Tagged: Hope

Romans 8:26-39

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 30, 2017.

Many would call the final section of Romans 8 the “crescendo” of the book of Romans.

One author describes it as “the apostle soaring to sublime heights unequaled elsewhere in the New Testament.” In these verses Paul is summing up much of what he has asserted in the earlier chapters of this letter: that God’s love is most definitively displayed on the cross (5:8, 8:32), that the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (5:5) which invites us to receive a spirit of adoption pronouncing us children of God (8:16), that God’s love promises ultimately to redeem us, body and soul (8:11, 23), and offers us the opportunity to share in the glory to come (8:18). During a time of tremendous persecution, these affirmations of faith and words of assurance offer hope abounding to the believers in Rome.

Continue reading

Romans 8:12-25

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 23, 2017.

A friend of mine recently adopted a baby. For years she and her husband have been interviewing with agencies, putting together books to describe themselves to prospective mothers, and praying that they might be selected. They want to open their home and hearts to a child in need and extend their family. In other words, they want to become family for a child who otherwise might not have one. Adoption is an extraordinary gift – both for the child and for the new parents.

In this mid-section of Romans 8 Paul transitions to this kind of “family” language, from a human life lived primarily for itself (“flesh”) to the gift of a new relationship to God (“Spirit”) and the household of faith. Paul begins in vs. 12 by addressing his readers as “brothers” (later translations add “and sisters”) and quickly moves to the language of adoption, calling those who are led by the Spirit “children of God.” Then he goes further, even referencing God by the intimate Aramaic word “Abba.” This is one of the words Jesus used in addressing God, which can be translated as “Dad” (Mark 14:36). Note the contrast here between living according to the flesh, which leads to isolation and death, with a life lived according to the Spirit, which leads to our adoption as children of God and becoming joint heirs with Christ. Humans cannot escape being indebted (vs. 12) – all of us serve some type of master. We are either beholden to the “flesh” (our own selfish desires and rebellion against God), or we are indebted to the God who invites us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him– with the promise of forgiveness and adoption as His children.

Continue reading

1 Peter 1:3-9

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 23, 2017.

Van Gogh

First Peter addresses people changed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are newborn children in communities of holy believers on a journey of discipleship with him. Even though they are scattered among society, they are easily recognized because of their allegiance to Jesus as Lord. They are known for their fidelity to Jesus’ teachings, their love for one another and their enemies, their hopeful attitudes, their respect and obedience to authority figures, their gentleness in the face of mistreatment from authority figures, and their ability to speak extemporaneously when challenged about their faith.

Ironically, this lifestyle evokes greater resistance from those who do not follow Jesus (1 Peter 1:15). They suffer not because God is testing their faith or punishing them for wrongdoing. They are not facing the challenges of aging or disease. Their suffering comes as a result of their holy conduct (1 Peter 1:6). People push back on a believer because a Christian’s loyalty is to the resurrected Lord. For the converts, however, their trials are a source of joy (1 Peter 1:6; 3:13), a path of discipleship that Jesus demonstrated for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21), and an opportunity to bear witness to others (1 Peter 3:16-17).

In light of these circumstances, the opening passage from 1 Peter addresses a theme that believers facing similar conditions need. They find hope in their identity as newborn believers and heirs of an eternal inheritance.

Continue reading

Isaiah 50:4-9a

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.

My youngest daughter has me on a very high pedestal. Her trust in me is limitless. When something breaks, her response is, “Daddy can fix it.” When a comparison is drawn among her little friends, I am always the victor. When in fear she thinks, “Daddy will save me.”

The “servant of Yahweh” plays a central role in second Isaiah. It’s exegetically correct to note that nothing significant distinguishes who this servant is. However, Christians typically hold that this is a foretelling of Jesus. Jewish tradition holds that the servant is actually the community of Israel. In either case, the fact holds that the servant is faithful to Yahweh, in the midst of mistreatment.

This is one section of a more complete picture that second Isaiah is trying to paint of a singular “servant of Israel.” The entire narrative captured in Isaiah 49:1-50:11. The breakdown of the passage is as following:

The servant introduced 49:1-7
Reaffirmation of return and restoration 49:8-13
Israel’s statements of reluctance 49:14,24
Yahweh’s answers to their reluctance 49:15-23,25-26
Yahweh’s statements about exile 50:1-3
The obedient servant 50:4-9
Reprobation if they follow their own light 50:10-11

Continue reading