Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sun. Oct. 5 (James Wittenberg)

James Wittenberg (Regent student and pastor-in-waiting for Sherbrooke Mennonite Church) brought us from the time of Paul’s ministry in Rome to the present. As the first Jewish Christians were evicted from Rome, the Gentiles remained behind, and when the Jews were permitted to return, they found things - indeed the church itself, different. Who was “in” and who was “out”? Who kept the faith of Christ - Jew or Gentile? Paul would have none of this. The Saviour of the world came for both - slave and free, Gentile and Jew. The beginning of his letter to the Romans emphasizes the difference that the decisive act of Jesus’ resurrection made to the early church, continuing through Romans 12 to emphasize the application of this lesson, culminating in the text for today, from Romans 15. Here Paul outlines the defining characteristic of the early Christian church - acceptance. As there is diversity in the church, we cannot all be alike, and are therefore called to accept those whose faith is weak, without judgment. Using examples from the dinner table, Paul notes what we eat or do not eat makes us no better Christians than any other, and encourages acceptance. The original Latin word is one full of welcome and promise, of enduring friendship, not the weak Canadian equivalent of an absence of harsh words. As when eating together one comes to know another’s preferences in food, so in our worship and life, do we come to know that to be counted among the Christians means to be in a caring community that takes care of its own during famine, pestilence; for widows and orphans, modelling acceptance. Relate that to our own patterns today - how often do we as families, never mind as Christians, have a meal together today? Where do our lives rub up one against another? We are to accept one another because God has accepted us, with good conscience (v. 6) without regard to what the practices of others may be. We are not called to judge others’ practice, such as eating meat or celebrating different days as special, - where we can differ and still be considered disciples of Christ. This does not mean we are to participate in sin in order to accommodate the practices of others - that is dealt with in 1 Corinthians. Romans exalts us to celebrate things done in good conscience, in praise to, and accountable to the Lord. [AP] Listen to the sermon audio MP3 recording from Sunday Oct. 5th, 2008 using your browser's preferred media player.



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