We’re coming to the end of Paul’s Letter to the Romans this week, his longest and most theological letter. In chapter 15 he speaks about his mission to Spain, (Friday) assuring the Romans he’s coming to Rome as a visitor, not to be part of their church.
He knows a surprising number of people in the Roman church, but Paul’s not planning to settle down there. He obviously hopes the Roman church will support him on his Spanish mission; his aim is to bring the gospel to the whole world.
But Paul never gets to Spain; he’ll die in Rome.
I find it strange that Paul in his letters doesn’t offer extensive references to incidents in Jesus’ life, such as his miracles, or quotations from his teaching or his parables. We do that as a matter of course in talking or teaching about faith today.
True, the gospels were not written when Paul wrote, likely in 56 to 58 from Corinth, but certainly the stories of Jesus’ life and summaries of his teaching were important in Christian preaching at the time. Why doesn’t Paul use them?
Does he see the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus an immediate mystery, taking place now? The gospels bring us back to the time of Jesus, the events of his life and the words of his teaching. Does Paul see them, not just as events and words of the past, but a mystery happening now. Jesus is not dead, but living in the world here and now.
Paul’s not interested in introducing us to someone from history, but someone who shares himself and his promise with us now. Is that why Paul’s letters are read with the gospels? So that we may understand they are happening now, in our time, in us? Maybe so.