By the Rev. Vicki Garvey
Back in chapter 5, citing Adam and Christ, Paul had argued that grace trumps sin. Maybe somebody overhearing that argument thought : “Whoa, good idea. Sin more and help grace along!” I’m struck by the way Jesus’ parables often end with no ending really. For instance, we don’t know how the story we call ‘the prodigal son’ concluded. I wonder if the older kid accepted Dad’s advice andjoined the party or lurked outside to punch his wayward brother in the nose. And did that younger sibling ‘come to himself’ again and think, “That worked really well: party, new clothes and prime beef; I think I’ll do it again. Sin big. Grace – and presents – abounds.”
Which is perhaps why, getting back to Paul, chapter 6 opens the way it does.“You got that all wrong,” he says. Baptism makes a difference. Now we’re new. Now we’ve come through death to life. Now we’re members of God’s family and related to Christ in a new way. We’re part of God’s tribe of whom Jesus is the firstborn. As family members, as ‘Christ’s own,’ we’re his hands and feet in the world. As the poet says, “Christ plays in ten thousand places / lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his.” Sin’s part of the old us; sin’s death; sin’s disconnection. Sin’s not our way anymore. Sin’s not who we are. Sin doesn’t become us. When we remember our baptism, it’s a way of remembering who we really are.
And though later in this chapter Paul seems fed up with ‘the law’ he’d agree with all 176 verses of that rhapsody on Torah that the psalmist offers, because it too reminds us of how the family of God looks at its best.
How do you ‘remember who you are’ and ‘who lays claim’ to you?
The baptismal covenant – in spite of Paul’s enthusiasm – assumes that we will ‘fall into sin’ from time to time. How is that a moment of grace for you?
Forgiving God, give me the wisdom to know when I have failed and the grace and courage to turn back to you, through the One who forgave everything and bade us do the same, your son and our brother. Amen.
The Rev. Vicki Garvey is Associate for Lifelong Christian Formation with the Diocese of Chicago.