By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from Romans 12:1-21
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In many ways, today’s lesson are the verses for our time. “Do not be conformed to world,” writes Paul to the Christians who are at the political center of the world in Rome, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Unlike Paul’s original audience, most of us have a long history of a culture deeply shaped by Christianity. Conforming to that world was full of its own dangers, but it’s helpful to recognize that our times are different, with communities and cultures which have not been influenced, or forget they have been influenced, by Scripture and Christian teaching. Being Christian may take more swimming — or at least different strokes — against the stream than it did at other times and places.
“But be transformed…” What does transformation look like? It’s worth pondering. “By the renewal of your mind.” Somehow I find the translation that says “renewing your mind,” more helpful. To have your mind continually made new — it’s to be malleable to the movement of the Holy Spirit, to be able to see things in truer and truer light, to be able to alter the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and our families and our lives in the new light cast by the revealed God who is the truth.
Obviously there’s something here about the importance of belief, about learning more about our faith — but there’s something else, something less cerebral. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice… which is your spiritual worship.” God gives us sacraments to convey his grace and asks us for our bodies. Perhaps our minds are renewed in much the same way — through our skin. It’s not just ideas that need to be offered, renewed, and transformed, but the tasks of our hands, and the hours of our days. Renewed minds should yield transformed lives, lives that look different from those lived “in the world,” no matter what our time or place.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Epsicopal Church in Connecticut
The Diocese of West Buganda (Church of the Province of Uganda)