5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
My old friend smiled at me. Glad that I could be there that day to bring her communion. We had not actually known each other for long. She wasn’t an old friend in that sense. She was just old and a friend. Frailty had denied her one of her great pleasures in life, coming to church with her friends. She was always one of those people who had held court in the kitchen facilities at church. Countless children had eaten her cookies at VBS. Now she could not get out.
Paul today brings us right down the very core of Christianity: Faith. But more specifically he asks how that faith comes. It is not an act of the will, as if you could clench your jaw and will yourself to faith. You cannot ascend to heaven or descend to the abyss. The Word, the faith creator, is in you, in your heart and in your mouth. He got there through regular things: hearing, touching, and tasting. My friend tuned into a radio broadcast of the Lutheran Hour. Today, I am sure she would have found a way to watch our services online. One of the blessings of COVID has been we have learned how to do that. Even through this humble preacher and his visits, God was finding a way to speak His life-giving word into her life.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved – that is faith being faith. Faith comes by hearing, says Paul. Find a way to hear today. Read a passage, these words of Romans, out loud to yourself if nothing else. Know that Christ is working through those words.