Daily Reflection
October 11th, 1999
Gene Selk

Romans 1:1-7
Psalm 98:1-4
Luke 11:29-32

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Apostle Paul, c. 1657
Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans begins with one of those beautiful  baroque introductions so typical of  Paul.  He addresses the recipients of the letter, and then, almost as if he cannot contain himself, slides into a mini-creed.  This introduction, like so many of the writings of Paul, reveals how much Paul is filled with the spirit and the presence of Christ.  He is so filled with Christ that he cannot even begin a letter without a long aside about the glory of Christ (“promised beforehand through his prophets,” “descended from David according to the flesh and . . . declared to be the Son of God”).  The Psalm reading harmonizes with this theme.  “O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.”

In the second paragraph of the letter, Paul declares himself the apostle to the Gentiles.  What is striking about Paul’s message to non-Jews and non-Christians (most Christians at this time probably thought of themselves as Jews, Jews who regarded Christ as the Messiah) is that it does not declare all who are not with Christ as evil or condemned.  Paul does not, for the most part, divide the world into those who are with us and those who are against us.  Moreover, he did not divide the created world into a divine spiritual realm and an evil physical realm.  Rather he declares that all persons and all things are created through Christ and for Christ (Col 1:17).  All creation for Paul is, after Jesus entered the world, Christianized.  This is at once both a glorious message and a difficult one.  It tells us to see all persons and things, even those which appear profoundly rotten, through the Christianized vision.  Christ has sanctified all things and all peoples.  This is the Christian view of the universe, and our prayer for the day may be: Lord, help me to see all things through your glory.

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