This week we have been blessed by the depth of ancient Hebrew poetry in Psalm 139, and today we stand amazed at the apostle Paul ́s declaration that we become adopted sons and daughters of God. Paul, a Pharisee and former student of Gamaliel, no longer claims exclusive filial relation to God as a Jew; instead he feels admitted to the universal family in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. No legacy, no talent, no personal effort, simply the witness of the Spirit to our spirit while we are “led by the Spirit of God.” We gain an intimacy that Jesus himself expressed when he called God “Abba”—an unexpected grace! We, as children of God, are joint heirs with Christ—heirs both of his suffering and his glory.
In verses 18 to 25 Paul reflects on the mystery of suffering viewed from one perspective: that of creation. Excessive individualism in theology has separated salvation from creation. And yet they belong together: “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” We suffer and groan together with creation, but as children of God we enjoy in advance the hope of transformation because of “the first fruits of the Spirit.”
Romans presents a treatise on the meaning of salvation: why we need it, how to experiment with it, and the expected results. We try to imagine the impact of this letter on the first-century congregation in Rome. Many of them, like Paul, were converted Jews who needed this explanation of unexpected grace in Christ. Today, for other cultural reasons, we also need to renew the experience of being “led by the Spirit of God.”
Abba Father, revive in me the precious hope of my salvation. Amen.
This week’s texts depict a broad span of settings of God’s activity, from Jacob’s encounter in solitude to the broader context of creation itself in Romans. The texts also tell of God’s commission of human agents, weak and inadequate, to carry out divine tasks. Jacob may not be totally aware of God’s plans for him, but the reader knows. Paul declares that the people in whom the Spirit of God dwells are very much in tune with the pain of creation. They also long for God’s nal deliverance. Just at the point of the reluctance of God’s agents to carry out the tasks, the parable from Matthew about the wheat and weeds gives hope. God will take care of the weeds in God’s own time. Psalm 139 is a moving statement on the ubiquitous nature of God’s presence.
• Read Genesis 28:10-19a. When have you “wakened” to acknowledge that you were in a holy place? What did you do to memorialize the place?
• Read Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24. Do you regularly take time in a set-aside place for an intimate relationship with God? If not, what steps could you take to ensure that relationship?
• Read Romans 8:12-25. Do you feel close enough to God to call God “Abba”? Why or why not?
• Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. What are you doing to discourage the growth of evil in your life? How does your garden grow?
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