Romans 1:7-10a (ESV) 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers…
My son recently started playing organized soccer, and it has been interesting to say the least. He is 5 years old, and my fatherly (and prideful) expectations were that he would be amazing even though he had never really played before and never even participated in any organized sports. He’s getting it, but it’s a process.
The whole reason we started him in soccer is that we wanted Caleb to have the experience of being part of a team with the regularity of practice and games – with uniforms and coaches. We wanted him to understand the importance of being an individual who is contributing to a whole.
I think one of the glaring problems with the Church – in America at least – is that even for those of us who participate in the life of a individual congregation, we rarely think of ourselves as part of a larger, global body. We forget our role in praying for other believers who we do not know and may never meet. We forget the importance of supporting ministries and missions that may or may not align with our individual theologies but are still doing the work of Christ.
In the above passage (which seems like an odd one for a Lenten reflection), Paul is at the beginning of expressing his deep longing to go to the church in Rome. Why is he so intent on going there? It’s not because he planted that church… because he didn’t. It’s not because he had ever visited that church before… because he hadn’t. It’s not because it was some perfect, megachurch with a super-hip pastor… because it wasn’t. It was a church that had problems, internal divisions, and faced conflict from inside and outside its walls.
Paul wanted to go simply because they were his brothers and sisters, and he hope that because of their mutual relationship with Jesus Christ he could be an encourager to them and they could be an encourager to him.
When Jesus lived on this earth, he planted the seeds of the Church. It is an entity that is called that to be the very embodiment of our Savior. It is an entity that is called to be in such deep communion with our Lord that it represents his interest in the world until he comes again.
So, let’s make it a point to pray for the Church… not just those that are like us, but all those who call on Jesus.