Archives for May 2013

Bible Study: 5 Pentecost, Proper 7 (C)

June 23, 2013

Sharron Cox, Sewanee

“Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” (Luke 8:30-33)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalm 42 and Psalm 43; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a

Poor Elijah! Before this particular passage, Elijah has just experienced a spectacular victory in the “Whose God Is the Best?” competition against 450 prophets of Baal. But his “reward” is receipt of Jezebel’s murderous vow, and Elijah quickly shifts from God’s über-prophet to just a common fugitive, running for his life. After traveling some distance, he ultimately dismisses his servant and walks into the wilderness to die alone.

But God does not let go of Elijah. God sees to it that Elijah is fed and well-rested. When he reaches Mount Horeb/Sinai, where Moses too spoke with and saw God’s glory, God asks Elijah twice what he is doing there. To both inquiries, Elijah supplies identical responses, unimpressed by neither the traditional means of God’s manifestation – wind, earthquake, fire – nor by the “sound of sheer silence” (v.12), and his replies sound very much like a truculent child! You can almost hear God sigh after listening to Elijah’s complaint for the second time before ignoring Elijah’s whining and instead giving him a new assignment, a new purpose. Probably the most miraculous part of this story is that Elijah accepts God’s charge and continues in God’s service.

How do you handle spiritual discouragement?

How has God not let go of you in the past, even when you might wish to be rid of God’s call on your life?

Psalm 42 and Psalm 43

While these are psalms of deep longing for God, they are also psalms of deep faith. People mock the psalmist for this faith, faith in a God who, from all outward appearances, has abandoned him. The psalmist recalls God’s faithfulness through both day and night, biblical code for “at all times.” Yet, his soul is “athirst for God,” so while the psalmist may not feel abandoned by God, he surely feels God’s absence.

Three times through these two psalms (42:6-7, 14-15, and 43:5-6) the psalmist repeats what seems to be a conversation with himself, asking what is the reason for this distress. No answer is provided. However, each time he asks these questions of himself, the psalmist responds with quiet confidence, knowing that there will be a time when he will again give praise and thanks to God. This is a faithful follower, one who will not let go of God.

How does your longing for God manifest itself?

How are you able to live out faithfulness when God seems to be absent in your life?

Galatians 3:23-29

These six verses are probably some of the most revolutionary words in the entire Bible. Through them, Paul overturns the world order, the worldview, of both Jew and gentile, and consequently, all of us. Paul proclaims that through faith in Jesus Christ, the law is obsolete. For the first-century Jew, these would be outrageous words. And then Paul tears away the strict social stratification of the first-century gentile by claiming such a radical inclusiveness that all social distinctions are washed away in the baptismal waters. Through union with Christ, through being “clothed” with Christ in our baptism, ethnic differences, class distinctions, and gender-based roles no longer exist. How could the Church have missed this radical message of inclusiveness for much of its 2,000 years?

What does “being clothed in Christ” look like in your life?

How can you live more deeply into this radical vision of life in Christ?

Luke 8:26-39

It seems that Jesus has sailed across the Galilean Sea for the sole purpose to drive demons out of this man, this man who has no name other than that to which the demons have reduced him, “Thousands.” With those legions of demons vying for control over him, the cacophony of this man’s interior life was probably far worse than his exterior life of living in the wild, naked among the tombs. But Jesus asks him his name, already exercising his authority over the demons by forcing them respond to him.

Jesus frees this man from the spiritual chains that have shackled him for years. As Jesus turns to leave, the man begs to accompany Jesus, the one person who could see beyond the horror that had become his life, to the person he was created to be.

Rather than allow the man to join him, Jesus instead gives the man, much like God does with Elijah in our Old Testament reading, a purpose, a mission: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And so he does, spreading the good news of Jesus.

From what “chains” has Jesus freed you?

How have you spread the good news of Jesus and his life-transforming power?

Bible Study: 4 Pentecost, Proper 6 (C)

June 16, 2013

Ben Garren, Bexley Hall

“Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a; Psalm 5:1-8; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a

My great aunt had a small vineyard, just a few vines on trestles, and I played under them with my cousins growing up. I heard stories of how my aunts and uncles had played under them, and later watched the next generation play under them as well. My great aunt also had vegetable gardens, but my memories of them are only about hard work. Now I have memories of the work days in the vineyard, not easy days by any account, but also of fun days and heritage.

The injustice of Ahab and Jezebel against Naboth is resplendent in this lesson. The injustice, however, is not only personal against Naboth but also cultural. The working of vegetable gardens for the seasonal palace of the royal family is a thing for slaves. The maintaining of vineyards for one’s family heritage is a thing for the People of God.

Ahab’s goal is not simply the expanding of his control in the land, but stripping away the very use of the land that allows the Chosen of God to name and know themselves as God’s Children.

Psalm 5:1-8

The psalmist is beset with injustice. Our poet is sighing, longing for justice, and so the poet falls to the ground in prayer facing toward God’s temple. The poet seeks a straight path to the way of God.

The psalmist, in the midst of being so beset, knows all the sidetracks that can catch a person up. How easy it is for anyone who is faced with injustice to become bloodthirsty, wanting only revenge, or to delight if pain comes to those who have caused pain, or to do any number of things that have nothing to do with reliance on God.

How much harder it is to fully bring our anger and pain before God in the midst of our prayers and seek a straight path before us.

Galatians 2:15-21

The key for Paul, in almost every instance, is the proclamation of Christ crucified. The proclamation of Christ crucified is the card that trumps all other plays, the crucial reality no matter the context. If we can proclaim Christ crucified and recognize a new life on account of that act by Christ, then we are justified by faith. The life events, the ethnic culture, the rule of life that brought us to that point of proclaiming Christ Crucified are not what saves us, but Christ’s actions on the cross.

Paul realizes that the Grace of God, through Christ, is not bound to any specific group but can be proclaimed in the midst of any group. This has brought him to break down the divisions he once saw between Jews and gentiles, and he cannot in good conscience attempt to build back those divisions.

It is not our set forms of liturgy, our social class, or cultural norms that save us; we are saved by the Grace of God.

This is not a difficult idea for us to grasp. It can be, however, a very challenging way to live. Paul has begun to live that way and is now challenging others to do the same. It is a challenge that we continue to wrestle with to this very day.

Luke 7:36-8:3

What is the gauge of forgiveness? Can we calculate who has forgiven more? Can we calculate whose sin is greatest? These are rather puzzling questions; indeed, the very riddle that is presented to Jesus by his host.

The host, Simon the Pharisee, views sin and forgiveness in the sense of a tally sheet, much like the creditor in Jesus’ story. In his reckoning, he stands with little debt, little sin, and the woman on the floor has much debt, much sin. Her lascivious actions, unbinding her hair and rubbing Jesus’ feet, do nothing to raise her in the Pharisee’s eyes.

The woman is showing overwhelming love for Jesus by her unorthodox actions. Truly, a much greater love than Simon has shown, who has, in fact, failed to show the basic requirements of being a good host. Is it her greater love that brings her to receive greater forgiveness while Simon’s lesser love brings him to acquire little, if any, forgiveness?

The key is that the woman loves Jesus before she is forgiven. She loves Jesus out of her need to be forgiven, out of her recognizing her need to be in a relationship with Jesus. Simon has yet to recognize his need to be forgiven, has not recognized his need to be in a deep relationship of love with Jesus. Thus unable to recognize his debt, he surely shall not venture to the feet of his creditor.

Bible Study: 3 Pentecost, Proper 5 (C)

June 9, 2013

Dorian Del Priore, Virginia Theological Seminary

“When the Lord saw the widow, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” (Luke 7:13-15)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24); Psalm 146; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17

1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24)

As Elijah comes out of the wilderness, he is a wild mess of a man. He must have been a sight to see, fearful and intimidating, for Elijah has to assure the widow of Zaraphath with the words, “Do not be afraid,” as he petitions her for sustenance in a demanding way. There is a tension between the untamed prophet of God and the widow he meets as he reenters society. What is the risk involved for each of them as the wild meets the civilized?

The vulnerability in the liminal space between them is palpable, and the widow is experiences a miraculous blessing for her hospitality towards God’s prophet. But yet, her son gets sick and dies. The crux of this passage is the response of Elijah. When the woman declares that the presence of God’s prophet may have brought about the death of her son, Elijah does not make excuses for God and the situation. Instead Elijah stands in solidarity with the widow. I imagine that Elijah lashed out with ferocity and passion towards God. How could God allow the death of the only son of the woman who had shown hospitality to God’s prophet? The restoring of life is not the most important aspect of this story; instead it is the fact that the presence of the prophetic word of God is in solidarity with the widow.

The presence of God in our lives is not about judgment. The presence of the Word of God in our lives is about wild, ferocious compassion. A compassion that is stronger than even death.

When have we felt the prophetic presence of God in our very own lives?

How can we, as Christians, be a prophetic witness and presence to those at risk in the world?

Psalm 146

This psalm proclaims (and further establishes) God as one who sides with the oppressed and subjugated. The lordship of God is put in contrast to the lordship of worldly leaders, and it is clear here that God’s work is in juxtaposition with that of worldly powers. God executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free and makes the blind to see. God’s work is directed to lift up those who are victims of worldly powers in society. The God of creation is also the God who sustains life and works to bring about divine justice. But it is a simple fact that evil, suffering and oppression remain in the world. So how does the psalmist reconcile this fact? How do we reconcile this fact?

While we live in a broken world, the work of God in the world is constantly ongoing. Maybe the psalmist provides these words as comfort to the oppressed; in that God does not identify with the oppressors but that God resides in the response to the oppressors. The God who created the heaven and the earth continually works for the liberation of the oppressed and those at risk in the world.

It is important to note that this psalm is one of praise! The psalmist reminds the hearer that knowing the God of creation and justice is faithful to his people, the oppressed, is reason to praise God in adoration. Our praise is to be an outpouring of gratitude for God’s faithfulness. This life of praise is one of discipline that is grounded in community and relationship, through the ups and the downs of life.

How can we remain grounded in gratitude and praise, both individually and communally?

How can we partner with God’s work for the oppressed?

As we bear the divine image of our creator, how do we reflect the image of the Living God who cares for the oppressed and at risk of society?

Galatians 1:11-24

Paul’s account of his conversion and call is not just about recounting the event, but also about establishing the source and authenticity of his conversion and call. While it is curious that Paul so strongly distances himself from the friends and family of Jesus, he establishes that his own revelation came directly from Jesus Christ himself. Paul does not appear to see his call as having anything to do with the specifics or details of the teachings and practices of Jesus. Instead, the significant message that Paul brings to the gentiles is faith in Jesus. Faith is centered around and accomplished through the self-giving love of Christ.

This passage could easily be misused by people who want to create their own brand of Christianity or those who want to convey they possess the true version of the gospel. However, this does not appear to be what Paul intended. This is also not about condemnation of those who differ in tradition or interpretation.

Instead, Paul seems to be saying that while tradition is also important, we must never lose sight of the depth and value found in the abundance and extravagance of God’s love and mercy. This is not about doctrine or religion. This is about love. A revelation of love that is deep and wide. The love of Jesus will always burst through the walls we try to put around it.

How has Jesus been revealed to you?

How do we put walls around the love of God?

How can we proclaim the height, depth and abundance of Christ’s love?

Luke 7:11-17

This miraculous healing of a widow’s only son at Nain echoes the healing of the widow’s son at Zarephath from this week’s reading from 1 Kings. (See above.) However, instead of the prophet crying out to God for miraculous intervention, it is Jesus himself who acts and facilitates the miraculous healing. When Jesus sees the widow, he is moved and feels compassion. Compassion is not just a state of being or posture; compassion is something intense that moves Jesus to act. Divine compassion requires a response and action. In his actions, Jesus demonstrates that he is not only a prophet of God, but that he has compassion for suffering and power over life and death. Further, the actions of Jesus in this miraculous healing reveal much about Jesus, his identity, his character and his intentions. But even more amazing, the actions of Jesus also reveal the character and intentions of God. This is a continued, bold affirmation through the work of Jesus that God stands in solidarity with those who suffer and are downtrodden.

Uniquely, this is the first time in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus is referred to as “Lord.” Further, in response to the healing, the people proclaim, “A great prophet has risen among us!” Jesus is being proclaimed and identified as the prophetic Messiah. Jesus is the prophetic Messiah who proclaims through word and deeds the Good News to the poor, oppressed and suffering. Through the actions and proclaimed identity of Jesus, divine compassion and mercy are revealed as the epitome of God’s character.

When has the character of God been revealed to you?

Think of and name examples of people, in our great cloud of witnesses, who have been moved by compassion to act on behalf of those who suffer.

Have you ever been moved to compassion in such a way that you had to act? When? How so?

What are ways in which we, as Christians, can act on behalf of those who suffer and also reveal to the world the character of God?

Bible Study: 2 Pentecost, Proper 4 (C)

June 2, 2013

Joe Woodfin, Sewanee

“Only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.” (Luke 7:7)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
1 Kings 18:20-21,30-39; Psalm 96; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10

1 Kings 18:20-39

One of the threads running through the lessons for today is not so much “Who is God?” as “Who (or what) is not God?” The prophets of Baal are character actors in this story, cast to show the utter futility of calling on those beings who “by nature are no gods” (in the words of St Paul). This point is belabored by the caricature of the pagan prophets, who run around all day screaming, dancing and wounding themselves simply to get the attention of Baal. The reader, though, is privy to information that they are not – the narrator has been priming us all along for the conclusion in v. 39: “The Lord indeed is God!” Against the laws of nature itself (illustrated by the drenching of the sacrifice before the divine fire comes), Israel’s God asserts the divine prerogative as the only being worthy of worship.

This passage is, in sum, an answer to the question left to us from the passage immediately before. When King Ahab, a patron of the prophets of Baal, sees Elijah coming, he says, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” To which Elijah replies, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have … because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.”

The question is, who is right: the king or the itinerant prophet? To hear the author of Kings tell it, Israel and God have been going different directions, and Elijah is tasked with calling the nation back. The prophetic words and actions that task requires are uncomfortable, but many times God calls us away from discomfort and into conflict with prevailing power structures and social scripts.

Psalm 96

Continuing the theme, this song of thanksgiving makes abundantly clear that “the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” While this sentiment makes the psalm a challenging read in a pluralistic culture, there is something going on here deeper than shallow superiority.

There is a switch back and forth in this psalm between reference to the earth in the sense of all creation and the earth in the sense of the dwelling place of people. God is clearly the creator of both equally, but this dual picture emphasizes that the world is not all about us humans. The beautiful language at the end of the psalm – in which heavens, earth, seas, fields and trees are invoked to praise the name of the Lord – is echoed in Jesus’ Palm Sunday declaration that even if the people were silenced, the stones would cry out. The message, if we will listen, is that God doesn’t need our praise to feel appreciated: the beauty of creation is praise enough! When we begin to be full of ourselves because we believe our picture of God is clearer than that of others, we should embrace the humility that comes with this concept. After all, the reason all creation is praising God is because God “is coming to judge the earth” (v. 13). If we are found being oppressive, or prideful, or abusive of creation, that judgment will certainly bring humility, as well.

What does it mean to say that God is the king over all the earth?

Do you find it easy to praise God for judgment? What does God’s judgment mean today?

Galatians 1:1-12

Paul is defending himself all through this letter. The Galatians received and welcomed his message, and then apparently received and welcomed some people who were not so enthusiastic about Paul. In trying to sort this all out, they must have conveyed to Paul that these people were saying nasty things about his credentials. So the introduction to the letter: “Paul, an apostle – sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.” He goes on to exclaim that anyone who contradicts his gospel is anathema.

We obviously have accepted Paul, and even smoothed off his rough edges quite a bit – after all, he is the most prolific of all the New Testament authors. So what might this passage be saying for us, who live almost 2,000 years later and are not in danger of being anathematized by Paul? Perhaps Paul is naming the reality that it is easy to get excited about “human approval” of our religious beliefs. The gospel is, indeed, of divine origin, but in transmission it comes through people who have different ideas and different worldviews. Instead of spending all of our time fighting among ourselves about which view is right, perhaps we ought to pray for the grace to reveal Jesus to others.

Does the gospel of Jesus demand certainty of opinion, or is there room for ambiguity?

Luke 7:1-10

This gospel text points to other candidates for things that are not God. The centurion whom we meet here is an officer in one of the most powerful armies in the world. Yet we meet him precisely because he is coming to Jesus for relief from something against which the Roman army could not defend. Illness, death, grief, loss – these confront every single person in the midst of life. The centurion is a man of means; yet rich, poor, powerful and helpless alike all cope with mortality.

The Third Gospel’s concern, at many points in the narrative, is to show Jesus as the representative on earth of Israel’s God. We are meant to see that Israel’s Messiah is none other than the universal Christ, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to [God’s] people Israel” (Luke 1:32). The centurion coming to Jesus is a representative of all nations, because Jesus is the Savior of all the world. God’s judgment (cf. Psalm 96) comes near in Jesus, and it turns out that judgment is good news for all who are willing to hear it. The centurion was willing, and thus Jesus praised his faith as surpassing the faith of everyone in Israel.

What does the centurion’s faith mean for the church? How is the humility of realizing his own powerlessness related to his faith?

Bible Study: Trinity Sunday (C)

May 26, 2013

Colin Mathewson, Sewanee

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8 or Canticle 2 or 13; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Wisdom, personified as a woman, is portrayed as the first of the Lord’s creation before the beginning of the world. While Proverbs emphasized the accessibility of Wisdom (in contrast to Job!) for righteous living, later Jewish writers understood Wisdom as the Torah (see Sirach 24) and as an “emanation of the glory of the Almighty” (Wisdom 7:25). These varying Wisdom traditions were alluded to by New Testament writers in their efforts to make sense of their experiences of Christ’s divinity (John 1:1-18; Colossians 1:15-20; James 3:13-18).

Christians today can find this text’s treatment of Wisdom as evocative of both the Son and the Holy Spirit. It may even invite us to challenge commonly held assumptions about God’s “gender.” For example, it is helpful to some to imagine the Holy Spirit as metaphorically feminine, so as to undercut too-long held notions of God’s masculinity. This is no easy, pat workaround, either; conceiving the Spirit as feminine thus complicates stereotypes of feminine weakness, sensitivity, softness and sentimentality. The Spirit may be at times comforting and peaceful, but She is most certainly also fiery and wildly mighty!

Psalm 8

Good poetry, such as today’s psalm, can generate more questions than answers. When it comes to a heady subject like the Trinity, questions can be refreshing.

How is your understanding of the Trinity helpful to your faith? How does Trinitarian doctrine trip you up? Do you find explanations and metaphors of the Trinity tiresome and futile, and prefer instead a fuller embrace of the sheer mystery of God’s inner life?

What can we learn from scripture, tradition, reason and experience about the Trinity?

This psalm reminds us that even with three questions for every one answer, we can still praise our God of mystery with all our might.

Romans 5:1-5

Christians find ourselves – in our own spirituality and in joining God’s mission in the world – in the midst of a holy, Trinitarian relationship that is life-giving, forgiving and empowering. Sharing the truth of this relationship with others is the basis of Christian evangelism. There is nowhere that God is not: across time and space, spirit and matter, transcendent and immanent.

How can our conception of such a God not affect every ounce of our being, including our daily lives and character? As we enter into and are sent out by and in the Trinity, we join with the saints and all the faithful in proclaiming: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, God of power and might! We pray and so live that we, the church, and the world may come to mirror the loving diversity and unity of God.

John 16:12-15

For the fourth Sunday in a row, we find ourselves within Jesus’ farewell discourse in the Gospel of John, overhearing our Savior’s prayer to the Father. We, too, in our daily prayers, join the ongoing conversation of the Three in One – an important reminder that prayer is not an unexpected phone call to a God busy with more urgent tasks, but rather a welcome addition to a loving and joyful divine dialogue.

At different points in our Christian journey we may find ourselves more able to relate to one person more than others: after becoming a parent, one might find oneself more sympathetic to the parenthood of the Father; in times of trial one may look to the Son’s suffering for solace; and while engaged in artistic reverie, one may dance most easily with the Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity thus invites us into relationship at all times and in varying manners, so that we may bask always in God’s immanence even as God’s transcendence remains sure.

Bible Study: Pentecost (C)

May 19, 2013

Daniel Stroud, Virginia Theological Seminary

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1-9; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21; John 14:8-17, (25-27)

Acts 2:1-21

When we get to Pentecost, it’s tempting to just focus on the Spirit coming down and resting on the Apostles. This lengthy and meaty reading seems to beg for more than just a recitation of how the Spirit rested on the Apostles and how it rests on us in the church.

There are two excerpts that jump out at me. One is found right in the second verse: “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting.” It strikes me that Acts only informs us of the sound of a mighty wind, not an actual mighty wind. This tension between known and accepted story and text is worth exploring. The echoes here to creation are significant, however, this is not a breath, this sounds of a violent wind; this is powerful and strong, ready to push and strain and fill everything. At this moment, light is also brought into the room, as tongues as of fire rested on each of them. Now wind and flame are a powerful combination, and they can be a force for massive destruction. However, in this case they can quickly start a conflagration, setting the world ablaze with a fire that burns but does not consume.

Also compelling here is the restoration granted by God. In the story of the Tower of Babel, the Lord says, “nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). Here, God restores the gift of tongues to the Apostles, restoring the power that had been denied when languages were all confused. In Christ, and with the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that will be impossible for them to do.

Knowing this, how is the Spirit moving within you to set the world ablaze? What are you doing to help spread that fire?

Armed with the knowledge that you are in Christ and with the Holy Spirit, seeing God’s big promise that “nothing will now be impossible for them,” what would you strive for if you had knowledge that you would not fail, even if you get unexpected results?

Psalm 104: 25-35, 37

Amidst today’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit animating us to do great things, we see in this psalm just how vital the Spirit is to our very existence. We see in the psalm how the Spirit of God animates every aspect of our lives. The psalmist writes:

“All of them look to you to give them food in due season. You give it to them; they gather it; you open your hand and they are filled with good things. You hide your face and they are terrified; you take away their breath and they die and return to their dust. You send forth your Spirit and they are created; and so you renew the face of the earth.”

The psalmist would be hard-pressed to make it any clearer. The Spirit does not only give us what we consider to be gifts; the Spirit gives us everything. We are fully reliant on God for our food, even for our breath. This psalm serves as an excellent reminder that we should offer our gratitude not only for those fruits of the Spirit we experience, but for every aspect of life.

What have you recently taken for granted for which you should offer thanks?

How might we improve the gratitude offered? How might we turn our gratitude for things like our breath and our food into new gifts? How might we be good stewards of what we have been given so that we might share our gifts with the world?

Romans 8:14-17

I always found it funny that Paul tells us here we did not receive a spirit of slavery. Only a chapter and change ago, he was telling us to be slaves of righteousness. But Romans builds up steam as Paul’s defense of the righteousness of God continues on, and here we see that the Spirit we received was not of slavery, but of adoption as children of God. And Paul here builds up through one of his frequent (though this one is short) sorites explaining to us just where we land. We have been given the spirit that we might call God by an affectionate, endearing name: Abba! Not as simply the head of a household or one to whom we are subject, but as a parent for whom we have a mature affection, our dearest father.

And Paul takes his point to its logical conclusion: If we are children of God in Christ, God’s firstborn, then we are also heirs with the firstborn of God. But – and this is an important condition – this is the case if we suffer with him that we may be glorified with him. Following Christ has a cost, and it can be a significant cost. But if we accept that cost, we are no longer slaves, we are no longer even just children of God, we are heirs through hope, in Christ.

How do we see ourselves? Do we carry our Christianity as a task to be accomplished, an order to be fulfilled; or is our faith part of who we are, something that we live into as we would a family?

John 14:8-17

The disciples always seem to want more. A few weeks ago we read about Thomas, who, though he gets an unfair rap, said he needed to place his hand in Jesus’ wounds. Shortly after that, we hear about James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking to sit one at Jesus’ right hand and one at his left. And now we have Philip saying, “Well, if you just showed us the father, we’d be happy.” And Jesus gives a brilliant response. “You’ve seen him.”

As Christians, we are not people of the book. The Bible is necessary and divinely inspired and contains all things necessary to salvation, but it is not the perfect revelation of God’s will and nature. Christ is our revelation of that will and nature, and the New Testament is about Christ, who is the true revelation. Christ reveals his nature, saying that the Father dwells in him. This is quite a claim. And Jesus goes on to say that if we love him, and the Father through him, and we keep his commandments, he will send the Holy Spirit among us, to be a spirit of truth in the world. He also tells us that the world cannot receive the Spirit because it does not know the Spirit. We, however, do know that Spirit.

And so this loaded gospel rounds out the essence of our readings for the day. The Holy Spirit has been given to us and will strengthen and empower us to do ministry. This gift was not meant to sit idle but was meant to commission us to spread the Spirit in the world.

Given this charge, what can we do to spread the Spirit?

How can we live a life that shows others that the Spirit is abiding in us?

How can we use that Sprit dwelling in us to show to world the perfect revelation of the nature of God in the loving person of Christ?