A living sacrifice… (Romans 11-12)
November 25, 2010
It seems to me that chapters 11-12 of Romans (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=157726670) see the conclusion of one train of thought and the beginning of another. Chapter 11 brings to an end the long theological extrapolation that Paul has been performing since early in this letter. The fate of Israelites and Gentiles are settled, the idea of an ‘elect’ comes up (which I find rather unsettling), and we end with an amen. Then a much less intellectual more instructional section begins. Suddenly Paul’s letter doesn’t seem so wordy, in fact the langauge becomes quite elegantly economical.
I could read Romans 12 over and over again. It’s the kind of chapter I feel that every Christian could do with reading every morning. It’s all in here: “let love be genuine” (9); “extend hospitality to strangers” (13b), “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (15); “do not repay anyone evil for evil” (17a) and much more. If “love thy neighbour” is Christian conduct in brief that this is the extended version.
Before this list of compassionate qualities Paul asks his readers “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (1b). To be a living sacrifice.
When I was younger I didn’t really think of myself as christian but I liked singing so I was in the local church choir. Somehow, although I was tired from Saturday nights out in Croydon or distracted by passing notes to my best friend about our latest crushes, the liturgy of that church has stayed with me. When I came to faith while at university these word “to be a living sacrifice’ (from the prayer after communion) returned to me. I wanted so much for my life to be God’s and I understood somehow that I would live more fully if I gave my life. But what did that look like? How would I be if I surrendered to God? Well I think Paul has a good shot at imagining this in 12:9-21. It’s an inspiring read; I recommend it. So I’ll make this a short post and give you time ponder Paul’s words.
I’ll leave you with the prayer I’ve loved so much:
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit
to live and work to your praise and glory.