Monday, June 12, 2006

Lectionary reflections

This is the beginning of a daily series of reflections on a lectionary we are using in our congregation for a six week period. You can download a copy of this lectionary resource and study guide at:

I'll be providing the reading each day in block text from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Romans 12:1-8

Christ Brings New Life
1Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God. 2Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.

3I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you. 4A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. 5That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another.

6God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully.

I have recently completed an essay on a verse from Colossians, chapter 1 verse 24, that is similar to this opening verse of Romans 12. Paul writes in Col. about his completing the sufferings that are lacking in Christ's own sufferings. This is a radical notion, one not reflected or preached on much in our day, for a variety of reasons. Possibly because suffering has never been popular, and so to celebrate it seems contrary to the "comforts" of the gospel as the gospel is often construed today. Second, it does not sit well with our piety that says we cannot complete something that Christ has already done.

Nevertheless, Paul encourages us here to offer our very bodies as a living sacrifice to God, and however you slice it, this in all likelihood means that our "giving" over of ourselves is a participation in Christ's giving over of himself to death for us.

"Let God change the way you think." This is the hardest word to me from this text, because I like the way I think already. Hard to change thinking, especially when the thoughts are connected to justifying how I live and act in the world.

In one of our classes at church, we've been discussing Mark Allan Powell's book, Loving Jesus . In it, he says that faith is a gift from God, and that different people are given different measures/levels of faith. So, we aren't supposed to try and grow our faith, or compare how much we have to others. Instead, the Christian life is a call to grow in understanding of the faith we've already been given. Fides quaens intellectum (if I've spelled that correctly?).

"Measure yourself by the amount of faith God has given you." Faith is pure gift, not something we create, but we are reminded that Jesus said to his disciples that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. Instead of sitting around worrying whether I have enough faith, I am simply called to understand the faith I already have, and to, in a sense, make use of it through preaching, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and doing good cheerfully. A simple list so difficult in actual practice.

I imagine these reflections will vary in length and profundity from day to day. I also will take one extra day off from the lectionary writing each week for my own sabbath time. Since I preach on Sundays, I need to take another day off at least from the writing portion of this for the sake of balance.

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