Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name’;
and again he says,
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him’;
and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For weeks we have been immersed in Paul’s closely argued theology. In today’s passage he repeats his conviction that Christ is for Jew and for Gentile, and he quotes the Old Testament in support of this understanding.
But it is the first and last verses that make my heart sing. There is enough challenge and encouragement in these words to last a lifetime, let alone just today!
“Welcome one another … just as Christ has welcomed you” (v.7)
For the Christians in Rome, and in the context of this letter, this meant welcoming one another across the Jew/Gentile divide. What does it mean for you? Who is it that you or I might be inclined to avoid or dismiss, but in fact are to welcome? Our welcoming of those God brings us into contact with day by day is to be of the same depth and generosity as Christ’s welcome of us.
And lest we be discouraged as we face up to the gap between our intention and our practice, we have in verse 13 a glorious benediction to bless us in the coming hours of this day.
When I consider the little church in the hostile capital of Empire that was Rome, I find this blessing truly remarkable. Not only did they exist in a threatening external environment, but this letter indicates serious tensions within the community itself. Yet Paul’s calls on God to fill them with joy, peace and hope. It is an expectant prayer that springs from the writer’s own experience.
So may it be for us on this ordinary autumnal Wednesday. Whatever each of us is facing today, personally or more widely as a community, God is the God of hope, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, makes real for us hope in abundance.
Thank you, Lord, for welcome. Help us, today, to understand more deeply that at the heart of everything is your welcome, for us, and for everyone. And so fill us with all joy and peace in believing.
Thank you, Lord, for hope, hope which is rooted in You. We hold before you situations where hope is hidden … God of hope make us today people of hope and of welcome.
The Rev’d Gwen Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrews URC, Southampton
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