To God Be the Glory
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33 ESV) Throughout this Pentecost season at International Lutheran Church, we have been reading through Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. This epistle, or letter, lays out in great detail the gospel that Paul is compelled to preach to all the world. At the end of this section, chapter 9 to 11, Paul ends his reflection on God’s grace and mercy in praise or doxology to God. As we gather this week in “the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,” we find that the praise of God is just the beginning of our lives as a living sacrifice to God through service to our neighbor.
The end of Romans 11 and beginning of Romans 12 forms a critical juncture between talking about God - His acts and His ways - into a confession and praise of God. This juncture is Paul’s invitation, his appeal to us who are now baptized “in Christ” to worship the God of grace and mercy whose ways are beyond our tracing and whose judgments are outside of our comprehension. This is not dead orthodoxy but rather a living, active faith that sees the opportunities all around us to enrich the lives of others as we have been enriched. Our lives become living testimonies of His grace and mercy worked out in all kinds of different ways: in giving, in serving, in teaching, in leading, in exhorting, in contributing, and as many ways as there are members of His Body.
This life of living and active faith is given to us “in Christ.” In and through our Baptism into His death and resurrection (Romans 6), we are made alive with the grace “given to us.” This grace is not self-aggrandizing, but sober-minded. We see our selves not in comparison to one another, but in connection with one another. Each part is gifted and made to work together to carry out His purpose and His design. Paul uses the image of a body and its many members to illustrate the importance of our connectedness. Like the members of one body or even the cells of that body (nucleus, DNA, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus, vacuoles, lysosomes and other organelles) we are brought together to work together as Christ’s Body in the world.
During this unique age with a heightened sense of our microscopic connectedness, we are transformed by God’s Word with even greater clarity on our need to be connected to one another. Just as we are each called to faith in Christ, that faith connects us to one another. God has gifted us - graced us - in sending His One and Only Son to make us a part of His Body. By giving His Body on the tree as an acceptable sacrifice to God, He has made us alive. Through His resurrection from the dead, we are transformed and brought together in Him – no longer distant individuals but a body united in Him. As we now live in Him, we are called to serve our neighbor in love with zeal and cheerfulness, each in a way that God has gifted us to do.
God grant us His Spirit to praise Him through our service to our neighbor in all its many and various forms throughout this week.