Monday Reverb – 07August2023






The theme for this week is transformation through relationship.

In this week’s scripture readings, we can understand that an encounter with divine love will transform us in ways we can’t anticipate.

    • Psalm 17:1-7,15 contrasts our tendency to justify ourselves and our actions, whereas God wants to transform us through relationship.
    • The story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32:22-31, illustrates that God is willing to let us prevail, ultimately blessing us if we have the perseverance to engage in relationship.
    • Matthew 14:13-21 recounts the story of feeding the crowd with five loaves and two fish, revealing that God transforms who we are and what we possess to be much more than we think (… through relationship).
    • Our sermon text comes from Romans 9:1-5 where we learn that transformation is the result of Great Love: a kenotic, self-emptying love.


Part 1




Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life …

  • As a result of his wrestling encounter with God, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, “one who prevails with God and humans.” Sometimes we give people nicknames to mark certain accomplishments or traits, like LeBron James being called “King James” or Kobe Bryant “The Black Mamba.”
  • Can you think of a nickname you or someone else received, and did that nickname inspire you or the person to perform better?
  • What do you think is the power of a name?
  • How do we balance proper respect for God with honest engagement and wrestling, especially when life doesn’t make sense?
  • What does that look like?


Part 2



The Transforming Power of Kenotic Love

Romans 9:1-5 (NRSVUE)

In this week’s scripture readings, we learn that an encounter with divine love will change (transform) us in ways we can’t anticipate.

Love can be a difficult word to define.  We love pizza, but we also might love our mothers or our spouses.  We might say we love human beings, and as Christians, we may hold sharing God’s love with others as a personal value.  But what does love, specifically transforming love, look like, and how are we changed by it?

The New York Times bestseller Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is a science fiction novel that tells an interesting story about transforming love.  The main character, Ryland Grace, is a junior high science teacher who finds himself sent without his consent on a suicide space mission to save the earth from a single-celled organism that is threatening to extinguish the sun.  Grace unexpectedly connects with an alien (whom he names “Rocky”), who is on a similar mission, and after they work together to develop a solution using a predatory organism called Taumoeba, they part ways to return to their respective planets with the Taumoeba.  However, Grace discovers that Rocky won’t be able to get back to his planet because the Taumoeba can eat through the material of the container housing them, the same material that Rocky’s entire spaceship is constructed of.  Grace faces a dilemma: does he leave Rocky stranded to die in space and head back to earth with barely enough food to make it or does he go after Rocky to help, knowing that he will starve to death with no way to replenish his food supply on Rocky’s planet?

When Ryland Grace was asked to participate in the suicide mission to save humanity, he didn’t want to go.  He wasn’t willing to give up his life, even though he would say he cared about his students, humanity, and the state of the planet.  But [spoiler alert] when faced with the prospect of his friend being stranded, alone, and destined to die in space, Grace goes after Rocky to save him.  This is the power of transforming love, a kind of love that changes us and makes us willing to sacrifice ourselves to help the one we love.

This type of love is kenotic.  The word kenosis is found in Philippians 2:7 which says in reference to Jesus, he “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness” (NRSVUE).  This self-emptying love is a sign of great transformation, and proof of the Divine at work in and through human beings.  We first witness Jesus, reducing his divinity to fit into human flesh and then willingly letting himself be executed to take human feelings and actions spurred by hate and isolation (i.e., sin) into himself to put them to death, free us from them, and include us in relationship with the triune God.  Jesus shows that there is no evil in human beings that is too big to be encompassed and overcome by this self-sacrificing, divine love.

Our sermon text comes from Romans 9:1-5, and here we see Paul showing similar anguish as he expresses his deep emotions for the Jewish people who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.

Read Romans 9:1-5, NRSVUE

I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood.  4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promisesto them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever.  Amen.  


What’s the context?

Romans 9:1 – 11:36 begins Paul’s discussion about God’s providence and the rejection of Jesus Christ by Abraham’s descendants (i.e., the heirs of the covenant).  To prepare the readers for his exposition, Paul sets forth this theme in the first chapter:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is God’s saving power for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith, as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17, NRSVUE)

Paul points out that neither Jews nor Gentiles possess a privileged standing with God, for all are part of the universal human reality – that all have fallen short (Romans 1:18-3:20), and are subject to the egoic pull of the old self.  Because both Jews and Gentiles benefit from being included in Abraham’s covenantal promise, all believers are freefromGod’s wrath (5:1-21), the control of sin (6:1-23), the law (7:1-25), and ultimately the power of death (8:1-39).

The first eight chapters of Romans set Paul up to explain how divine love transformed him from a persecutor of Christians to a believer and follower of Christ.  It was relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit, not the law, that changed Paul’s heart.

The immediate Context – Romans 8:31-35,37-39

What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  32 He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us, how will he not with him also give us everything else?  33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.   34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ[t] who died, or rather, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? …  37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us.  38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  


A Closer Look at the keynote passage – Romans 9:1-5

I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (Romans 9:1-2, NRSVUE)

Paul conveys the deep emotion he feels about the Jewish people’s rejection of Jesus as the Christ.  Those Paul is writing to understand his personal history, so for a former murderer of Christ followers to express anguish over others’ rejection of Jesus, his readers must find it compelling.

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. (Romans 9:3, NRSVUE)

In this verse, Paul speaks of the kenotic love that only comes from a relationship with the Father, Son, and SpiritHe is communicating the very nature of Jesus himself because “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13, NRSVUE).  This verse communicates how kenotic love behaves.

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs. (Romans 9:4-5a, NRSVUE)

Paul points out the advantages the Jewish people had: the rich history with the law; the Shekinah glory of the cloudy pillar and tabernacle; and the covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the promise(s) of the coming of the Messiah.  They had a special relationship with God as a called-out people, a benefit the Gentiles did not have at firstThese advantages Paul applies to non-Jewish believers in Romans 4.

And from them, according to the flesh, comes the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:5b, NRSVUE)

He points out the honor the Jewish people had in participating in the birth of Jesus, the Son of God incarnate.  Paul concludes his plea with acknowledging Christ’s supremacy over all human beings, the Son of Man (as Jesus called himself) AND the Son of God.


  • Realize that our transformation does not come through the rigid keeping of rules but from divine love connecting us to God and to othersToo often we fall into keeping score, comparing ourselves with others and then either feeling superior or inferior.  Neither of these states lends itself to the transformation of our human hearts by kenotic Divine Love.
  • Recognize from Paul’s example that kenotic love comes from the Father, Son, and Holy SpiritIt’s not love that we can generate ourselves, much the same way Ryland Grace from the novel Project Hail Mary had no desire to go on a suicide mission to save the earth but didn’t think twice about giving up his life for his alien friend Rocky.  Humanly speaking, we can’t drum up this kind of self-emptying love on our own, but we can trust that developing our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will put us in a position to grow in our awareness of the divine kenotic love at work in us and others.

Transforming love is difficult to define and impossible to generate on our own, though we know it when we see it.  From reading Romans 9:1-5, we see that Paul understands that Jesus’ kenotic love has transformed him to the point thathe also experiences self-emptying loveon behalf of the Jewish people who rejected JesusMay we know the depth of love God has for us, and may that love come through us to bless those around us.



Small Group Discussion Questions

From the sermon …

  • Can you think of any examples of kenotic love, either in Bible stories or in your life?
  • How did that self-emptying form of love transform the relationship?
  • How does rigid rule-keeping and comparing ourselves with others keep us at arm’s length from God?
  • How can letting ourselves be loved by God, showing ourselves kindness and grace, enable the development of transforming, kenotic love for others?


Part 3



  1. What does a person need to believe in order to be considered a believer or a Christian?
  2. Why should we be interested in theology?


Re: #1 … What does a person need to believe in order to be considered a believer (or a Christian believer)?

From a series on the website …


What Questions Should be asked and answered at one’s baptism?

Answer :   

Dear *****,

This is a very good question.

We have to take into account that in the New Testament baptism came almost immediately after a person’s profession of faith. This is particularly evident in the Book of Acts. One must conclude that being this young in the faith the new believer should not be expected to be a theologian, or even to understand all of the implications of baptism.  (Paul spells these out in Romans 6 and 1 Corinthians 6).  But what should be clear is a simple, uncomplicated, grasp of the gospel, which is what baptism symbolically depicts.  

    • Thus, one must understand that they are a sinner, rightly under divine condemnation (Romans 3).
    • They must understand that they are helpless to earn God’s favor, or to save themselves, by good works and efforts to please God (Romans 3Ephesians 2:1-3).
    • They must understand that Jesus Christ is God’s only solution for sin, and for salvation (John 14:6).
    • They must understand that by faith in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection we die to sin and are raised to newness of life in Him (Romans 6).
    • They should understand that trusting in Jesus for salvation means that they become a new person, and thus our old way of thinking and acting is to be put off, and that thinking and acting like Jesus is our new identity (Ephesians 4:17ff.).


It is not a bad idea to inform the one being baptized that publicly identifying with Christ in baptism may lead to rejection by friends or family, and possibly persecution as well (1 Thessalonians 11 Peter 4).

One way to go about baptism is to distill the above essentials to three or four questions:

1. Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner, deserving of eternal punishment, and that you can do nothing to earn God’s favor by your own efforts?  

2. Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God’s one and only remedy for your sin, and the only provision for your salvation?  

3. Do you acknowledge that by your identification with Christ by faith you died to sin and were raised to newness of life in Him?  

4. Is it your intention to live a different kind of life because of your trust in Jesus and the new life He has given you?  

“On the basis of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ, it is my privilege to baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  

The baptism of young children is a matter of concern for me, because they may be doing this to please their parents, or to follow their friends, yet without really experiencing the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin or grasping the essence of the gospel. In asking questions which only require a “Yes” response it makes it fairly easy for a child to appear to be a believer. Over the years I have re-baptized a number of adults who made childhood professions of faith (followed by baptism), when they did not really understand the gospel.  

I believe that an impartial interview (not by a parent, but by an elder or Sunday School teacher, or small group leader) should always precede a baptism, so that one’s grasp of the gospel can be evaluated. It has become popular in some circles for the father to baptize his child. When I look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:12-17 it appears that caution should be exercised so that the baptizer does not have too important a role in the mind of the one being baptized.  

Overall, my preference would be for the one being baptized to give their testimony, expressing the essentials mentioned above, but in their own words.  

I have entertained the possibility of videotaping the testimony of the one being baptized, so that stage fright might not occur as easily, and (if such should prove to be the case) one could be encouraged to “wait” until certain truths are more clearly grasped if the need becomes evident.  

Let me add that I think we need to be very careful about the terms we use for conversion. I know of an occasion where a friend had the sons of a well-known Christian in his Sunday School class. One of them confessed that he had “asked Jesus into his heart.” When my friend asked how He got there, the boy pondered the question for a bit and then replied, “I guess through the hole in my sock.” Seriously, this really happened.  

In John 16:7-11 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It would be good for the one seeking baptism to give testimony to these things.   

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh


Re:#2 … Why should we be interested in theology?

Personal theologies … many

What “theology” is … Faith seeking Understanding

Challenge (for us) … to separate our personal theologies from the theology being reviewed  … so that we can “hear” what is being argued in the documents we read.



The plan … to restart our review on Thursdays … starting this coming Thursday, August 10, 7:30p.m.

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