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Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

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Lectionary Reflection

Year A, Advent 4
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary – Revised Common Lectionary
New Testament Lesson

Romans 1: 1-7(Standard Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary)

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Reflection on Romans 1: 1-7
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

The focus of all four texts in the Revised Common Lectionary is the good news ("gospel") for a whole community that they are collectively to be restored to wholeness of life ("salvation").

In the apostle Paul's culture it was customary to start a letter with a salutation that states who writes, for whom, and with what greeting. The letter "to all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints," however, adds what could be called "a summary of his gospel" (HarperCollins) or an "expansion of this form" that "reflects the liturgical context within which his letter would be read" (New Oxford Annotated NRSV, 3rd ed. Augmented).

As in the other three texts for today, Paul's "gospel of God" concentrates on good news that brings "grace to you and peace from God" (1:7). Observe the heavily freighted terms, each of which expounds the meaning of incarnation for Jew and Gentile alike (see especially Rom. 9-11): servant of Jesus Christ, set apart, gospel which God "promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures," gospel "concerning his Son," the distinction between "according to the flesh" and "according to the spirit of holiness" [or Holy Spirit]; the effect of the resurrection, namely that it "declared [Jesus] to be Son of God with power" (1:4); "obedience of faith" (1:5).

Contrary to the materialism and individualism of Western culture, Christmas is the special time to celebrate the community of God's People, the grace and peace that is theirs, their sense of history within and around their community, and their commitment to enact the faith among Greeks and barbarians alike, among the wise and the foolish alike (1:14), among all the Gentiles (1:5) as well as among his own people, "my kindred according to the flesh" (9:3). Before completing this letter Paul will have traced connections between Jesus and all humanity ("Adam" being representative of all humanity, 5:12-21), and between God's love in Christ Jesus and "all creation" (8:18-29).

The message of scripture is clear: there is no disposition on God's part to "leave behind" most of humanity and all of the material cosmos. The message of Christmas is the opposite of leaving any of God's creation behind. Because of the incarnation "the glory about to be revealed to us" (8:18) leaves behind all separation from God's love (8:31-39). Christmas is the opposite of bloody Armageddon. It proclaims the redemptive loving presence of God among all people, and within the whole creation.

Printable version

To Reflections on other Readings for Year A, Advent 4:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal)
Revised Common
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Psalm 24 or 24:1-7
New Testament Lesson
Romans 1:1-7
(this page)
Romans 1:1-7
(this page)


John G. Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he originally wrote this reflection in 2007. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John G. Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


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