Romans 11: 11-24 So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not vaunt yourselves over the branches. If you do vaunt yourselves, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness towards you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Reflection Paul, formerly known as Saul had a ministry to both Jews and Gentiles. What a transformation in him, as instead of being Saul, a Jew who persecuted Christians Paul wanted to spread the truth about Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles.
He wanted others to be transformed as he had been. He saw that many Jews had fallen away from their true faith. Paul could have seen this as something negative and hopeless, but he saw it as an opportunity. With the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Gentiles were able to join with Jews and have a deep and meaningful relationship with God. Paul saw how this made many Jews realise that they needed to sort out their relationships with God.
As a lay preacher I go to different churches, and I am often told that the congregation is small as people have not returned after the pandemic. I wonder how Paul would have seen this, would he have despaired and worried and wondered if the church can stay open or would he have seen opportunity for growth and renewal? I think he would have seen an opportunity for renewal and growth.
Like most people my heating bill at home has grown compared to last year. Many churches have offered a warm place for local people to come, have a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy some free heat. What an opportunity this is to show the love of Jesus to those in need.
As numbers in our churches have fallen it is as if branches have been broken off, this leaves spaces for new growth. We need to work to encourage new people to be grafted onto our churches as well as helping those who have fallen away to return. This might change things, but change can be good.
Prayer Loving God, we thank you for all you give us. We thank you that Jesus did not come to one particular group of people but to all humankind. We pray for our churches that we will seize opportunities to grow and change to bring more people into your kingdom. We think of our friends who have stopped coming to worship you and ask that they may think and return to your church. As we move on make us open to whatever You want us to be. In Jesus name, Amen
John Collings, lay preacher, a member of Rutherglen URC.