Tonight, I started reading the second edition of a book called Roman House Churches for Today: A Practical Guide for Small Groups.
Don't be put off by what may seem like a sleepy title!
Roman House Churches can be read simply as a fascinating and sometimes, startling, look at the lives of the people to whom the apostle Paul wrote the letter which has come down to us in our New Testament as Romans.
But author Reta Halteman Finger also wrote the book to be the foundation for a fascinating role-play approach for modern adult students to get at how Paul's letter would have been heard and experienced by its first recipients, what the social, political, and economic conditions of their lives were, and what Paul's motives may have been--beyond finances, which Finger seems to believe wasn't a primary focus of the apostle--for enlisting the help of the Roman Christians in his planned evangelistic mission to Spain.
Finger insists that Romans should be seen as more than a musty book of doctrines or a source of proof-texts. Still less, she seems to say, should it be seen as lofty theology without reference to the specifics of history. So far, Finger has me convinced and I'm reading her book with rapt attention!
I'm not far into the book yet. But it looks promising.
So, watch out, Saint Matthew folks, this may be our next adult evening discussion/study group resource!