Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God......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.
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"Grace to you and peace...." I have begun over 35 years worth of sermons with a variation on Paul's greeting. Most Sundays, I stand in the pulpit and I flip out the words of greeting if it were a long sigh before I get into the guts of the message. Sometimes, God clears his throat in my soul's ear, and I look at those to whom this greeting is directed. Some faces have the look of hungry expectation, some look as if they are saying "I dare you to say anything that actually matters to me" and some are reading cell phone messages from people they care more about in that moment. All are God's beloved. Called to be saints. Grace to you and peace. The vulnerability of that moment is lost or dismissed by most but it hits me like thunder. Comedians know that vulnerability. "What if they don't laugh?" Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, knew that vulnerability. "What if they don't hear or don't care? " To be called to be a saint is to be drafted into an army, placed on the front lines with no protective gear and given only one weapon: The gospel of Jesus Christ.
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Give us courage, Lord. Amen.