’s Mark Kurowski asks “What about the Jews?” and “What is the big deal about what Paul says in Romans? Didn’t those people have a life?”  Listen to this podcast of his reflection on Romans 11:1-2, 29-32 for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time. 

For, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/14/2011The 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Romans 11.1-2, 29-32.
In a Bible Study I taught, we were talking about how the early church struggled over what we consider the basic tenants of our faith.  We decided that one thing is for sure, the story of our faith tells us loud and clear that we take the truths of Christianity for granted way too much.  In particular, we were discussing the controversy in the early church of whether Jesus was truly human or just appeared to be human.
For us, we just assume that Jesus is God and man, equal and at the same time, consubstantial.  But, in a city called Nicaea, which is just North of modern day India, the Bishops of our Church met around 325 A.D. to come to an understanding of whether Jesus was human or just appeared to be human.  There were those in the Church who claimed that Jesus was a separate creation before the creation of the world.  Others claimed that Jesus only seemed to be human, but was only divine.
There were men who struggled to understand which one of these options was true.  Just like you, they prayed.  Just like you, they sought after the will of the Lord.  Just like you, they wanted to get it right for the Lord.  It is when they gathered, worshiped, prayed and discussed that they discerned that Jesus is divine from God and human from Mary.  This is important because if Jesus had not been human, then he would not have been able to defeat sin in his flesh.  If Jesus was just divine, then he would have only seemed to have defeated sin in the flesh and we would still not be redeemed.
This stuff is pretty heavy, isn’t it?  But when it was announced that it had been revealed to the Bishops by God that Jesus was both human and divine, there was rioting in the streets of Alexandria, Egypt.  They had advocated that Jesus was divine only.
The seriousness of this whole story caused on person at that Bible study to ask, “Didn’t these people have a life?”
The real question that was being asked was this, “Didn’t they do more than just their religion?”  The answer is, “No.”
Being a Christian in the first centuries was different than it was in modern day America.  Rather, it was different than what we have allowed it to become.  To be a Christian meant that our whole existence was caught up in understanding our Lord and adjusting our lifestyle to our understanding of our Lord.  There wasn’t the compartmentalization that we see today.
For us, there is a religious life over in one spot of our lives.  Then there is a family life over in another spot.  There is our job life over in yet another spot.  Then there is our play life in yet another.
The best example of this compartmentalization, I think, was President Clinton.  He is a symbol for our times.  He successfully thwarted attempts to remove him from office because we understand that while in office, he went to church every Sunday because that was a part of his religious life over there.  We knew he went to the Oval Office every Monday because his job life was over in another spot.  We knew that he had dalliances on the side because that was his sexuality over in another spot.  We understood that because we compartmentalize our lives, too.
This Sunday’s passage from Saint Paul is plain and simple, even though it seems confusing.  Paul says,
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.  Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy.  For God has consigned all men to disobedience that he may have mercy upon all.
Let me say it a little more plainly: we are Gentiles.  Before Jesus came, we were considered unclean.  We were not part of the chosen people.  God sent Jesus and his message that all people, Jew and Gentile, were forgiven by his grace.  Paul says this was rejected by the Jews so that you and I could be grafted into the chosen people through Jesus Christ.  Hopefully, Paul says, the Jews will be made jealous by the offer given to us and accept for themselves the offer of grace in Christ.
We forget that salvation comes through the Jews.  The Jewish community is still the chosen people of God.  We are part of that chosen people only through the gracious gift of God through Jesus Christ.  We are not better than the Jews.  We are, in fact, honorary Jews through Jesus Christ.  We are made clean through the blood of Christ.  If it weren’t for the blood of Jesus we would forever be on the outside.
We are not better than the Jews.  We are the fulfillment of the promises made to them.  It is Jesus Christ who unites us to the Jews.  He doesn’t want us to destroy the Jews or hate the Jews or even look down on the Jews.  He IS a Jew!
But all of this points to the fact that the coming of Jesus unites us with their history.  Their fathers and mothers are our fathers and mothers.  Their promises are our promises.  Their scriptures are our scriptures.  Our worship is patterned after their worship.  The history of God working with his people day in and day out, just like in the Old and New Testaments, is still going on today, here and now, through us.
We have been grafted into the tree of the chosen people through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not something we got, it is something we are.  If religion was something we got, then we could lose it.  But if religion is something we are, then it will only stop in this life when we die.
We have no other life when we are called “Christian.”  It is the center of our being.  All things, all decisions, all employment, all actions toward our family members are dictated by our faith.  We are, and ought to be, no different than those Christians who labored to understand that Christ is human and divine.  Our religion is, and ought to be, inextricable from who we are.
In movies after movie these days, when there is a religious element, there is a common scenario played out.  Parents have faith, children reject the faith, parents reject the children, children plead with the parents, and then the parents overcome their religion and love their child.  The implicit message is this: your child’s life in whatever form is more important than your faith.  It is as if, these parents, in standing up for their religious beliefs are unreasonable.  I reject this notion.  It assumes that a principled faith has no concern for people.  This is just not true.
We want our children to be faithful because we love them.  We want our children to be moral because we know that there is nothing more important in our life than living a vibrant fully integrated faith in God when it guides all we do.  This does not mean that we condemn people when they are not faithful.  It does mean that we implore and encourage our children to be faithful because it is a matter of eternal life and death.
Jesus gave his life so that we, who were once outcasts because we are Gentile believers, could be grafted into the promises of the chosen people.  What we are doing here today is serious enough that God let his only begotten son, God from God, true God from true God, begotten not made, the one and only Son, die on the cross so that you and I could be included in the promise of eternal life.
Our central focus is not self help.  Our central focus is not making everyone happy.  Our central focus is not about feeling good.  Our central focus is not about making money or keeping the doors of our churches open.  Although our faith may bring about any of those good things, they are not our central focus.  Our central focus is on worshiping Jesus Christ who has come so that all people can be forgiven of their sins and be included in the promises of God.  That is our purpose and that is our message to all the world.
Isn’t that marvelous?  Isn’t that wonderful?
If you haven’t done so, I invite you to rediscover the depth of meaning and purpose in being a Christian.  I invite you to be rededicated by God to have your life changed so that it would reflect even more the seriousness of our faith.  I invite you to have no other life but the life offered in Jesus Christ our Lord, our Savior, who came to include us in the promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus.  I invite you to remember all the men and women who struggled and even died to make sure you and I would have these basic truths to take for granted.  I invite you to not take those truths for granted so that we can give God the glory.  Amen?  Amen.
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