I am in Rome, Italy, this week, studying scripture and preaching with a small group of pastors.

This is the ninth annual Proclaimers Place study conference.  It is my third time attending. The last two I joined were in Oxford, England.

We are studying four passages this week – Matthew 16:17-20, Hebrews 12:1-3, 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, and 2 Timothy 4:6-22. We study one passage a day, doing group exegesis and discussing how to craft the text into sermon. The sessions also include general discussions about homiletics.

The Roman Empire sits in the background of the entire New Testament. And it is inspiring to study the New Testament in this historic place.

IMG_1171We discussed Matthew 16:17-20 today.

It was ironic to study this important text in a building overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Protestants and Catholics read this passage very differently. Catholics point to it to defend the papacy. But apostolic succession is the result of papal decree and church tradition, not biblical exegesis.

I preached Matthew 16:13-20 earlier this year, during our Midweek Service at the Shiloh Church. But I am looking forward to taking another shot at it one Sunday next year, God willing.

In the afternoon, we were given a guided tour of the Vatican. We spent the morning disagreeing with Catholic doctrine. Yet it is impossible to be unimpressed with the history that fills this place. The tour ended with a walk through of the Sistine Chapel, where the new pope was recently elected. It really is an amazing place.

The plan for tomorrow (Wednesday) is to study Hebrews 12:1-3 in the morning and visit the Roman Colosseum in the afternoon.

It has been a great trip so far. I spent Sunday night flying to Rome. Of course, I spent Monday afternoon trying to recover. Several friends and pastoral colleagues are here from different parts of the United States. And the fellowship has been wonderful. I am looking for to the rest of the week.

Pray for us.