By Ken Asel
A Reading from Romans 8:1-8
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law — indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Hannah Arendt once spoke of “the banality of evil.” She was referring to Adolf Eichmann, known for his oversight of the extermination of Jewish prisoners during World War II. Arendt expressed her impression of the prison camp director some ten years after his execution: “I was struck by the manifest shallowness in [Eichmann]…. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer — at least the very effective one now on trial — was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.”
In contrast, one day I received a telephone call. An artist asked for a bit of time. When he arrived, he asked if he could paint two frescos, one of the conversion of St. Paul and another of his final years as a prisoner in a Roman cell. The paintings told of the transformation of Saul, the opponent of the fledging Christian Church, into Paul, one of the greatest saints of all time. They showed it well: if evil is banal, conversion is profound, creative, and joyful.
As today’s passage shows, Paul was an expert teacher in Christian transformation, and from experience. Almost all Christians know the story of the Pharisee who fell off his horse on the road to Damascus, hearing the famous call from Jesus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” His life was altered forever! The unanticipated encounter with the Risen Lord began Christian communities which spread throughout the Roman Empire.
No longer a Pharisee, the Apostle Paul, writes to us, elsewhere, encouraging us to keep on this path of transformation from flesh to Spirit:
I thank my God every time I think of you; whenever I pray for you all, my prayers are always joyful, because of the part you have taken in the work of the gospel from the first day until now. Of this I am confident, that he who started the good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:3-4)
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for over 30 years and reside on the Front Range.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of North Karamoja – The Church of the Province of Uganda
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Venice, Fla.