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Jan 13

Romans 3:1-8


“With great power, there must also come great responsibility.” Most recognize this a quote from Spiderman. In the early days of Peter Parker’s narrative, he discovers the full powers of being Spiderman. He begins by using the powers to bank some money. He fails to use his power to stop the forces of evil and it visits pain on his own life when his beloved Uncle Ben as a result of a crime he could have prevented. It dawns on Peter that this gift should not be appropriated for personal gain, but, rather, for the good of humankind. This realization leads to the birth of Spiderman as a force of good in the world.


The idea of power requiring responsibility is not original to Spiderman or the Marvel comic world. Many throughout history uttered similar words including Voltaire, Franklin Roosevelt and most notably Jesus in Luke 12:48 (“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”) Regardless of what source you credit, this idea is important. What will we do with the blessing entrusted to us? I know I am all too willing to take what God has rained down on my life and use it on lots of things that all fall short of building the kingdom of God.


I hear the rhythm of responsibility and power running through today’s reading from Romans. Paul engages a debate with an imaginary questioner in these first eight verses. This question and answer session deal with the special status and preferred position of Jews to God. Paul continues the conversation started in the last chapter involving the favored place of Jews who violate the commandments of God. Do they continue their favored status in the face of intentional infidelity? After all, if one sins it highlights the righteousness of God. Paul answers the interrogator by stressing God’s impartiality and the fact that we reap what we sow.


Paul says that Jews are “entrusted with the very words of God.” (Rom 3:2). This is not a privilege that allows one to sin with abandon because, “Who cares, we’re already in a special relationship with God.” It’s not acting as if actions are irrelevant and we can call God’s favor on a technicality. In short, it creates a responsibility to be more-to use the gift for good and as a light to others.


I can’t answer for you, but in my own life, the blessings abound. God’s gifts are everywhere. Why is it that I consciously fail to use these blessings to the glory of God? I get caught up in the “me” of it all. I care more about the opinion and accolades of humans than I do about God. I take God’s love and favor for granted. I don’t think I am the only one who does this. What will we do with the blessings? There is darkness all around. How will we use the blessings to bring light?


“With great power, there must also come great responsibility.”


A few questions: What do you think about Paul’s words on God’s impartiality? What gifts has God entrusted to you? How do you use these gifts to God’s glory?

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  • Reflection: The Rev. Valerie Balling Rector, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Monmouth Junction, NJ These few verses are the essense of the Baptismal Covenant, the blue-print of how to live as a Christian. Imagine what the world, or even our churches, would be like if we actually followed these tenets. Let's accept the challenge and practice thems each day, making them our holy habits.
  • Reflection: The Rev. Dr. Hillary Raining Rector, St. Christopher's Episcopal, Gladwyne, PA Board of Directors, Gathering of Leaders In his letter to the Romans, Paul is asking us to “understand a mystery” so that we “may not claim to be wiser than we are.” How can one understand a mystery—especially one as complex as he is describing here? Perhaps, Paul is reminding us that the only wisdom we can truly claim is the knowledge that God knows infinitely more then we can ask or imagine. What a glorious mystery that is!
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