Sunday, January 16, 2011

Called By Name

1 Samuel 3:1-10

1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" 5 and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, "Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

John 1: 43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." 46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" 48 Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 50 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." 51 And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

Samuel put on his pajamas and went to bed. It was easy for him to find his way in the semi-darkness; the lamp of God was lit, and he had been at the temple since he was a small boy. His mother, Hannah, had brought him here. Samuel smiled when he thought of his mother. He missed her sometimes – what boy wouldn’t? But he was proud that he had been promised by his mother to the Lord.

Sometimes it got old – doing all the chores, toting this and cleaning up that. But Samuel loved the old man, and he hated the way Eli’s sons treated him – they were supposed to be priests like their father, but they were scoundrels. They only cared about themselves. Samuel knew how to attend to the priest; he knew where everything was, and how every ritual went. That was good, because Eli was nearly blind.

When the voice woke him in the night, Samuel thought there must be something wrong with the old man. Samuel ran to Eli and said “Here I am!” But Eli said, “I didn’t call you! Go back to bed!” And Samuel obeyed. “I must have been dreaming,” he thought. Until he heard his name again, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel hadn’t gone back to sleep – it wasn’t a dream! Surely this time it really was Eli. Again, Samuel ran to Eli and said “Here I am!” But Eli said, “I didn’t call you! Go back to bed!” The third time it happened, Samuel was certain that it had to be Eli. “Here I am, for you called me!” he said.

But then Eli realized what was happening. He told Samuel what to do. When he went back to bed, Samuel heard the voice, calling his name in the darkness, and he did as Eli told him, and answered, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

#####

Nathaniel had not yet heard about this Jesus of Nazareth; who would have? Nazareth was the podunk town down the road – nothing ever happened there! Besides, Nathaniel had his own fish to fry – he had his work, and his faith. He worshiped and prayed as the God of the Covenant had commanded. Nathaniel knew the scriptures, what the prophets said and what the law required.

So it was a little bit hard to believe – actually, a LOT hard to believe, when Philip came running up all excited with his announcement: “We found him! The one that Moses said was coming! The one the prophets wrote about! It’s Jesus, son of Joseph! From Nazareth!”

Nathaniel could hardly keep from laughing! “From Nazareth? You’ve gotta be kidding! From Nazareth?”

“Come and see,” Philip challenged him. So he went.

As Nathaniel walked toward Jesus, Jesus said, “Here comes a true Israelite. Not a false bone in his body!”[1] And Nathaniel knew that Philip was right. This man – this Jesus! -- from Nazareth, of all places! – this man was the one. “Rabbi,” he said, “You are the Son of God!”

#####

Martin hung up the phone and heated a cup of coffee. The call had been another death threat. When the coffee was ready, he sat at the kitchen table, his face in his hands. He was only 26 years old, new to ministry, a baby on the way. He was a confident young man -- he had a Ph.D. in theology, for goodness sake. And he had taken charge right away in his new church. After Mrs. Parks was arrested, the people needed someone to lead them. Martin knew that God was calling him to do this one thing.

So WHY was this happening?

Martin began to pray, out loud, right there at the kitchen table. He said, “Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right. I think the cause that we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now. I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage. And I can't let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage they will begin to get weak.”

And then it seemed at that moment that Martin could hear an inner voice saying, "Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And to I will be with you, even until the end of the world."

Martin said, “...I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone..[2]”

#####

Three stories of call. Three stories of obedient response. Three stories of people whom God called by name.

One was a boy, promised to God by his mother. The boy Samuel grew up to be a great prophet of Israel, A judge and priest, Samuel anointed the boy king, David, the king from whose lineage would come the Messiah.

When Samuel said, “Here I am” he didn’t know where it would lead. But he listened and followed the God who called him by name. Samuel, the boy called by God, served the Lord until his death. And the scriptures tell us that when he died, all of Israel mourned for him.

The second was a young man, a devout Jew, skeptical until he was seen and known by Jesus. Nathaniel, isn’t heard from much in the gospels. We know from John’s account that he was called with Philip, right after Jesus called Simon and Andrew. After that, we don’t hear much more about him.

He was, I think, the guy who works behind the scenes. He was like the guy that cleans up the sanctuary after church, like the folks who wash out the 30-cup percolator after the fellowship dinner, the ones who clean up the lawn and the parking lot on Easter weekend.

Nathaniel didn’t know that following Jesus would lead to the cross. He didn’t know that the one who knew him and called him by name would die a shameful, humiliating death. But he followed. Nathaniel said “yes!” And we know that he was present with the others to see the risen Christ.

And the third, also a young man, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was called “a reluctant prophet.” King, only twenty-six years old, barely beginning his work as a minister, was called to lead his people in non-violent resistance to injustice. The Montgomery bus boycott was only the beginning. Martin didn’t know that the path he took would lead him to jail. He didn’t know that he would be hated and reviled. He didn’t know that his stand for justice would eventually lead to his death.

But Martin said, “Here I am” And he knew that the Jesus who called him by name Stayed with him until the end, and never, no never, left him alone.

Tomorrow we remember King as one called by name. And we remember the name of Rosa Parks, too. Rosa Parks, yes, whose decision not to give up her seat began the bus boycott which contained the seeds of the civil rights movement. Almost everyone knows this story. Fewer people realize that behind the scenes were hundreds of people who made King’s ministry possible.

Do you know about Septima Clark, the black schoolteacher, fired for being a member of the NAACP, who TAUGHT Rosa Parks about non-violent resistance?

And Diane Nash, who virtually ran the Student Nonviolent Coordinating committee?

None of us can name any of the countless people who ran mimeograph machines, sharpened pencils, made phone calls, emptied trashes, cooked meals, gathered clothes, and raised funds for the movement.

We may not know their names, but they, too, were called by name.

Stories of call. Stories of ordinary people, whom God called by name.

Today, we ordain and install some ordinary people: ordinary people called to do extraordinary things. And not a one of them expecting it. Not a one of them planning on it. Not a one of them really prepared for it.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, says that our ideas about vocation are “dramatic … [like] casting [a play], you might say… [a]very long and very good play,…with plenty of juicy parts in it. The nuisance is that [God] draws up the cast-list before doing any auditions. We find ourselves called to fulfill a definite role, but we haven't actually seen the script, and as time goes on we may suspect we would do better in another part.”

We’d like to think it was otherwise. We’d like to think that God picks certain people out, and there is something special about those people, that they have unique knowledge and expertise. Not like us. We're just ordinary folks. God won’t be calling us in the night, or even in the middle of the day. So we’re safe. We can go about our business, feeling secure that we’re not qualified to be called by God.

Who are we to stand up for righteousness? Stand up for justice? Stand up for truth? Why would God call any of us?

Sisters and brothers, God calls each of us by name, in different ways, on different days, we are all called to stand up for righteousness. To stand up for justice. To stand up for truth.

We may make the coffee, or teach Sunday school or collate the newsletter, or bring cookies for fellowship. We may feed the hungry or sit with the lonely or comfort the sick, or sweep up after the wedding. But we are called by name, whatever our ministry might be. Therein lies our vocation. Because our vocation, is that place, as Buechner said “where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger”[3]

Moment after moment after moment, we hear God calling us in the night. Time after time, Jesus sees us and recognizes us. Whether we sit alone in terror, wondering what we are going to do, or go about our business in the usual way on a usual day, WE ARE CALLED!

We don’t have to be brilliant or famous. We simply need to say, “Yes.” We are assured – oh, we are promised! - that God will be with us, always. We are assured that no matter how little we are, or how little known we are, or how little our tasks may be, we are still called by name.

We are not promised that the way will be easy. We are assured that if we are suffering, Jesus is present with us in our sorrow. We follow a way that leads to the cross. But in the end, that same path leads beyond the cross, to the empty tomb, and the glory of the risen Christ.

We know that we can say, like the Psalmist, “I come to the end – I am still with you.”

And we know, as Martin Luther King said, that there is a force in the universe that is on the side of justice, on the side of love, on the side of truth. That force is the living God, who recognizes us, who knows all our ways.

When we hear God’s voice, when we see Jesus’ face, when we say “Here I am. Speak for your servant is listening,” we know what it is to be fully known, and loved, and called by our true name.

Thanks be to God that we are all called by name!

[1] The Message, Eugene Peterson

[2] Testament of Hope, Martin Luther King

[3] Frederick Buechner

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Romans Study, Week 2

Session 2

Romans 1:14- 3:20

Bob mentioned last night that since there are so many churches where people give their lives to Christ, there ought to be “The Church of the Renegeth,” people who take back their lives from Christ” I assured him that though there is no denominational structure, that “church” has a huge membership and a large number of people attending it every Sunday. Or, as a fellow told me a while back, an awful lot of people are “home-churched.”

Paul’s opening chapters in the Epistle to the Romans set the stage for him to address the condition of those who live under the illusion that they are in control of their own world. He addresses the practice of idolatry, the worship of self in place of God; and the exchange of the glory of God for the dehumanizing life of sin. In Chapter 2, he dissects the role of the law as it relates to God’s righteousness.

(I am indebted to the work of Paul Achtemeier in his commentary on Romans in the Interpretation series for much of this lesson)

1:14-23

This is a long string of subordinate clauses:

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, …my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

17 Because in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith."

18 Because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.

19 Because what can be known about God is plain to them, …

So they are without excuse; 21 because though they knew God, …

22 And the result is: Claiming to be wise, …

24 Because of all this: God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves,

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

God’s reaction to sin is permissiveness. The punishment for idolatry is to give us control over our own destinies. Someone has said, “We are not punished FOR our sins; we are punished BY our sins.


1: 26-32

For this reason God gave them up … (distortion of God’s plan)

Because they did not see fit to acknowledge God, … They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice.

And worse yet! They know God's decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

So, even those who approve of such wickedness are condemned. To call evil good and good evil is to reverse light and darkness, to set oneself in a place of complete dehumanization. This should not be read as a list of sins Paul is condemning. It is Paul’s demonstration of the results of idolatry, putting self in place of God. The moral degradation anticipates the total degradation of death. Recall the purpose of the book: exploring the relationship of creation to the Creator. Thus, the verses can’t be read as a condemnation of any particular actions. Though we might conclude that the Apostle Paul disapproved of homosexual activity, we need to be clear about his context and the fact that in the first century, loving same-sex partnerships were either nonexistent or visible. What this list demonstrates is the futility and sadness of dehumanizing ourselves in ways that exploit ourselves and others and harden us to goodness and beauty.

Chapter 2, 1-16

Not what you know, but what you do. Again, we see a string of subordinate clauses as Paul builds his argument.

1 Therefore you have no excuse, …

So, if approving is equal to participating, is judging equivalent to being righteous?

NO! 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge …Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

We aren’t receiving punishment, because God is giving us time to turn it around and repent.

5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself …6 Because he will repay according to each one's deeds: … 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. (why for Gentiles as well as Jews?)

11 Because God shows no partiality .

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish …(why judge the Jews, who listen to the law?)

13 Because it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (So, how can Gentiles, who do not have the Law, be justified?)

14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. (How can that be?)

15 Because they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, …

“Paul’s most damning condemnation is reserved, not for those who engage in what he regards as dehumanizing practices, but for those who adopt a posture of innate moral virtue, while themselves failing in their innate moral vocation, to be the light of the world.” (N. T. Wright, New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume X, p. 435)

God’s wrath and judgment must exist, for if God is not opposed to evil-doing, then God is not a good God. Sin and evil are rampant in our world and in ourselves. The question is, what is God going to do about it?

2:`17-3:8

Addressing the Jews

The Jews are not exempt. They, too, are guilty of doing precisely what they condemn. Again, this list is “exemplary, not exhaustive.” (Achtemeier) Just to belong to the chosen people is not sufficient for one to escape God’s wrath and judgment. The “marks” – law, circumcision, the outward signs, are not worth anything – it is the inner truth, perceived by God, that has value and is honored by God.

Even Gentiles, other people, can follow the law. To simply avoid murder, adultery, and theft does not demonstrate the light of the world. Avoiding idols or robbing temples can hardly be construed as virtue. So what distinguishes the Jews from the Gentiles? (ref. 1:11)

God has withheld discipline in order to punish sinners (1:24); the giving of the law for the purpose of enacting that discipline is an act of grace!

3:1-8

The Jews’ Advantage

They know who God is! They have the covenant, a gift of grace and God’s promise, They have not been faithful. But God will not break God’s promise. God is faithful, even when we humans do not reciprocate. “Even if every human being proves faithless to God, God remains faithful.” (Achtemeier, p. 55)


Supersessionism: the belief that with the coming of Christ, God rescinded the covenant with the Jews, and therefore Christianity superceded Judaism as the recipient of God’s favor. Presbyterians DO NOT believe in supersessionism. We believe, as Paul so clearly states in Romans, that God is faithful to the covenant with the Jews, irrespective of their faithfulness to God’s law. God has not broken the covenant, but has given a new covenant to the Gentiles.

So, if evil gives God an opportunity to display grace, should we increase in it, so that God’s grace may be more abundant? Of course not! God may work all things together for good, but we are not absolved of our own responsibility.

3: 9 -20

The Lutheran Formula of Concord distinguished three uses, or purposes, in the Law in Article VI. It states: "[T]he Law was given to men for three reasons. . ."

  1. that "thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]"
  2. that "men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins"
  3. that "after they are regenerate. . .they might. . .have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life"

Calvin, in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, describes these three uses of the law:

  1. It exhibits the righteousness of God, and “admonishes every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and finally condemns him.”
  2. It acts "by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.
  3. "The third use of the Law. . .has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. ... For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge...

The law gives us the knowledge of sin. However, we can’t now conclude that since we are inevitably going to break the law, that keeping the law will be our redemption.

We cannot restore ourselves to life, or redeem ourselves from sin. And we have opposed the very one who can do this. What then are we to do? Where are we to turn?

More on this next week!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Romans Study week 1, Introduction

Week 1: Introduction

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.

We find in this letter, then, the richest possible teaching about what a Christian should know: the meaning of law, Gospel, sin, punishment, grace, faith, justice, Christ, God, good works, love, hope and the cross. We learn how we are to act toward everyone, toward the virtuous and sinful, toward the strong and the weak, friend and foe, and toward ourselves. Paul bases everything firmly on Scripture and proves his points with examples from his own experience and from the Prophets, so that nothing more could be desired. Therefore it seems that St. Paul, in writing this letter, wanted to compose a summary of the whole of Christian and evangelical teaching which would also be an introduction to the whole Old Testament. Without doubt, whoever takes this letter to heart possesses the light and power of the Old Testament. Therefore each and every Christian should make this letter the habitual and constant object of his study. God grant us his grace to do so. Amen.

– Martin Luther, first and last paragraph of the preface of his commentary on Romans.


Author

Saul to Paul Acts 9: 1-30

Jewish; Roman citizen; tentmaker; trained and skilled in classical rhetoric.

Form

Epistle, or letter

Types of rhetoric:

Diplomatic, hortatory, paranetic, epideictic, philosophical diatribe. Form of address was based on the issue addressed and on the location of the speech – law court, assembly, ceremonial gathering. “Place” helped define “audience.”

Purpose

Exploring the relationship of creation to the Creator

By around the year 58 or 60, though, Paul seems to have felt that he had done as much as he could do in the Greek East and was preparing to move on. When Paul wrote the Roman letter, it's the longest of all of his letters and the last one that he wrote, he was preparing to go to Rome. He was writing to Rome but he himself had never been there. We know who was carrying the letter. It's his house church patroness Phoebe who has gone ahead to Rome to prepare the way.... Paul is going to Rome to get the Christian communities at Rome to support him in a new endeavor to go to Spain...to start a new gentile mission in an area that had never before heard the preaching of Jesus. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/missions.html)

Importance of Romans in Christian Thought

Augustine (354-430): The Roman Empire was crumbling and the structures which supported Christianity were tottering. Romans showed Augustine how to construct a view of human nature and the state that can survive the breakdown of civilization. (Achtemeier)

Luther and Calvin (1500-1600s): Romans informed them, at the outset of the Reformation, of the path to a clearer expression of the Lordship of Jesus Christ at a time when the church had exalted itself too highly. (Achtemeier)

Barth (20th century) When faith and culture became too intertwined, Romans led Barth to an understanding that God’s lordship “embodies a NO to human pretention and pride” and a resounding YES to “the healing judgment of God’s saving mercy.” (Achtemeier)

Wesley (mid 18th century): In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. (The Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738)

Paul’s Context

Important context and philosophies of the time:

1. Platonism, which divides the world into two distinct realms, the material and the spiritual. The material was transitory and the locus of evil. The spiritual was pure and perfect and the locus of God. Human nature was a mixture of the two elements. The human task, then, was to put aside the material (physical) and flee to the spiritual.

2. Stoicism, in which humans reached a moral life by renouncing dependence on anything beyond personal control. Such dependencies might move one to actions contrary to the personal will to do good. Only utter detachment prevents humans from doing evil.

3. Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism was being developed. The emphasis on covenant (which dominates even now) meant that as long as the Jews fulfilled God’s law, they could be certain that they were fulfilling God’s will.

4. Apocalyptic view of history. In this world view, (still prevalent with many Christians) God is in complete control of history, and will soon intervene in history to establish a new heaven and a new earth, to destroy evil and to set Christ to reign forever. Apocalypse, the revealing, is the final act of God’s unfolding revelation in relationship to humankind.


Romans 1:1-13 (NRSV)

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all God's beloved in Rome, who are 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 throughout the world. 9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10 asking that by God's will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles.

Romans 1:1-13 (The Message)

1 I, Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ on assignment, authorized as an apostle to proclaim God's words and acts. I write this letter to all the Christians in Rome, God's friends. 2 The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets 3 on God's Son. His descent from David roots him in history; 4 his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master. 5 Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. 6 You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! 7 And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah. 8 I thank God through Jesus for every one of you. That's first. People everywhere keep telling me about your lives of faith, and every time I hear them, I thank him. 9 And God, whom I so love to worship and serve by spreading the good news of his Son - the Message! - knows that every time I think of you 10 in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. 11 The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. I so want to be there to deliver God's gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! 12 But don't think I'm not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you. 13 Please don't misinterpret my failure to visit you, friends. You have no idea how many times I've made plans for Rome. I've been determined to get some personal enjoyment out of God's work among you, as I have in so many other non-Jewish towns and communities. But something has always come up and prevented it.