What are the things in life you wish you liked? What do you keep trying, hoping that this will be the time when you finally enjoy it? There are two of these things on my list. One is bleu cheese. I try it every time I see it. I want to like it. I pray that I will like it. I know I should like it. But when I take a bite of it, I can’t take another. Next to bleu cheese is running. Growing up, I tried soccer, lacrosse, and basketball. I picked sports knowing I would need to run up and down a field. I even tried jogging for fun once. But running is something I’ve never been into. One of the issues I have with running is the pain. Once I start running, sharp pain radiates from my shins. I’ve learned different stretches and coping mechanisms over the years to deal with the pain but that pain is always there. I wish I liked running. I wish I enjoyed running races because I would like a cool medal. Nothing so far has made running “fun” for me. But I keep trying. God willing, this will be the weekend I complete my first 5K and come bak to New Jersey with a medal in the shape of a bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese.
Today’s reading from Romans 12:9-21 continues what we heard last week. The Romans are trying to embody a life that follows Jesus and Paul is laying out what that life looks likes. Paul starts with love, honor, and service. He advocates taking strong stances against everything that keeps people from God. He explains that a life lived in harmony with others means showing hospitality to strangers and being generous to the people sitting next to you. We’re called to know people, crying when they cry and laughing when they life. We live to be with people and to bless them, focusing on the needs of our neighbors instead of ourselves. Paul is advocating a way of life that is difficult to understand and even harder to live out. Yet it’s a way of life rooted in Jesus Christ. Jesus had the power to seek vengeance, to raise an army, to establish a political kingdom on Earth that could push the Roman Empire into the Sea. As the Son of God, he could use his power like we do. He could have been violent, destructive, and focused on only his own immediate needs and wants. But he didn’t. He went to the Cross because God’s number one desire is to love, save, and redeem all of us. A Jesus-like life is hard. A Jesus-like life involves sacrifices. A Jesus-like life means always loving even in the face of evil. We keep loving because Jesus keeps loving us. And it’s that kind of love, service, and honoring of others that can truly change the world.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 13th Sunday After Pentecost, 9/3/2017.