Sunday Preview from The Rev. Stephanie Kendell: “One of *Those* Texts”

August 3rd,2017 Categories: Latest News, Stephanie Kendell Letters
Dear Church,

This week we welcome back our beloved Qadry Harris to share a word on this week’s text. And it’s one of those texts so this Sunday will be something you don’t want to miss.

Romans 8 is a piece of our scripture that makes most of us quickly turn the page when we come to it in the Bible. However, this is a text that we not only must discuss, but if we are going to be justice seeking people it is one that we need to reclaim from those that use scripture to push people away from God, rather than to bring them closer. This text is one that we use to push people away by condemning their bodies and putting our entire human connection with God into a spiritual understanding. We are people that are made body and spirit. Bodies that God made specifically for us. So, when this text is used to say that our bodies are separate from our relationship with God, we must push back and reclaim our whole self: body and spirit. This text needs to be one that we reclaim. We need to not be afraid of it so that we make sure that more people are not pushed from the church or pushed from a deeper understanding of the love of God. As you read the text below I’m sure you have heard it, or an interpretation of it at work in the world. I invite you to think about the way you have experienced this scripture at work in the world.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
(NRSV Rom. 8:1-11)

This text does many things in it but the most potent is the one that is rarely used in this text. It is the promise of freedom in Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” offers those that are in Christ Jesus a new vision of life. This is not just for those that follow Jesus, but for all who are in Christ, which means everyone as we are all equally wonderfully made in God’s image. However, this is one of those texts that doesn’t stop where you want it to. This text continues into a text that attempts to qualify God’s grace. Now, for most of us we can say that historically we understand where Paul was coming from and this text doesn’t influence the way we view the body and our relationship with God. Unfortunately, this text is very present and influential in our society. It influences the way we speak about sex and pleasure, it influences the way we view gender and social standards, and it influences the way we distribute power. And justice minded people so often think that we are beyond this text. I know that I do. But society still uses it and we can’t escape that imbedded ideology. We may not judge the flesh of trans people, but our governmental leaders do. So, we can’t say that we are divorced for the social implications of this text. We are living in their wake every day. Even when we don’t think we are. Have you ever judged a young woman’s outfit for being (in your opinion) too revealing for church? I know that I have. We are influenced by scripture in so many ways, ways we don’t even know, so we must reclaim it. We must be able to use the inspired word of God to continuously move us closer to the Divine presence. Condemnation is not the lead virtue God calls us to follow. Salvation through justice, hope, and love are the ways we are truly called to grow the kin-dom.This week, let’s remember, in the moments when we are quick to judge God’s creation, and ready to condemn ourselves and those around us, may we embody the grace of God by reclaiming this leading quality of our scriptures.


The Rev. Stephanie Kendell