Today’s Reading: Romans 16
Occasionally on Sundays after I’d finished the sermon, we’d completed the last song, and I’d said the final amen, I’d realize I forgot to announce something to the congregation. I’d have to tell our sound technician to turn the mic back on so I could tell the people what I forgot.
I’m in good company. Even Paul forgot something in Romans and had to essentially tell the sound technician to turn his mic back on.
Today’s reading of our final chapter in Romans is one of Paul’s most overlooked and undervalued. They are words spoken after the microphone is turned off.
Look with me at Romans 15:33. It seems like a great ending prayer for this amazing Epistle. Paul usually ends his Epistles with short doxologies. Here he writes, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” “Amen” means it’s over, time to go, time to eat.
Then Paul stops everyone and says, “Wait, wait, wait! I forgot something. Turn the mic back on. I missed a huge announcement!”
And then in one of the most amazing chapters that doesn’t get its props, Paul goes on for the next twenty-seven verses before he gives his second amen. Here’s the second doxology, the second closing: “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27).
Between those two amens Paul mentions thirty-three names! Go back through today’s reading and count them all. He starts with “our sister Phoebe who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea” (verse 1) and spends twenty-four verses listing people who he wants to recognize. Thirty-three names of people who helped him in ministry. Thirty-three names who made Paul’s ministry possible. He’s recognizing them with a “there’s no way we do what we do without these people.”
One of the greatest coaches of any sports franchise or university has to be John Wooden of UCLA. He coached his teams to ten national championships in twelve years. He had an 800-winning percentage. He is an icon. In A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, he wrote
“When one of my players scored, he knew he was supposed to point to the teammate who had passed him the ball or made the block that allowed that basket to happen. It wasn’t about deflecting praise, but about sharing it with everyone who was working hard as a part of the team.”
Today many athletes thump their chests while the team has to follow them around as they carry on without giving any recognition to anyone who helped them get there. When was the last time you saw a defensive end sack a quarterback and then turn around and point to every defensive lineman who made the hole so he can get in? Never! He stands in the middle of the field as if it were his talent alone that gave him that moment and forgot to point to all the players who made it happen for him.
Wooden said his dad taught him, “There is nothing you know that you haven’t learned from someone else. . . . He . . . was reminding us to always be thankful for each lesson an individual offers, wittingly or unwittingly, because those lessons become a kind of borrowed experience.”
I found this short course in human relations from an unknown, but very wise, author:
The six most important words: I admit I made a mistake
The five most important words: You did a good job
The four most important words: What do you think?
The three most important words: I love you
The two most important words: Thank you
The one most important word: We
The least important word: I
After Ronald Reagan became the fortieth president, he put a plaque on his desk to remind him of an important piece of wisdom: “There is no limit to how far a person may go as long as he doesn’t care who gets the credit.”
Romans 16 is best known for its pointing fingers instead of thumping chests. No doubt behind every one of these names there is a hidden story. Time wouldn’t allow us to trace their individual stories. Whatever their stories may have been, those people influenced and helped Paul in his work, and Paul knew it. That’s why he turned the mic back on and gave well-deserved shout outs to otherwise-would-be-considered no names.
Paul portrayed a good model, which even Albert Einstein followed: “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received.”
Here’s a challenge for you today. Thank someone for their investment and help in your life. Thank a parent, a pastor, a professor, or a friend. Send them a text, an email, or call and thank them. Listen to Coach Wooden and don’t come down the court thumping your chest. Remember that a bunch of other people helped you to be where you are today. Paul had at least thirty-three of them. I had a lot more than thirty-three. How many do you have?