Lectionary Year A
June 16, 2002
Romans 5:1-8

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


This marvelous passage of sacred Scripture presents several major and several minor concerns. The major ones include the initial fact stated that "We are justified . . ." "The peace with God" is secondary to that first assertion, yet, it can hardly be anything like a minor consideration. It is major. The cosmological aspect of "reconciliation", a result of justification, assures its place in the major considerations of this pericope. Boasting has to be a major one, too. The hope in which we boast and the suffering in which we boast have a "because" explaining them. Therefore, I call them minor concerns, relative to elements that stand alone, or at least, unexplained and unqualified. The pilgrimage from suffering to hope captures most readers' attention, to be sure. However, I believe it is a more nearly minor part of the entire passage. The reason hope doesn't disappoint is "God's love, poured into hearts". That element seems closer to major than to minor. The Holy Spirit's role in the process is, likewise, salient. The death of Christ and its proof of God's love is MAJOR.


So, we are (definitely) justified by faith. And, (therefore) furthermore, we (definitely) have peace with God. It comes through Christ's Lordship in us. Through Him we get access to God's grace in which we live (and move and have our beings). So, now we might boast in our hope of sharing God's glory. And, not only that, but also we might boast in our suffering because we know that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. And, (as if that weren't enough) hope never disappoints us. That assertion is so because God pours divine love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit having been given us.

Now, while we were still weak, at the time deemed right, Christ died for the ungodly.

Now, surely, rarely will anyone die even for a righteous person - though possibly for a good person one might just die. However, God proves incomparable love for us in that while we yet sin, Christ has already died for us.


As we observe life today, we sense people hung up on having to justify themselves and what they do or don't do. This pericope tells us that justification is God's business. What figures and/or situations in "The Phantom Menace" illustrate self-justification and/or the lack of any necessity for self-justification, since it is better done by Another? I can't answer that question, I have yet to see it. Anyone? Then, too, how many people living life today really aim at fulfilling a destination through "access to (God's) grace" or "sharing (God's) glory"? Too few. Boasting is still, today, a favorite indoor sport (and outdoor, too, for that matter). Biblical boasting focuses on hope of sharing God's glory and knowing that suffering can lead to hope that never disappoints us. Too many folks, today, suffer psycho-emotional hopelessness. Depression runs rampant in our day. If people admit weakness, they really have to struggle with the commercial declarations that weakness sucks. Popular notions tend to believe mass media claims over Biblical Theology's. If this passage fails to comfort and/or persuade hearers, I can't imagine what will. This passage is GOOD NEWS at its pinnacle.

Enough Character Already!

Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.       The eleventh member of the basketball team threw his shoes against the locker as he undressed to take a shower. He didn't know why he should shower, since he never played in any of the games. The coach couldn't afford to put him in because the team was always woefully behind. The team had just endured its 23rd straight loss, and as team members sat around in the gloomy locker room contemplating their constant losing, one member said half-jokingly, "Well, look at it this way, it builds character."

      "I've had about as much character building as I can stand," eleventh team member sputtered. "I'd like to see us win, maybe just once."

      The time was late winter of 1945. The armed forces had reduced the male population of the small Illinois college to a few who couldn't pass their physicals plus a handful of other who were deferred for pre-theological studies. Hence the men's athletic program had been reduced to near zero. To boost morale in the student body a call went out to form a basketball team. The notice announced, "Anyone who has ever wanted to play basketball come on out for the first practice."

      Eleven guys showed up, and all eleven made the team.. A local businessman who had played some college ball a dozen years earlier was recruited to serve as a volunteer coach. "I don't know how many games we're going to win," he cautioned at the first practice session. "But we're going to give it all we can," he assured the eleven enthusiastic players. Typical coach remarks. No one on the team ws taller than six feet, two inches. Two of the players had been on mediocre high school teams, the rest had probably played in church leagues or YMCA teams. Large doses of hope were going to be needed for this team.

      The first year the team lost one game after another, usually by 20 point or more. Volunteer coach and team members showed up for th two-hour practice sessions five days a week, including team member eleven. But in all 12 losses that first year he sat on the bench during every game.

      Year two wasn't much different. A few changes in personnel, but basically the team was still made up of young men blessed with more hope and enthusiasm than basketball skill. They also acquired more endurance than they had expected, after that 23rd straight loss, the team captain tried a brave pep talk in the locker room before the final game of the season, to be played in their own gym.

      "Well, we've all had our fill of moral victories and character building," he concluded. "All we have left is hope."

      That and a weak opponent. As the game wound down to the final two minutes, the amazed and unbelieving team members glanced again at the score board. They were ahead by 20 points! It was time for team member eleven to be sent into the game. Coach gave him the nod, and as he dashed from one end of the court to the other in those final two minutes, he forgot nearly everything he had learned in two years of practice. But no matter. The team had finally won a game. Character and hope had prevailed.

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