A few weeks before I was ordained, a gunman entered a
Benedictine monastery just north of Kansas City. The man parked his car in the
parking lot, walked into the monastery and opened fire. He shot and killed two
monks and wounded two others; then he marched into the chapel and shot himself
in the head.
Like an artist sketching in broad strokes on a huge canvas, Paul in the first 11 chapters of Romans has traced with great intensity God’s patience and persistence at making peace with humanity. The strokes get broader, the colors ever more vivid, until Paul is himself overcome at what he sees.
When I read Romans 12:9-21, I think: this is the best of it, this is
what marks and makes a good Christian. Love truly and even more
generously than the next guy. Seek out goodness and turn your back on
evil, be untiring in service to God, be hopeful and steadfast in the
face of disappointment, be compassionate and humble. Universal and
timeless, these instructions are the real deal.
Is leadership, specifically pastoral leadership, a spiritual practice? Dorothy Bass has defined practices as “those shared activities that address fundamental human needs and that, woven together, form a way of life.” Does leadership address a fundamental human need?
Peter often reminds us of our humanity: that’s his gift to us. Perhaps it was also a gift to Jesus. Jesus must have been tempted by what Peter said to him. Jesus certainly would have preferred not to have to talk about suffering and death. We honor the humanity of Jesus to say that he was tempted by Peter’s words. Perhaps Peter is naming something like fear within Jesus and bringing it to light. It scares Jesus, and he responds forcefully. “Get behind me, Satan!”