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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Today’s Reading | Romans 12:1–8

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. 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.

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 judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. (NRSV)

Paul intimately knew the struggle we all experience: to live according to what our minds and hearts know to be good and right. Even when our hearts and minds are persuaded by high ideals and convictions, we have a hard time making the necessary changes to embody them.

Let me give a concrete example. My husband loves outdoor hikes and overnight camping trips. Ever since I met him, he has talked about the virtues of being in nature: the fresh air, the scent of pine, the back-to-basics experience. While in theory I am completely convinced that these are merits, I have refused to go on every camping trip he and my extensive family-in-law have taken.

When my young daughter decided she wanted to go on an overnight camping trip with her dad, big cousins, uncles, and aunts, I let her go, nervously awaiting their return. The campers came back bedraggled and dirty but wearing radiant smiles. As I listened to my daughter tell me about their adventures, I realized every story was about how one cousin or another encountered some kind of trouble and how another cousin, in one way or another, came to the rescue.

These kinds of experiences—in which we leave our comfort zones in order to do what we believe in—teach us what Paul taught: when we do sacrifice our familiar and comfortable ways, we need to recognize and receive the gifts of others. No longer self-contained and self-sufficient, we can give and receive different gifts from different people to assist and complete us. This is the lesson that I think is easiest to forget, and yet if we trust and follow it, we will come to know a reward greater than we could have anticipated.

Almighty God, you are the source of every high ideal. Give me the courage to change my life so that I can live what I believe, and put me in the company of others with whom I can give and receive. Trusting in the abundance of your grace, I pray. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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