By James Cornwell
A Reading from Romans 15:1-13
1 We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
10 and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
11 and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
12 and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
According to scientific theories of motivation, human beings desire both security and growth. We want to maintain that which we have, as well as attain those things we want. These two motivations lead to the twin temptations of our late capitalist society: the deceptive promise that this product or that experience will finally deliver a measure of happiness, and the fear and anxiety that financial catastrophe could lie around the corner. Both of these temptations lead to the accumulation of wealth, and — as Jesus in the gospels makes quite clear — great wealth can be morally perilous.
Perhaps this is why St. Paul, at the conclusion of today’s reading, prays that God will fill the flock with “all joy and peace in believing,” peace being the fulfillment of a motivation for security, and joy the fulfillment of the motivation for growth. And what is the result of this fulfillment? The gift of abundant hope delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I should note that we already have two spiritual weapons at our disposal to combat the twin temptations I noted above: tithing and almsgiving. By placing our treasure with the Church and the poor, we silence the siren songs of advertisements and declare our confidence in God against the fears of financial ruin. In giving away our means of fulfillment in this life, we open ourselves up to the gift of hope in the next life.
So the next time you are beset by inordinate desire or by inordinate fear, seek out Christ in the Church and the poor, and give them what you have, that you may be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Church of South India
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Tucson, Ariz.