For most of my adult life, I have belonged to a non-geographic covenant community, Sisbros, in which we live by a series of practices that govern our spiritual, economic, and political lives. We come together for a yearly gathering of study, reflection, deep listening, recreation, and caring for each other and the world.
I have known some of the people in the group for over forty years. In the beginning, I felt more comfortable with some individuals than with others, as I’m sure was the case for everyone. Our commitment bound us together even when we were not all best friends. In that long span of time, I have grown to sincerely love each person in Sisbros. Today’s words from Paul detail much of what keeps Sisbros united. We live in harmony because we prioritize the work of our community and our call to bring change to the world.
Paul’s letter to the Romans goes to a church that has a diverse community: Jews and Gentiles, enslaved and free people, women and men. His words speak to any group of people who are trying to live in Christian community. He speaks generally (“live in harmony with one another,” “live peaceably with all”) with pointed specifics such as “bless those who persecute you” and “never avenge yourselves.” He covers many of the human emotions that get in the way of deep, loving relationships. Instead of coming across as judgmental, Paul lifts positive examples of how we might walk the earth in obedience to Christ’s call.
Reread Romans 12:9-21, considering what’s currently happening in your interactions with loved ones, friends, and the wider community. Are there any rough edges in your relationships that might need smoothing out? Choose one phrase or action from this passage that jumps out at you. Is there a specific situation or action to which God might be calling you?
Loving God, help me love in the ways you call me to love. Amen.
Moses has fled Egypt and is living in the desert, where God calls him to return and free the Israelites. Moses resists, but God does not relent. In many of the Psalms, the psalmist reviews God’s record of faithfulness. Psalm 105 is no different and highlights the calling of Moses. In Romans, Paul addresses practical ethical concerns. How should we treat those who treat us poorly? We should never repay evil for evil, but instead should bless those who harm us. This goes against our natural instincts, yet the gospel is countercultural and calls us to a higher standard. In Matthew, Peter has just had a tremendous moment in declaring his faith in Christ. Now he stumbles in failing to understand that Jesus’ path to glory will pass through suffering.
Read Exodus 3:1-15. What sacred encounter might have been your burning bush? How did you know God’s presence was with you in the encounter?
Read Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b. How does obedience to God shape your life? Recall an instance where your obedience to God’s call or teachings made a difference.
Read Romans 12:9-21. When has working toward a common goal helped you better love your family, friends, or community?
Read Matthew 16:21-28. When have you had to trust God and accept that you “have no idea how God works”? How did your trust help you through the situation?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.