Monday, December 2
Written by Rev. Dr. Norman Broadbent
First Congregational Church of Fresno
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by
steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel for Jews and Gentiles Alike
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name’;
and again he says,
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him’;
and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
A colleague of mine tells of a time she was offering a mid-week Advent service at a retirement home. During the service, which drew on this particular passage, one woman quietly repeated over and over, while staring into space, “I love you and you love me. I love you and you love me.” My colleague thought this was a lovely and appropriate refrain for our worship.
But suddenly they were interrupted by another resident, who stood up and said loudly and angrily, “I have a lot of questions.” This stopped my colleague in mid-sentence who answered, “I have a lot of questions too. What are your questions?” She shot right back, “God made all these promises to the Jews. What happened?” Furthermore, she revealed that she was dying of cancer. She needed to know whether God could be trusted in the face of a terrible present and an uncertain future. She needed hope. So do we all – not sentimental optimism about the future, but a strong confidence in the sovereignty and goodness of God, even and especially in the midst of tragedy.
Today’s passage, arguably the climax of Paul’s letter to the Romans, begins and ends with hope, and it gives the character of God as the basis for that hope. In v. 5, “the God of
steadfastness and encouragement,” to whom scripture witnesses, gives hope. In v. 12 the Gentiles hope is in the Messiah from the line of David (God’s promise to the Jews), and in v. 13, the final and familiar blessing sums up the passage, and indeed, the letter as a whole: “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” So let it be for us all.