Romans 9: 1 – 18 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.’ Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written,
‘I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.’
What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,
‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
“The Elder shall serve the younger”, eh? That message seems to have got lost in translation over the generations – or, maybe, just conveniently ignored as an inconvenient truth.
How do we older folk serve those who come after us? Do we encourage worship in a way that helps them to engage and develop their own relationship with God? Do we explain why things are done a certain way or just insist that it is ‘because’? Do we offer genuine opportunities for others to share new ideas? Do we listen to them when they do? Are we honestly open to change?
Or do we carry on doing what we’ve always been doing, thinking “They can change things when I’m gone but not before”?
That’s quite a risk – because, if we don’t help younger generations feel at home in our churches, in our worship, in our processes and practices, there will potentially be nobody to come after us. They’ll have voted with their feet, as so many have done in the past and, if we’re honest, if many of us wish we’d had the courage to do when we were their age.
So let’s take time to think about how we can serve them, rather than the other way around. Let’s see what happens when our world is turned upside down. Let’s let them speak their truth in Christ. Who knows, it might actually lead to an improvement?
Oh Lord All The World Belongs To You And You Are Always Making All Things New. Send Your Spirit On All In Your Church Whom You Call To Be Turning The World Upside Down.
Leo Roberts, Children & Youth Development Officer, North Western Synod