Thursday of Pentecost 5 – Romans 7:1-13

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

When I arrived at the parish, I soon noticed an elderly woman who sat with her family every Sunday. She was a regular at the quilters group. I was surprised to learn that she was well into her 90’s. We celebrated her 100th birthday shortly before she died. It was one my great honors to get to know her and hear the stories of her amazing life. She grew on the plains of North Dakota. One bitterly cold day, while returning home, the axle broke on their horse-drawn wagon. She told her brother that she would walk to the nearby farmhouse while he nursed the broken piece of equipment home. Some time later the two boys who lived in that farmhouse were coming home and noticed a pair of legs sticking out from a snowbank near their driveway. She had not made it. They pulled her out, brought her home, and saved her life. What else could she do; she married one of them. Her husband got a job as a contractor for the military in Hawaii. They had promised him housing, but it was not ready when they arrived, so the young family rented a place in town. Finally, the little government-issue bungalow was ready, but she did not like it. They opted to stay in their rented apartment. Two weeks later the on-base house was flattened during the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941. The stories continued. Her husband was a bit of a character and she once had to bully the police chief into letting him out jail after he punched an officer over a parking ticket. There was a lot going on in that woman who tied the knots on the Lutheran World Relief blankets.

One day she asked me a question which startled me. That young man who pulled her out of the snowbank and whom she married had died quite young. So, she had married the other brother who pulled her from the snowbank. Was that a right thing to do, she wondered. We read together the first verses of Romans 7. Paul is making another point, to be fair. But along the way he released her from her anxiety. And so, we all read another truth. The Law, the commands and consequences which govern and attend our lives, is always embedded in God’s saving will. The Law slays us so that God may make us fruitfully alive.

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