The Bishop’s E-pistle: Scripture in Trying Times

While I was writing this Sunday’s sermon for my visitation to St. John’s (Bisbee) and St. Stephen’s (Douglas), I found myself writing the sentence, “If I could encourage every member of our Diocese to read a single passage of scripture every day from now until November 3 — and beyond — it would be this week’s passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.”

And then it occurred to me that I could actually invite you to join me in this.

Romans 12:9-21 is a guide to living in community in trying times of division, persecution, and political instability. Paul preaches that we are to ground ourselves in love, love for one another and love for God. He instructs us to sacrifice, to hospitality, and to prayer. We are to live peaceably with all when it is possible, but Paul acknowledges that it is not always within our control to live peaceably. Paul does not accept that evil, injustice, or wrong are to be tolerated; but nor does he instruct us to match evil with evil.

I invite you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest with me. Perhaps you might use the passage for lectio divina, or more study.

Where do you see yourself in this passage? Where do you see those with whom you disagree? What in this passage challenges you? What will bring you closer to Jesus, in thought, word, and deed?

With whom are you called to weep today? With whom are you called to rejoice?

What is noble in the sight of all?

Against whom do you desire vengeance? What would it look like to leave vengeance to God? Where might you meet an enemy with kindness as a means not of capitulating to evil but of overcoming it?

The holy scripture is going to keep speaking to us through the lectionary in this election cycle, and it does not speak into a void. It speaks, lovingly, into a world in need of truth, of courage, and of justice.

Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.