This September I started preaching on Romans. I am so used to using the lectionary, but it has been energizing to actually look an a book of the New Testament and go through it sequentially. Of course we are just starting. I may get sick and tired of Romans in a few weeks.
What's amazing to me is what a Jewish book it is. So much of the letter is devoted to theological questions about what it means to be Jewish and believe Jesus is the Messiah.
It is also full of "Chutzpah". Here is the author of a letter who has never been to the Church in Rome. (We don't know if Paul had been to Rome before his conversion or not.)
But he writes a letter, claiming authority over a group of Christians, most of whom he has never met.
The other remarkable thing is that so much of the stuff Paul addresses is the same stuff we struggle with today. How to live in peace cross-culturally, how to live in peace with your government, how to live in peace with others, and most important, how to live in peace with God and find the serenity that comes from that relationship.
Of course the best part of preaching is always what you learn. I am always astonished that no matter what part of the Scripture I read or study, even the parts most familiar to me, still have something new.
Of course, one of my friends says, "That's because of all the brain damage from your wild youth. You did know this stuff, you just think it's new because you don't remember anything not written on the palm of your hand in indelible ink!"
While some of that may be true, I am still amazed by how God seems to surprise me in the bible.
peace - paul f.