A challenging text…submit? (Romans 13:1-10)

Happy longest day of the year!  And it is a beautiful one out there, so perhaps while you enjoy the weather you might continue thinking about our weekly homework ;).

Last Sunday — on Father’s Day Sunday — we gathered around the table (to many being told “Happy Father’s Day”) — we opened in prayer — and we checked in answering why does God care about the welfare of the city, as well as answering what seeking the welfare of our community looks like (for individuals and for us as a church).  There was mention that God’s care for the welfare of the city is being concerned about everyone’s welfare, that (even if we are individuals in exile) our thriving is often connected to the community we find ourselves part of.  We thought of prayer — all forms (including prayer with hands and feet!) as one of the ways that we seek the welfare of our community both as individuals and as a church.  And we also found ourselves for a bit considering how even if we are individuals in some form of exile (or oppression) that God might be using us — speaking to us — in order to bless the community we are a part of, naming how we might be the only ones in the community listening to God, and so God seeks to speak (& to bless!) through us — which is of course beautiful & annoying too, but how many of us on a daily basis think we are offering to the world, to all those who see us a picture of who Christ is (with our smile, or lack, with our generosity (or not), how we see people (or ignore), how we cheerfully serve & love….)?

As perhaps a most ideal (though challenging) follow-up to this invitation and expectation to seek the welfare of the city/community.  We turned to a scripture selection which had been in the recent news, Romans 13:1-10,

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. …10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

And we sat, we held these 10 verses.  We started sharing how we do not like all of it.  Some like some parts, some verses, others appreciate others.  Of course the question came, but what about when one verse is fighting with another?  What then?  What are we to do?  What does faithfulness look like then?  There was some discussion about different types of government playing a bit of a role in how we can faithfully engage (a) government, there was talk about engaging and challenging that which one finds opposed to God’s desires and being ok with the consequences that come….

We began the conversation.  And while it’s can be easy to allow the current political climate, issue, and cause to dictate a conversation — here that is not exactly what we are seeking to do.  (For unfortunately, often doing so mires us in confrontational & oppositional camps that are not necessarily useful in seeking to hear the faithfulness that the “other” is pursuing.)  Instead, how do we hear this (and ANY challenging) scripture, for which there can be more than one interpretation?  And how do we allow it to shape who we are as faithful lovers of God?

So….we began the conversation, but we did not end it and we will return to these verses again this coming Sunday.  After we’ve allowed the Holy Spirit to be speaking to each of us.  Which of course is what the homework is for the week, to sit with these verses and to allow the Holy Spirit to speak, to convict, to open each of us to what God is speaking to us here.  Where does God desire us to grow?  How does God want to shape us in faithfulness?  Prayers as each of us listen, for this work is not easy work, to be open to listening to God can feel as though the ground is crumbling under us….as it crumbles with in grace may we find God is inviting us not only to walk with Christ but to move (and even fly!) with the Holy Spirit!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

*and food for thought as I heard more than one comment about the challenging scriptures we engaged last Sunday…if life were 75 and sunny each day we’d likely believe we didn’t need God…but life is not always 75 & sunny…and so we find that we need a God who is not afraid of the mess of life — of our lives — we need a God who doesn’t disappear in the dark — we need a God when the world is chaotic and falling apart in our hands!  Challenging scriptures allow us to be honest with ourselves, and open with God — and in the struggle with these selections, in the wrestling to find where the Good News (grace) can be found — we often learn something with substance that helps feed us in the hardest times of our lives….*

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