments: