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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Feb 14, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Reflection: The Rev. Ollie Rencher Rector, Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Memphis, TN Board of Directors, The Gathering of Leaders The baptismal call to navigate this world and other human beings, our companion images of God, in the love, light, and hope of Jesus is no small charge. This daily invitation presents countless opportunities and lifechanging choices to move deeper into the way of Jesus and to make him known. Whenever we bless, rejoice, weep, serve, and seek both equity and peace with another, we faithfully are practicing Christian goodness. In all things and with God’s help, let us choose goodness in the name of Jesus.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Feb 13, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
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.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Feb 09, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
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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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Feb 01, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Reflection: The Rev. Emily Mellott Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Moorestown, NJ Who are you? Paul pushes us to keep digging into the question of identity, of who we are in relationship to God. We are not who we think we are: as righteous humans, as agents of change, as autonomous creatures. We are, instead, who God thinks we are. And even when that looks like destruction from our point of view, God sees us as part of the plan of redemption. When has your self-image or your community’s image been challenged? What might God’s image of you be right now? -------------------------------------------------- Reflection: The Rev. Deborah Meister Rector, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, South Glastonbury, CT Does the clay say to the potter, "Why have you made me like this?" YES! All the time! We say it when we are frustrated by our deficiencies, or when the gifts we have turn out not to be the gifts we want. We say it when we condemn one another, saying "this person" or "that group" is deficient, wrong, evil, worthy only of condemnation. And this insight should guard us against the too-common error of reading anti-Semitism into this passage. For that, too, would be the creation judging the creator's work. Rather, Paul is pointing us toward mystery, toward the real limitations of what we, as creatures, can know and should seek to know. Each of our neighbors is an act of God we can only begin to fathom; accepting this plants the seed of humility that spurs us in all our uncertainties to turn to Christ, seek to emulate his love, and be saved.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 31, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
a little late, but another chapter to go.
Bishop Russell Reflects - Romans 8:9-10:4 content media
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 31, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Reflection: The Rt. Rev. Jeff Fisher Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of Texas, TX Identity issues seem to influence our public politics and personal relationships. An Israelite or a Gentile? A progressive or a conversative? Watch Fox News, CNN or MSNBC? Children of the flesh of Abraham or children of the promise? There are so many ways to put ourselves into an identity box. Yet in our baptism, we all become children of the promise. If your only identity comes from baptismal adoption into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, how does that influence your public politics and personal relationships?
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 29, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Reflection: The Rev. Valerie Balling, Rector St. Barnabas, Monmouth Junction, NJ The metaphors of birthing and birth pains are apt for church leaders who expend so much energy coaching others toward a closer relationship with God. It often feels like a struggle, but one worth all the efforts. And yet Paul takes this one step further by reminding us that it is the Holy Spirit that is doing all the work. We need to give up our desire for control and allow the Spirit to work, move, and be. It is actually transformative to let go and trust that the Spirit will do the work if we let her, birthing in us and others exactly what we need.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 26, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Reflection: The Rev. Paul Canaday, Rector Christ Church, New Bern, NC What do we focus on? That which gets our attention shapes us. Paul is suggesting here that putting our attention on worldly things will not give us joy or hope. Giving our attention to God provides "life and peace." The challenge then is to keep our eyes and heart on the Spirit and not on all the distractions of the world.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 21, 2019
Bishop Russell Reflects on Romans 6:1-8:8 content media
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 21, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Reflection: The Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, III, Bishop of Mississippi (Res.) Chair, Board of Directors, The Gathering of Leaders Paul is using an analogy to describe the origin of sin in creation (Adam) and the source of redemption and grace (Jesus). The details of how all of this weaves together is terribly important for Paul’s theological construct, but less so for me. My hope is in his proclamation that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more...”. In other words, grace wins - always. That is the word I need to hear, today and always.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 21, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
The Rev. Canon Rich Simpson, Canon to the Ordinary Diocese of Western Massachusetts, Worcester, MA There are some big forty dollar church words in this reading, words like justified and grace, hope and glory, suffering, endurance, wrath, and love. Volumes could and have been written on these words. But the word that captures my own imagination here is reconciliation. We have been reconciled to God. This frees us to be reconcilers in the world, in the neighborhood. This work of reconciliation in families, in congregations, in the workplace puts flesh on all the rest.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 21, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
[Reflections on Romans 4]. It was the morning I lost my identity. My family was visiting Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, and I had a great idea. “Let’s get up early and drive over to the Highland Games!” Of course, this suggestion met with consternation and confusion from my family. Everyone wanted to know why on earth we would do something like that, especially when we didn’t have to wake up early. I explained to them that I descend from the McDowell’s and as a McDowell, I wanted to learn more about my heritage. I had visions of buying all kinds of Scottish bling to show to the world my identity as a Scotsman. I told my kids that I would likely be wearing a kilt the remainder of the trip and they should get used to it. Then the Gaelic walls came tumbling down. It was raining pretty hard when we arrived at the Games. These conditions led to increased whining from the peanut gallery. “Be quiet! This festival is our heritage. It’s about time you kids learned a little something about where we came from and who we are!” Channeling my inner William Wallace, I forced, and this word, unfortunately, is not hyperbole, the family into the elements and around the massive now muddy track where every clan had a tent. We were looking for the McDowell tent where I was sure to find ancestral affirmation, and my kids would embrace their identity with pride in a nirvana of clan fellowship. After about 45 minutes of searching for the tent with no luck, I finally stopped to ask for directions to MY clan. The man I asked sat for a moment and then asked how to spell it. “That’s the Irish spelling…,” he said, awkwardly adjusting his kilt. I’m not positive, but I think he said these words with a little disdain and judgment in his voice as if to say that we didn’t belong. How could this happen? I spent my whole life thinking I was Scottish. I would feign interest in Scottish things thinking it was part of who I was. I even tried haggis once for goodness sake! What did I do? I did what anyone with a freshly smashed identity would do. “Let’s get out of here. Too many damn Scottish wannabes around here. You know my mother was a Chelf…that’s Irish.” I immediately went in search of a new identity. Paul’s identity was in shambles when he fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. He built his life on being a faithful Jew, a Hebrew of Hebrews he said. (Philippians 3:5). He was a Pharisee who demanded strict adherence to the rules and persecuted others when they didn’t toe the line. It was his life, and then he had an encounter with Jesus. In an instant, all that he thought he was and who he was supposed to be, disintegrated. If he wasn’t who he was because of his groupings in life, birthright or what he did; who was he? I once heard Episcopal Priest Paul Zahl preach on identity in Romans, specifically chapter 4, and his ideas forever changed the way I look at this chapter and embrace the identity freely given to me by God. In Romans chapter 4, the Apostle Paul fleshes out this new identity. He uses Abraham as an example of this saying God’s love and approval of him isn’t a result of what Abraham did for God. He’s not “justified by works.” (Rom. 4:2) God’s acceptance of Abraham, Paul says, comes from Abraham’s trust in God’s promises. He “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:3, 22). Identity as the beloved of God is a gift birthed out of trust. This identity of love is extrinsic, not intrinsic. This is a revolutionary way of looking at the acceptance of God. In a few sentences, Paul turns the worldview of his ancient Jewish audience on its ear. This view saw birthright, accomplishments, and adherence to the strictures of the law as what makes someone lovable to the Almighty. Instead, Paul says it’s the trust of one who is unlovable, with nothing to give, that results in the acceptance of God. God deems the one with trust and belief lovable and gives him righteousness which becomes his identity. Identity that comes from our ancestry, what we do, race, religion, sexuality or anything but that found from God, begins with the wrong question. It asks the world to analyze and answer questions of meaning or feeling about a status that derives from something other than God. This form of identity is fluid. The way both the one holding that identity and those around engaging that identity is constantly changing and depends on situations and circumstances of life and experience. The way one views even untransmutable identity factors may change with experience, age, location, etc. This fluidity leads to self righteousness when we possess something others don’t or despair when others hold the desired identity. It’ s a vicious circle. It often begins relationship and conversation with division. But the identity that comes from God is secure and solid. It does not change as a result of our weakness or inability to measure up. The good news for all of us is that God gives us this gift of love and acceptance, not based on our strivings, but our trust. It’s a gift of grace not a reward of the law. When we place our trust in God and his promises we get a new identity as children of the living, loving God. The sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus covers us. What an incredible gift. So, whether we are Scottish, Irish, male, female, black, white, straight or gay or any other identification of this world, we are the beloved of God. That’s an identity for eternity. The search is over.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 17, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
When Paul fell off his horse on the road to Damascus, his identity as a "Hebrew of Hebrews" known for his persecution of those who didn't "tow the line" of religious rules, disintegrated. He needed to re-think his identity as a follower of Jesus. Paul in chapter 4 of Romans writes about identity and what it means to be a chid of God. These words are powerful and have true insight for our lives in the modern world. I am working/fleshing out my thoughts on this chapter and trying to put it in words. I will post more on this tomorrow. In the meantime a few questions: What is identity? Where do we get our identity? Is identity meaningful in and to your life? Does identity and those groups with which we identify bring lasting peace? Do they bring division?
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 16, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Sometimes it’s hard to accept a gift. Our culture of merit tells us that we must do and be in order to receive a reward, so when someone gives you something, especially when it’s precious, for no apparent reason, our first reaction is usually to fall all over ourselves saying that it’s not necessary or that we don’t deserve it. It’s so difficult to accept a valuable, unmerited gift, that after getting it set about trying to prove our merit and worthiness of the gift. We are now so intent on earning the gift that we never get a real chance to enjoy it. We do the same thing with our Christian faith. We hear that God’s love and salvation is a gift of grace. It’s a one-way gift that’s freely given, not because of our birthright or anything that we do, but because we put our trust in Jesus. A loving God looks on us in our broken sinfulness and calls us God’s own. Paul discusses this concept of God’s gift of grace in today’s verses. He tells the Romans that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:24). He says this in response to some Jews who believed that their birthright as Jews earned them a special place in God’s favor. They saw it as a privileged position. There are also those who thought that strict adherence to the law, the many rules the religious establishment formed around the life of faith, would earn them God’s favor. But we can never be good enough to merit God’s favor or earn the gift of salvation. The problem comes when we fall off the wagon, which always happens in one way or another. In our sinfulness, we will always fall short. (Rom. 3:23). This constant striving and moving one step forward and two back creates a fear that we’ll fall out of God’s family. Martin Luther called this the “Terrified Conscience” and responded by latching on to Paul’s argument that we are saved and made at one or reconciled with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are saved by grace through faith. We hear it and maybe even understand it, but we don’t always live as if we believe it. We create rules, activities, clubs, prayer groups and a million things the “good” Christian must do, that we lose sight of the gift. It’s longer a gift, but something we can convince ourselves we earned through our actions. We justify the gift through what we do. There is, however, only one who justifies our receipt of the gift. He died for us so that we can live without fear as if death in its many forms is no more. The acceptance of this gift and leaning into it with all our might is the one thing that changes everything. I love the words of the old hymn: “Cast your deadly ‘doing’ down, down at Jesus’ feet; Stand in Him, in Him alone, gloriously complete.” Paul begins to flesh this out in the following chapters. It's starting to get good!
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 15, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Check out Bishop Russell's reflection on Romans 3:8-5:21.
Bishop Russell Reflects on Romans 3:8-5:21 content media
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 15, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
The ground at the foot of the cross is level. We all stand in equal need of a Savior. These words ring in my ears as I read today’s selection from Romans. Paul basically tells his readers there is no birthright or adherence to a set of deeds that become law that save us. We all do things that separate us from the love of God. We all need a savior. The good news is that God’s saving hand of grace breaks into the world and each of our lives in Jesus. Paul begins to address the one way gift of God’s grace in the following verses and chapters.
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 13, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
“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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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 12, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Image is everything. Well, that's certainly the message we receive from much of the world. It's not so much what's inside as long as the outside looks good. Our culture is obsessed with appearance and we are all too happy to fall in line. Many times our actions in the world reflect this same way of thinking. We do certain things to "look" one way, while our hearts and actions tell a different story. Sometimes, we won't try new things or risk new experiences, relationships or kindness to the "other" for fear of the way it will make us look. Of course, we do this while professing our love for and relationship with God. This outside/inside tension runs through today's reading from Romans. When I read this section, I can't help thinking about Ezekiel chapter three when the prophet takes the scroll representing the word of God and eats it. The word according to the prophet "tastes as sweet as honey." (Ezek. 3:3). The prophet shows us that it's not enough to know or possess the word-it must be a part of us. It's not what's on the outside or what we say, but, rather what is on the inside and what we do. Paul says the same thing to the Romans as he discusses what it means to be a faithful Jew. Paul found some Jews who assumed their place in God's favor because of their birth and knowledge of the law. They told the world how much they loved God, but their heart and actions revealed something else. Paul turns circumcision, an outward sign for a Jew of being a child of the Abrahamic covenant, on its ear when he says that "real circumcision is a matter of the heart." (Rom. 2:29). When something is part of the heart, we bring it to everything we do and all that we are. The Ten Commandments controversy mentioned yesterday is applicable here too. God doesn't want or need the Word written on monuments in rotunda's that serve to prove to humanity how much we love God. God wants the Word on our heart so that we bring God's word into our whole life. "Such a person receives praise not from others but from God." (Rom. 2:29). A few questions: How is God's Word written on your heart? What does that mean to you? How do we say one thing and do another in life? How does this impact our walk with God?
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
Jan 11, 2019
In Good Book Club - Romans
Romans 2:1-16 1.) A few years ago there was a big ruckus over a stone monument of the Ten Commandments placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. Many argued that the display was a violation of the separation of church and state and should be removed. Others maintained it was not only an expression of faith but the basis of moral law and the inspiration of many societal laws and that the commandments should remain. Those who argued for removal ultimately won the day in court and the monument was removed. The debate prompted politicians and citizens alike to weigh in on the controversy. Many who wanted the monument to remain wore t-shirts and put yard signs out with a list of the commandments. There were even some who framed support for the monument and the presence of outward signs as proof of one’s dedication to God and Holy Scripture. And yet some of the same people who so passionately displayed the outward signs of the Ten Commandments violated certain aspects of their spirit through their behavior in the controversy. There was name calling, condemnation and vitriol aplenty. They certainly trampled on Jesus’ great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. It was almost as if the supporters of the monument thought the more and louder they could scream, even at the cost of being civil and kind to those with whom he disagreed, the more it showed their love for God. A sign in the yard or a t-shirt on the body was a ticket to God’s acceptance. Paul addresses this type of behavior in Romans 2. He aims his words in this section towards the Jew who judged non-Jews for certain behavior in which the Jews themselves were involved. There was an idea among many Jews that their birth as a Jew put them in a favored place with God. This place of privilege protected the Jew from God’s judgment and “wrath.” They believed their actions and devotion to God were trumped by their birth. But Paul tells them that all are sinners in need of God’s compassion and righteousness. God’s kindness, Paul says, “is meant to lead you to repentance.” (Rom 2:4). Repentance means “to turn” and Paul tells them that this kindness must involve a turning toward God from sin and separation. There are times when I am guilty of the same behavior and I’ll bet I’m not alone. It’s easy for us to get a feeling of priority for the “Christian” things we do and say. If we say the right things about God, quote the Word and go to church, somehow the other behaviors that hurt God and neighbor don’t matter as much. We think maybe God will overlook this because of that. It’s not enough to go through the motions or say the right words. It is not enough to write the righteousness of God on a yard sign and parade it for our neighbors. It must be written on our hearts so that it is part of our being. We can’t use God’s love and kindness as a license to do things that separate us from that same love and kindness. There must be a turning toward God and God’s righteousness, which means there must be a turning away from the behavior that separates us from God (sin). If there is no repentance, we are just dialing it. This ultimately leads to a sickness of the soul and a lack of peace. The good news is that it is never too late to turn. A few questions: What does repentance mean to you? How do we abuse the kindness of God? Are there things in your life from which you must repent? Are there times when you feel you dialing it in as it relates to your life of faith? What do you do in those moments?
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St James Eufaula, Alabama
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