Lectionary Commentaries for June 22, 2014
Second Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 10:24-39

Stanley Saunders

Fear. Is there any more pervasive or powerful motivating force in human experience?

From the moment we are born, we learn to fear the world around us, certainly to fear the stranger, sometimes to fear even those who are closest to us. Political leaders have long recognized the power of fear in ensuring our conformity to the structures this world, even when doing so does not serve our best interests. Fear is the driving force behind vast segments of our economy, as well as, increasingly, our political priorities.

Jesus recognizes that fear will also cause the failure of discipleship. Jesus’ disciples courageously leave the security of their homes and families to follow him as they proclaim the advent of God’s reign, but they, too, will know and ultimately bow before the power of fear. Faithful proclamation and practice of the gospel inevitably puts disciples on a collision course with the powers of this world. So, as Jesus prepares his disciples for their mission to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he is starkly realistic about the threats they will face, at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their witness.

Jesus’ mission discourse is a “get-out-the-volunteers” campaign like no other. On the one hand, the disciples are granted remarkable powers to heal, exorcise demons, cleanse lepers, even to raise the dead. But he also denies them money, pay, extra clothes, a staff for protection, even sandals. They are to undertake their mission in complete vulnerability and dependence on God (10:8-11), even knowing that they go as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” face arrests and beatings, opposition even from family members, and hatred and persecution (10:16-23).

Why does Jesus highlight the horrors that await the disciples? Naming aloud the suffering to be endured and its causes is the first step in freeing them from the tenacious grip of fear. In the latter half of the discourse, where our focus lies, Jesus continues to describe worst case scenarios, wound together with statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through him, God.  

“Do not fear” is the dominant, recurrent message in 10:24-31 (cf. 10:26, 28, 31). But first Jesus offers a warning: whatever fate awaits teachers or masters also awaits their disciples and slaves (10:24-25). If Israel’s elites call Jesus “the prince of demons” (cf. 9:34, 12:24), the disciples should be ready for a similar response. “So have no fear of them” (10:26).

The claim that whatever is covered up will be uncovered and secrets made known arises from the disclosive power of the gospel, in which the disciples participate through the means of their mission. Their simplicity, vulnerability, and dependence on God demonstrate the reality of God’s presence and character in the face the world’s claims to possess real power. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must now be proclaimed “in the light and from the housetops” (10:27), for the gospel proclaimed and lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples’ disposal against the powers of this world.

The threat of death may be the most powerful form of fear. Jesus’ next expression of reassurance addresses this fear directly, yet with irony (10:28-31). The right to kill is one of the chief props in the façade of human political power. Jesus admits that humans exercise this power, but notes that they have power only to kill the body, not the whole person. God alone can destroy both soul and body (10:28); God alone, therefore, is the one we should fear.

This claim represents God’s power as surpassing, but similar in kind to that of human rulers. Jesus then reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold “two for a penny.” God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do (10:29-31, cf. 6:25-33). The threat of violence and death are real concerns for the disciples, but no longer the determining force in their lives, for the one who has ultimate power over our whole being exercises that power with mercy and love.

The sayings in 10:32-39 again encourage disciples to remain firm in their commitment to Jesus and their mission, even when that mission generates inevitable conflicts, even within their families. The saying in 10:34 is crucial: although Jesus has called his disciples to be peacemakers (5:9), his mission does not bring peace, but a sword, so long as the powers resist God’s rule and will. The very act of peacemaking, as Jesus’ ministry demonstrates, generates violence, for healing, restoration, and the conquest of death threaten the foundations of all human assertions of power in defiance of God.

Finally, the call to discipleship renders secondary all other claims upon one’s identity and allegiance, even to father or mother, or son or daughter (10:37, cf. 8:21-22, 12:46-50). To “take up the cross” (10:38-39) aligns the disciples’ mission and fate with that of Jesus, that is, with the humiliation, suffering, shame, opposition, and death that Jesus persistently speaks about here.

Taking up the cross implies identification with the marginal people (slaves and rebels) who were subject to Roman crucifixion, because they did not align themselves with or submit themselves to Rome’s authority. But Jesus promises that those who “lose their life” for him will in fact “find it,” while those who “find their lives” in the world will lose them (10:39).

The answers to fear, then, include clear-eyed recognition of the façades of human power, even those rooted in the threat of death, awareness of the conflict and division the gospel inevitably produces, and especially the deep awareness and conviction that God is present in the world, in mercy and compassion.


First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 20:7-13

Terence E. Fretheim

Jeremiah’s ministry extended for some forty years (about 625-585 BC).

At the mid-point of his ministry, the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar began expanding in the Middle East and Israel’s existence was threatened. Jeremiah warned Israel about this threat, believing that he had received such warning words from God.

 

But the people denounced him (see 20:10). Jeremiah feels caught in the middle, squeezed between a God who has insisted that he preach this difficult word of warning and a people who refuse to believe him. He is stuck between an insistent God and a resistant people. This situation occasions for the prophet a vocational crisis.

 

In the midst of this crisis, he voices six laments (Jeremiah 11-20). In essence: God, I’m doing your bidding, so what’s with all this trouble I have to endure; the people are engaged in a whispering campaign against me. Why did you get me into this mess? You didn’t tell me it would be this difficult. It would have been better had I not been born than have to live through this kind of vocational hell (see 20:14-18).

 

How can Jeremiah talk to God like this? He goes on and on! “The word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long” (20:8). “Cursed be the day on which I was born! …Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow and spend my days in shame” (20:14, 18)? Earlier, Jeremiah’s words to God are even more sharply stated (15:18): “Why is my pain unceasing, my wounds incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you [God] are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.”

 

These laments of Jeremiah recall many (60) psalms, often called lament psalms. For example, Psalm 13:1-2: “How Long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”

 

Or, Psalm 44:23: “Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Wake up, do not cast us off forever.” Or, listen to Lamentations (5:20), an entire book of laments, often related to Jeremiah: “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days?” Interestingly, the ELW hymnbook has a lament section of eight hymns. Their inclusion constitutes a new recognition of the importance of giving God’s people lamenting words to voice.

 

How can these biblical characters speak to God like that? But they do, easily and often. Do they not model for us an openness to speak to God in comparable ways? Can we not voice to God our deepest questions and complaints, no holds barred? Certainly these kinds of prayers can be an important way for us to speak to God in difficult times. Given any number of personal crises we may face, these kinds of prayers are a genuine gift.

 

In your thinking about these laments, a great deal depends upon the kind of God you have. In reflecting on the way in which people image God in the church and elsewhere, opinions tend toward two extremes. On the one hand, God is an uninvolved overseer, sitting on the front porch of heaven watching the world go by; as one layperson told me: “For me, God is an absentee landlord. Your calls are seldom returned and nothing much gets done.”

 

Or, we go to the other extreme and image God as an absolute monarch, in total control of things, micromanaging the world. But, as one student voiced: if God is in control, then given how unruly we all are, wouldn’t we have to score God a crashing management failure?

 

Another way to speak of such extremes: On the one hand, God is so above and beyond this world that every prayer is a roaming cell phone call that cuts in and out. Or, at the other extreme, God is buddy-buddy, takes no critical stance, is never in your face. Never is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day kind of God! We sing only praise songs here. Well, Jeremiah and many other biblical characters clearly sing more than praise songs.

 

Sometimes when we pray, we think of God as a superman, superwoman, who hears our prayers and, faster than a speeding bullet, is able to accomplish anything and everything. With such a God, no constraints or restraints are in view, and the only issue falls back on whether the one who prays has enough faith. But, we often forget that more is at work in these situations than our prayers and God’s will. And it may be that some factors are so resistant to the will of God that God’s will does not get done. And God’s heart is the first to break and God’s tears are the first to flow.

 

When thinking about prayer and God, or any other important matter of faith, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that God has established a genuine relationship with us. Think for a minute about a person with whom you are closely related. If that relationship is to be genuine, what is necessary for it to be so?

 

Certainly a key factor would be healthy communication, being able to speak openly and honestly with each other. God understands that for our relationship with God to be genuine, our voice counts, too. God is not the only one who has something important to say. And so God gifts us with prayer, including speaking our mind to God about whatever we may endure. God values what we have to say; God honors what we bring to the table.

 

To conclude: Laments are a God-given way for us to make a situation more open for God, to give God more room to work in our lives. We can be confident that God always has our best interests at heart and will work with our prayers and other factors to create the best possible future.

 

God is open to taking new directions in view of new times and places, in view of the interaction within the relationship. Yet, never changing will be God’s steadfast love for you and God’s faithfulness to the promises God has made to you. You can trust God to keep promises.


Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 21:8-21

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

We are accustomed to talking about the “sacrifice of Isaac,” but this story could be called the “sacrifice of Ishmael.”

The Isaac story is the topic for next week. This week, Ishmael is the focus and it is worth noting that his story in many ways mirrors (or foreshadows) the other.

Abraham has two sons. The first, the son of a slave woman, is born out of Abraham’s and Sarah’s understandable doubt that God’s promise will be fulfilled. (“God helps those who help themselves” isn’t a new concept.) The second, a miracle child, is born to them in their old age against all odds.

In Genesis 18, we hear the story of God’s impossible promise that Sarah would conceive a child in her old age. She laughed till she cried when she heard the promise, but sure enough, she conceived and bore a son and they named him “Laughter.” In this week’s reading, the miracle child is now old enough to wean, and Abraham throws a party to celebrate the occasion.

But all is not well. “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac” (Genesis 21:9). In the Hebrew, the words, “with her son Isaac” don’t appear, though the Septuagint adds that phrase. The rabbis, perhaps to soften the blow of Sarah’s and Abraham’s subsequent actions, ascribe sinister motives to Ishmael; he is jealous of his little brother and torments him. The biblical phrase, however, has no such connotation. In fact, the word translated “playing” is a pun on Isaac’s name. Ishmael is simply laughing, enjoying himself at the feast.

But Sarah does not want to see this son of a slave woman, this reminder of her own long sorrow, to inherit along with her son. Her disdain for Hagar and Ishmael are apparent in the way she refers to them: “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac” (21:10).

Abraham does not want to do it. Ishmael is, after all, his son. But God tells Abraham to do what Sarah wants “for through Isaac shall your descendants be named” (21:12). And God reassures Abraham that Ishmael, too, will be the father of a nation.

Then, in language that foreshadows the following chapter, Abraham rises “early in the morning” (21:14; 22:3), puts food and a skin of water on Hagar’s shoulder (21:14; 22:6), and sends away his son with the boy’s mother.

It’s not the first time Hagar wanders in the wilderness. In chapter 16, pregnant, she flees a conflict with Sarah and ends up speaking with the LORD and even naming God: “A God of seeing” (16:13). This time, however, she has nowhere to turn. She has no option to return to Abraham and Sarah, so she wanders into the wilderness, to almost certain death.

This story in chapter 21 does not seem to know the genealogical notes of 16:16 and 21:5, which would make Ishmael a teenager when Isaac is born. A mother could not carry a teenager on her shoulder (21:14), nor would she be able to “cast” him under a bush (21:15) when the water runs out. Ishmael here is best understood as a young child, one who cries from thirst and fear as his mother sits a distance off, unwilling to watch as her son dies.

But for the second time in her life, Hagar is visited by God (or an angel of God; often in Genesis the line between the two is blurred). “And God heard the voice of the lad” (21:17). In Hebrew, the first few syllables of this verse are the name “Ishmael” — “God heard”. And it is the only time in the whole story that Ishmael’s name appears, as if to emphasize the meaning of that name — God hears. God hears the cries of the outcast and abandoned. God hears and has compassion.

The angel of the LORD speaks to Hagar and says what angels always say, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid, though things seem hopeless. Take the child in your arms. I have heard his cries. I will save him and will make of him a great nation.

God opens Hagar’s eyes to see a well of water nearby, just as Abraham in the next chapter will see the ram caught in the thicket (21:19; 22:13). And in both cases the seeing leads to new life for Abraham’s sons.

Ishmael grows up in the wilderness and becomes the father of a great nation, the Ishmaelites. He also becomes the father-in-law of Esau, that other overlooked son (28:9). His descendants appear a few other times in the biblical text. It is the Ishmaelites, for instance, who sell Joseph the beloved son into slavery in Egypt (37:28; 39:1). Muslim tradition, of course, claims Ishmael as the father of Islam.

But all of that will come later. For our purposes this Sunday, perhaps it is enough to note an easily overlooked phrase in the story: “and God was with the boy” (21:20). God is with the boy, this outcast son of Abraham. God is with his mother, too, an Egyptian slave woman cast out by the father of her child. It is worth noting that Hagar sees God not once, but twice, and even names God. It is a privilege not many have, not many even of the chosen people.

God’s choosing of one particular people, and one particular line of that people (Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau) is a scandalous matter for many. The scandal of election is difficult for we who value fairness and egalitarianism. And yet, that seems to be how God works in Genesis and in the rest of the Old Testament. The chosen people are called to high standards and to difficult trials (witness the story next week). They are blessed in order to be a blessing (Genesis 12:3). They are to be a “priestly kingdom” and a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). It is not an easy thing to be chosen, according to the biblical witness. It is both a privilege, and a great responsibility.

But it must also be noted that election, according to this story, does not entitle one to exclusive claim on God’s care or on God’s presence. “God was with the boy.” Jon Levenson, a Jewish scholar, puts it this way, “Ishmael is read out of the covenant but emphatically included in the promise that is larger than the covenant and preceded it.”1 God cares about and provides for this son of Abraham, too. God was with the boy.

It is easy to overlook this story of Ishmael, set as it is between the story of Isaac’s miraculous birth and the story of his (near) sacrifice. Yet, it is worth pausing and considering what Ishmael’s story tells us about God’s care and providence. As the old hymn reminds us, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.” We cannot limit God’s mercy. God hears the cry of the abandoned. God hears the cry of the outcast, and God saves.


Notes:

1 Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (Yale University Press, 1993) 102. Levenson here refers specifically to the promise in Gen. 12:2 that Abraham will be the father of a great nation, a promise fulfilled in both his sons.


Psalm

Commentary on Psalm 69:7-10, [11-15], 16-18

James Limburg

It was my favorite children’s game for a summer evening.

There was a whole street-full of players, including some of the “older kids” and then those of us who were in grade school. It was a more sophisticated variation of the simple “hide and go seek” game, called “beckon.” One person was “it.” That person covered his or her eyes and counted out loud to one hundred. During that count every player hid somewhere in the neighborhood. With the cry “Here I come, ready or not,” the one who was “it” searched for other players and when one was found, shouted “Rose Ann” (or “Jimmy”) go to my den! The “den” filled up with prisoners and those in it called out, “beckon, beckon, I want a beckon.” Then one of the other players made a beckoning arm motion, hoping not to be seen, hoping to free those imprisoned. So it went on by the hour, until everyone was in the “den,” or everyone had escaped.

In this psalm it’s God who is hiding. There are some 16 cries for help, but there seems to be no answer. The psalmist’s urgent cry comes to sharp expression in verse 17 (the antiphon):

Do not hide your face from your servant,

for I am in distress — make haste to answer me.

The psalm consists of the typical elements of a lament, a prayer in time of trouble. For a good example of an individual lament see Psalm 13, which contains a complaint in you, I, and they forms (verses 1-2), a cry for help (verses 3-4), an affirmation of trust (verse 5) and a vow to praise (verse 6).

Especially frequent in Psalm 69 are desperate cries for help. Here is a volley of 911 calls to God expressed in 16 of the psalm’s 36 verses: verses 1,6,13-18, 22-29. There are also a good number of complaints: verses 2-4, 7-12, 19-21, affirmations of trust (verses 5, 33) and a vow to praise (verses 30-36). Verses 35-36 locate the psalm sometime after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.

The psalm falls into three major sections, each issuing a call for God’s help:

1. Save me, God! (verses 1-6). The one who prays this psalm is desperate, even near death. The situation is described in a powerful mixture of metaphorical and literal language. The psalmist is about to drown, sinking in a pit of quicksand, so tired and worn out that he or she can no longer see straight (verses 1-3). Verse 4 hints that the one praying has been falsely accused of stealing. The psalmist trusts that God knows what he or she has done or not done (verse 5). Verse 6 sounds an important note: the one praying is concerned about the others in the community.

2. Set me free, Lord! (verses 7-18). Verses 7-9 present an “I” complaint that adds information about the situation of the one praying. Is the psalmist being persecuted by others because he is helping to rebuild the temple? Is the psalmist’s enthusiasm drawing the fire of neighbors (verse 9)? Verses 10-12 continue with they-complaints about others in the community. Verses 13-18 are desperate cries for help and are at the core of the psalm. Like a drowning person, desperately hitting 911, we hear: “Answer me… rescue me…do not hide your face…set me free.”

3. O God, protect me! (verses 19-36). Here are “they complaints” about enemies (19-21) and wishes for their punishment (22-28), a final call for God’s protection (29) and a vow to praise with a concluding affirmation of trust in verse 33.

According to the New Testament, when those who lived at the time of Jesus observed what he said and did, they often made connections with this psalm.

At the beginning of his work (according to John’s Gospel), when Jesus chased the commercializers out of the temple, his disciples remembered words from Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). When Jesus spoke of the hatred his followers would experience he referred to Psalm 69:4, “They hated me without cause” (John 15:25). When Jesus was near death on the cross he said “I am thirsty” and was offered sour wine; John understood this as a fulfillment of Psalm 69:21 (John 19:28); see also Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36. Finally, Acts 1:20 gives an account of the death of Judas that is understood as a fulfillment of Psalm 69:25.

Paul made reference to the Septuagint translation of Psalm 69:23 and 24 in Romans 11:9-10. In Romans 15:3, Paul understands the insults of opponents in terms of Psalm 69:9b. Thus the earliest Christians linked events running from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the cross and beyond, to Psalm 69.

There are a good number of ties between Revelation and Psalm 69. Revelation 16:1 appears to pick up the theme of the pouring out of God’s wrath from Psalm 69:24. The “book of the living” theme in 69:28 (also Psalm 40:7) recurs in Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27.

Certainly the royal psalms such as 2 and 72 help us to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” Their emphasis is on the one named Messiah.

It is evident that with its portrayal of a servant of God who is suffering, Psalm 69 has something to say to that question, too. And there was a word of Good News to those suffering in the present, but who could be confident not only of their heavenly Father’s care (Matthew 10:29 and today’s Gospel) but also that their names were written in “the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27; Psalm 69:28).


Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 6:1b-11

Israel Kamudzandu

The letter to Romans is a Pauline manual for Christians who wrestle with the human condition being vulnerable to the pressures of this world.

By appealing to Abraham and positing him as a model of ways through which God justifies human beings, Paul continues to move the discussion from Abraham to all human beings and helps them to see their condition of being separated from God because of sin.

Thus, Romans 6:1b-11 is about the purpose, function, and goal of the sacrament of baptism, in relation to all human beings who are held under the grip of sin and the reign of death. Through baptism, humanity can make the transition from sin into grace via the sacrament of baptism, which Paul eloquently describes in Romans 5:6-16, Romans 6, and Philippians 3:10-16. 

The Church, its leaders, and followers must continue to rekindle their faith by meditating and possibly studying Paul’s sacramental teaching and his views on eschatology. Both sin and death belong to the realm of justification, a theological theme that humbles humanity when it comes to issues of being in a right relationship with the Creator. As such, we ask these fundamental questions: What does baptism do? When does baptism start and when does it end? Is baptism a necessary sacrament in the life of humanity?

Theologically, Paul’s view on baptism is that it is a journey or a process and its effects are not only for a moment but for an entire life. Believers must understand that the baptism Paul is talking about in Romans 6 does not just wash away the stains of sin, but rather, it is a participation in the death of Jesus Christ and an anticipation of his resurrection.

The result of this participation and anticipation are that one has to believe in and embody a resurrection life. Christian life is basically a life of resurrection and that is what makes Christian faith unique from other religions. Secondly, baptism does not erase sin, rather it puts it in check. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, baptism builds a wall around a believer and sets boundaries on what to practice and what not. With time, a believer walks into grace and life become new a Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

The past tense of the verbs in Romans 6 are worth noting, especially the one that says, “We were buried.” Here, the baptized person is given an assurance of the death of the former life and that sin no longer has power over his/her life. In any case, the phrase “we will certainly be united with him is resurrection like his,” is futuristic and that may mean that the future is open and that full salvation is reserved for the future.

One can experience salvation in the now moment, but the full view of salvation is a mystery and will be revealed to us in God’s time. The theological point to be noted is that the follower of Christ is reconciled with God and is in the furnace of being saved. The reconciled person in Paul’s theological view is the one who will “walk in the newness of life.” Salvation in Paul’s proclamation of the Gospels is that it is embodied in the real life of a believer. However, suffering, temptation, and tribulation are not excluded simply because one is in Christ. Rather, suffering is in many ways a process through which God’s salvation can be manifested and realized.

Having emphasized the theological legitimacy of baptism and its intended results, Paul drives home his main point of what we can refer to as a “decisive-cut off point,” where by the death of Christ was a once and for all event (Romans 6:10) and that he will not die again. Thus, sin and death are no longer things that should worry Christian believers.

Those who identify themselves with Jesus Christ in his atonement through baptism can no longer tolerate and even cooperate with sin. Their life is now grounded, shaped, directed, and formed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, the motivating center of their everyday living is now directed towards Jesus Christ. Everything a believer does is determined by Jesus Christ on whom and through whom sin has been defeated forever.

This is the hardest part of being a Christian, not just in North America but also in the Global South. Christians must always remind themselves that our old self, our culture, our rights, our private spaces, and the desires of our flesh were crucified with Jesus Christ. Our daily living must demonstrate our newfound and grace-filled status in Christ.

Theological and spiritual implications are that we must offer ourselves to God, to the world, and to one another in ways that are evident of the death of Jesus Christ. Simply put, one must live a righteous life (Romans 6:13c). Sin has no place in the life of a believer, and one must not be mastered by sin. At a much deeper level of faith, Paul is advocating for a new life and what we have become in baptism will not allow us to go back to being the old self. Going back will be equivalent to persecuting the living body of Jesus Christ.

It should be reasonably clear that those who have lived under colonial oppression such as Africans have a better understanding of Paul’s message of liberation. Sin is like a foreign domination in that it dehumanizes and reduces one to a victim position and some people die as victims because no one is there to rescue them from sin. Paul’s message is that humanity can be freed from sin and all it takes is the initiative of a few. The point of the passage is that every believer is in union with Christ and that Christ dwells in him or her. In other words, Christ’s faith becomes a believer’s faith by virtue of being in Christ, just as one partakes of his righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The principle point to be remembered is that for Paul, faith involves an understanding that new life “with Christ” is an assurance of salvation or pledge of hope to those who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This assurance is lived out in discipleship, that is, a life dedicated to God. Preachers and Sunday school teachers may want to consider having a series of studies of theological themes around baptism, sin, death, resurrection, embodiment, and discipleship for these topics are part of Paul’s argument in Romans 6:1-23.