Our minister has been working his way through a series of sermons on Romans this year. The series has been more notable for its focus on forgiveness than on putting on holiness, and amendment of life. I suspect that probably reflects his own rather liberal views on many of the contentious issues of the day.
But yesterday we got to Romans 8 (which begins “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, and ends with the majestic affirmation
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord>
The pastor told us that when he was at Carey Baptist College one lecturer asked the class which was their favourite chapter in the Bible. There was a range of chapters nominated, but for around half the class Romans 8 was their favourite.
It is a long chapter, and there is a lot in it. I’m not sure what my answer would be, and that is with the benefit of another day to think about it. The first chapter of John’s gospel would certainly be right up there, both for its content and as the reading often heard on Christmas Day. Perhaps 1 John 3 would also make my shortlist. Matthew 5 (and the Sermon on the Mount more generally) certainly would. And Revelation 21. More recently, Genesis 1 might have moved towards the shortlist. Or Luke 15, and the story of the Prodigal Son, and the deep reconciling love of the father. In some ways, it is meaningless to compare more “analytical” texts with narrative ones – perhaps then a choice of favourites simply tells one about the preferred learning style of the reader. I’m instinctively analytical and yet, say, the story in Luke 7:36-50 of the woman washing Jesus feet and drying them with her hairs rips me open each time I read it. I can’t even conceive of acting that way myself, and yet the account of her doing so speaks as powerfully as anything in Scripture of penitence and passionate devotion to God.
I’m always a bit hesitant about joining a consensus, and yet….it is difficult to go past Romans 8. We need all of Scripture, and yet so much is summed up in those 39 intense verses – themselves enough probably for a year of sermons.