Perhaps, like me you felt uncomfortable at the language in our epistle today....

RAMBLING RECTOR

I have borrowed the name of a strong and beautiful rose as the title for my reflection during the times when we cannot meet in the church building because of the current pandemic. I plan to offer you a short reflection each week, stemming from the impressions and inspiration I am discovering. It is my prayer that we all discover God more deeply in this time while we are ‘Together While Apart’.

 

SUNDAY 28 June

BIBLE READINGS

Romans chapter 6 verses 12-end

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

The Gospel of Matthew chapter 10 verses 40 to end

40 ‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’

 

REFLECTION

Perhaps, like me you felt uncomfortable at the language in our epistle today which uses the imagery of Slavery. In recent days, there has been much media focus on the historic slavery of black Africans, including the part that Britain played in that evil trade to America, and ongoing racial tensions and inequalities. We will also be aware of the various ‘modern’ slaveries that exist even in our country. 

 

To imply that we ourselves are in slavery to anything could seem to minimise the abhorrent practice of the enslavement of men, women and children and the degradations and cruelties that go with it.

 

That said, we must understand that Slavery was a fact of life in the ancient world, the world of Paul, writer of the letter to the church in Rome. In those days, often slaves would have been prisoners of war. Sometimes it was someone caught in poverty who could not feed themselves and so sold themselves and their children into slavery. It is estimated that in some areas, slaves made up as much as 35% of the population. Sometimes, slaves were freed, and ex-slaves were common in larger cities. The morality of slavery would not have been questioned, although it was considered right that they be treated humanely. (Paul says, in Colossians ‘Masters treat your slaves justly and fairly…’) Paul’s imagery of us as ‘slaves to sin’ or ‘slaves to righteousness’ should be seen against this background.

 

Verse 17 of our epistle reading points believers to the fact that as followers of Jesus, our allegiance is no longer to earthly masters but to a God who loves us unconditionally. And therein lies the key to the Christian life. Rather than demanding subservience and subjugation, our God-given freedom releases us into the fullness of God’s righteousness. By grace we have been set free! By grace we are welcomed by God! From that secure foundation, we come into God’s presence, we grow in holiness, we reach out in love to all the world, as we are gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ.

As we look forward to our return to ‘Public Worship’ we need to remember that central fact.

 

Some of you may know the song "This Amazing Grace" from Spring Harvest, or elsewhere. I feel it has a real resonance this week. 

 


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