A Peaceable Kingdom

Romans 12:9-21

Renewing the Mind in a World of Conquering Evil

Paul writes to a highly diverse church (Jew, Roman, Greek, Slave, Free, etc.) in the imperial capital. People from different worlds of thought. All challenged by Jesus. In eight years many would die under Nero’s persecution. Should they arm themselves? Form a militia? Split up.

Renewing the mind: How to be a community really shaped by Jesus. Learning to think in a new way, with a shared focus (16). Not conquered by evil calling us into its way (21) The danger is not suffering/persecution, but being shaped by the lure or threat of the world’s ways .

Paul starts looking at the diversity of people, of gifts of grace, of ministry (4-8). That sets the challenge of a community that can embody and experience God’s kingdom coming “on earth as in heaven.” He calls them to that reality (9-16), always aware of how things can go wrong. He helps them to think about a hostile world around them (17-20) to resist the strong urge to respond with defensive exclusion and hostility even when it seems justified.

Learning Expectation: Christ's Birth & Children

Isaiah 9:1-7

Did you grow up as a kid looking forward to Christmas?
Different cultures have different expectations. I did. Not too much religious stuff. But the tree and the gifts? Yes! We like to give and receive gifts. It's easily distorted, commercialized, but a good instinct. (Think about giving: Google "Advent Conspiracy" for a wider vision of giving gifts.)
Part of what we love in the holiday as children is the thrill of expectation. Part of what we love as parents is watching and fostering our children's expectation. Yes, it's a rather artificial ritual, but it can point to a deep truth, rich and complex: learning to live life expectantly -- in hope. Helping a child to live expectantly, creatively, in hope is a great gift. The gifts the Wise Men bring symbolize the hope and expectation that they believe are embodied in that unknown child, without status, but marked by signs for the future.

Life & Peace in Christ Jesus

Romans 7:24 - 8:6

The Passionate Participant
We return from our Retreat: Seeking "Rest and Delight" in God's presence, finding times of quiet renewal, meditation. If you look for books about meditation you'll find many on western variations of Buddhism, almost always with the invitation that this 'method' doesn't require any religion or faith. In that way they are true to the Buddha's self-help orientation of breaking the human situation of suffering with no dependence on any gods.

Paul also is dealing with the human experience of suffering, evil desire, brokenness. Some real similarities but a radically different vision of where hope lies. Paul sees our situation through the event of Jesus: his life, teaching, death, resurrection, all that he means in the light of God's long history with Israel, all that he means for all people.