Wine Before Breakfast – ‘Seven Words’

“Paul, a slave of Jesus the Messiah.”

Seven words to open a magisterial letter and the author has already given notice.
He has, in these mere seven words set the agenda for his most extensive letter of subversion.

Seven words and the hierachically oppressive structures of Rome are thrown on their heads.
Paul … a slave.
Not Paul, a citizen of Rome.
Not Paul, claiming to have the legitimacy that is afforded by the empire.
Not Paul, enjoying his status as a citizen, a free man.
No, Paul … a slave.
Let the regime and all who benefit from its structures be on notice.
Paul takes no refuge in such legitimacy,
but will identify himself with the lowest of the low.
Paul … a slave.

And whose slave is he?
Who is the master of the letter writer?
To whose household does he belong?
“Paul, a slave of Jesus the Messiah.”
Not a slave of any Roman citizen,
not a slave of any Roman household,

not a slave that bears ultimate allegiance to the emperor who is the father of the whole Roman household.
No, Paul, a slave of Jesus the Messiah.
Let the regime and all who have dismissed the Jews as a shameful race be on notice.
Paul writes as a slave of Jesus the Messiah.
The household to which he belongs is the household of Jesus.
And he now writes to the church at the centre of the empire,
the church sometimes close to the imperial household,
sometimes oppressed by that household,
and presumes to speak to this church with the authority of a slave of Jesus.

That’s just the first seven words of Paul’s epistle to the Romans!
It’s going to be a challenging ride this semester at WBB.
Listening in on Paul addressing a diverse community
of Roman Christians in the first century,
we will strain to hear the overtones as they ring in our lives
in the twenty-first century.

Wine Before Breakfast

Tuesday, September 18 @ 7.22am, Wycliffe College Chapel
Judith Alltree will break the bread,
that the Breadmakers Guild has baked;
Thea Prescod has crafted our prayers,
the Bandhood has some classic hymns to bounce off of the music of The Nationals and Bruce Cockburn,
and I’ll venture to open the word in our midst.

In Christ,