ROMANS SIX–FROM THE GREEK TEXT

It is hard for me to believe that at one time I thought I would finish my translation of Romans before Independence Day.  Here it is July 6 and I am not even half-way through.  But I am having fun.

Theological Notes:  The baptism imagery is key in Romans 6.  It feels to me like Paul might be quoting some kind of early baptism liturgy regarding the old way of life as opposed to the new to make his point that sin should not be a natural part of life for the Christ-follower.

There is also a rather pointed sexual reference mid-way through the text that carries through to the end.  What most translations render as ‘members’ are, to me, clear references to genitalia.  Paul might have something specific in mind, such as men who are frequenting temple prostitution or sexual rituals in connection with pagan practices.  I say men because there could be some double entendre with the word “present” which can also mean “stand up.”  Instead of getting too graphic, however, I chose to use “body parts” although I don’t mean ears and toes.

For Paul it is all about who you serve.  Bob Dylan and Paul would agree that you “Gotta Serve Somebody.”  Paul believes there are only two choices–you can serve sin or you can serve Messiah.  The payoff for serving sin is death, but the payoff for serving Messiah is eternal life (v. 23).

Translation Notes:

Paul uses the word “walk” (v. 4) in all its metaphorical richness to describe the life we live after our baptism.  Again, I have chosen to use the metaphor walk rather than render it ‘live’ because it seems to me to speak almost as richly as the original metaphor did in the ancient world.

Verses 17 and 18 only make sense if they are interwoven.  These were particularly troublesome to get at.

In verse 20 I added the word “responsibility” to help smooth out the rendering.  Without adding that or some other word, the meaning is muddled.  Paul is trying to say that before we became faithful followers of the Lord, back when we lived as servants of sin, we were free from the requirements of righteousness.  Now, however, that we have received grace, we no longer have that luxury, for we are responsible to be righteous, we are responsible for our actions.

Chapter Six
1. What shall we say? Should we persist in sin so that grace might increase?
2. Never! We died to sin, how can we now live in it?
3. Do you not know that those of us who were baptized into Messiah Jesus were baptized into his death?
4. Therefore we were buried together with him in death through baptism so that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life.
5. For if we become united in the likeness of his death, we also will have the likeness of resurrection.
6. This we know—that our old person has been crucified together with him—so that he might abolish the sinful body to no longer serve sin.
7. For anyone who has died is freed from sin.
8. If we died with Christ, we believe we will live with him.
9. Knowing that Christ has been raised from the dead, he no longer dies, nor does death any longer hold dominion over him.
10. For when he died, he died to sin once for all. Now that he lives, he lives to God.
11. You also should think of yourselves as dead to sin but alive to God in Messiah Jesus.
12. Therefore, do not obey your desires, letting sin reign in your mortal body.
13. Neither present parts of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present your body parts to God as instruments of righteousness, present yourselves to God as if you came back to life from the dead.
14. For sin no longer will have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but grace.
15. What now? Should we sin just because we are not under the law but under grace? Never!
16. Do you not know that when you present yourselves as a servant to anyone in obedience, as a servant you must obey, whether it is sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness?
17&18  But the grace of God is that even though you had been obedient servants of sin, now, having been freed from it, you have given over your hearts to the form of teaching that makes you into servants of righteousness.
19. I speak in simple, everyday human ways because of your weakness. You once presented your body parts enslaved to impurity and lawlessness for the sake of more lawlessness, but now you must present your body parts enslaved to righteousness in holiness.
20. For when you were slaves to sin, you were free from the responsibility to righteousness.
21. What fruit did you have back then? Only those which you are now ashamed, those that lead to death.
22. But now that you have been freed from it and are now serving God, you have your holiness and the resulting eternal life as fruit.
23. For death is the daily wages of sin, but eternal life is the gift of God through Messiah Jesus our Lord.

LOVEBIRDS

Friday I stepped outside my home around noon to walk to the mailbox.  I’d been working the morning through and hadn’t been out since I took my daughter to school, but it was still dark then.  I rounded the corner of the front and there in the concrete driveway just outside the garage door lay two greyish bluish birds.  They were in the jay family of some sort, but not bright enough to be a blue jay.  I suppose they may have been kingfishers, but i don’t think so.

BE CAREFUL OUT THERE, OK
BE CAREFUL OUT THERE, OK

One was male. The other was female.  You could tell by the brightness of the coloring.

Their little claws were curled up underneath their bodies and their eyes were open although they saw nothing.  No markings on the body; no trauma, no shots from a boy with a BB gun, no arrows, nothing.  The birds looked healthy enough, except for the fact that they were dead.

I looked up and noticed a blur of feathers on my daughters window directly overhead.  Suddenly I knew.

On a gorgeous spring day two lovebirds doing what male and female of all species do, they were flying high and soaring, enjoying each other with playful whims and delightful fancy.  I’ve seen birds do this, so have you–they dart in and out flying fast through trees and above the water as they call to each other with their many syllabic chirps, “Hey lover,” and “My you’re fast” and “Come fly away with me,” and other playful invitations to romance.  Swept up in the revelry of pheromones and the prospect of dalliance, they were not paying attention.  I shudder to think of the sudden last moments of consciousness as love turned to death, falling together to earth with full hearts and broken necks.

That is where I found them.  I named them Romeo and Juliet and put them in a shallow grave.  Love is a man splendid thing, but the world is dangerous.

 

image from www.a-home-for-wild-birds.com

VOICES OF THE DEAD ON YOUR PHONE

When people die, it is tragic.  Sometimes there are events that happen after a loved one dies that almost seem as hard as the original pain of loss.   My newest short story features that kind of event–the ripping away of the scab that has barely begun to heal.  It is available right now for only 99 cents at Amazon and comes in at about 4000 words.  Click the icon below to purchase (I would love you forever if you did!) it for your Kindle reader at Amazon.  It is also available at bardandbook.com and smashwords.com if you don’t have a Kindle and want to print it or read on your computer.

The Last Message
The Last Message–My New Short Story

I have not written anything this short in a while because I’ve been working on my new novel, the thriller The Little Girl Waits, which will be released in May and other longer short stories, The Land Begins to Heal and The Deep Cove Lineage (both available at Amazon.)  Getting back to the traditional short story length was actually difficult.  I kept wanting to elongate the story and go deeper into the back story, however you can’t do that too much with a short story.

The key inspiration for the story was a newspaper article from our local paper back in October of 2013.  I was intrigued and cut it out and stuck in my ‘write about this’ pile.  It is an AP article (click here to read it) that described the heartbreak of people who had lost the voicemail or greeting message from cell phones from people they loved when the cell phone company made upgrades.

Technology has given families like the Moores a way to hear their loved ones’ voices long after they’ve passed, providing them some solace during the grieving process. But like they and so many others have suddenly learned, the voices aren’t saved forever. Many people have discovered the voices unwittingly erased as part of a routine service upgrade to voice mail services.

Often, the shock comes suddenly: One day they dial in, and the voice is inexplicably gone.–From the AP Article that inspired me

It was a very sad piece that captured my empathy and imagination.

I wanted the story to be almost Rod Serling-like–just enough like our everyday world to seem very, very real, but then a twist that made us realize something unusual was at play.  Of course, for me the ‘unusual’ or ‘paranormal’ event is motivated by my faith convictions about the Lord.  This led me to the second main thought for this particular story.  It has a large pastoral quality to it in that a major character is the pastor for this family and her compassionate tough-love.  It is also her prayer that seems to set up the twist ending, but I don’t want to give away too much.

I hope you enjoy it.  By enjoy it, I mean I hope it makes you cry your eyes out or at the very least go check your voicemail.

ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT

Why are Lent and Ash Wednesday a good idea? 

This is a post from a previous year that I am re-posting today because, obviously, it is Ash Wednesday that, for me, helps answer some of that question.   

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This is the week that we Christians who follow a liturgical pattern of the year mark the journey through Lent and toward Easter.  It all begins on Ash Wednesday.  I consistently find that when I take the ash and observe Lent my experience of Easter is much richer and therefore more meaningful to me.  I did not grow up in a church which practiced Lent and Ash Wednesday, so when I learned about it as an adult I was skeptical.  However, as I dug around and realized that sin, prayer, confession and death with eternal judgment were all major themes, I knew I was all in.  What kind of Baptist doesn’t get excited about that!  But over the years as I have led my church to practice and observe Ash Wednesday and Lent I have encountered some objections to the practice.

1.  Lent is only for Roman Catholics.

There is a certain amount of truth to that claim.  Catholics do observe Lent and Ash Wednesday.  However, the counter is true as well.  Catholics also baptize and preach.  Does that mean I should not baptize and preach?  No, certainly not.  The best answer to this argument though, is that the roots of Lent and Ash Wednesday go way back to a time way before there were any distinctions such as Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists.  Much of Catholic history and tradition is also my tradition—we have a shared origin in Christ and the early church.  Besides, some of the greatest Christians I’ve ever met, studied, read, or learned about have been Roman Catholics.  It is time we put such prejudices and biases away.

2.  Ash Wednesday and Lent are too negative.

Yes, I suppose that is the way it might seem.  The major themes of Ash Wednesday are death, dust, mortality, sin, confession, fasting and contrition.  Lent, if done correctly, will be very uncomfortable and sometimes a downer.  People from traditions which emphasize the “Jesus makes me happy all the time” might be a little put off by such ‘negativism.’  The thing, though, is that the Scriptures call us to contemplate such.  I should be painfully aware of my own mortality.  “From dust I came and to dust I shall return” is a powerful thought.  Our culture likes to pretend death isn’t real, but it is and therefore I must confront my sin and deal with it in this life.  I should get my appetites under control and bring my body into discipline.  Ash Wednesday and Lent help us do that with a focus and the help of our community.

3.  We should always pray and fast and confess, not just one season a year.

I so agree.  I try and make prayer and confession a part of my daily routine.  Fasting is the kind of thing I’ve done in various ways throughout the year.  I especially encourage fasting before making big decisions.  It clears the mind.  But again, I bring the counter argument to this objection by saying if we should always be doing it, then how can it be wrong to be doing it now, at Lent, when millions, if not billions of people around the world are also engaged in it.  By fasting, praying, and confessing at the same time the Christian community is bound by a common experience which might have a powerful impact on the world.

I also ask, if you do not fast during Lent, then when do you fast?  The New Testament seems to expect it of Christ-followers and if you’re not going to do it now, then when do you plan on it?  Why not now?

Before I bring this to a close, I want folks to understand I am not trying to convince anyone they have to observe Ash Wednesday and Lent to be a good Christian or even for Easter to be significant.  Many good, wonderful, Jesus-loving Christ-followers never follow Lent and are great people whom I admire.  What I am arguing is that the practice of it is not inherently wrong or misguided, and that many people might actually be stirred by the practice in positive ways.  It can’t hurt and it just might change your perspective for the better.

If you’re interested, but don’t really know where to start, check out Suggested Guidelines for Lent.  It is a good place to start.