Lectionary Year A
August 25, 2002
Romans 12:1-8

Step V: Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

(JFC) Our text's "theological 'center of gravity'" seems to come in the identity of God as being merciful, one who accepts holy presentations of living bodies (people's totality), whose will is discerned by those peoples' transformation by renewal of their/our minds and who gives measures of faith and other gifts/talents/skills/abilities. Certainly a close second place to the most important images these paragraphs declare are the many members in the one body of believers in Christ. Then, the using of the various gifts God gives to persons warrants mention among the significant issues this passage emphasizes.

B. Smoother Translation

(JFC) 1 I therefore beg/urge you, brothers, through the compassion/mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice of living holy/consecrated acceptable to God, which is your spiritual/rational service; 2 and you are not to be conformed to this world order, but be transformed by the renewal your mind into the test/examine/interpret which (is) the will of the God, the good and acceptable and complete will.
3 For I say through the grace having been given me, everyone who is being in you not to hold too high an opinion of oneself for you must think into the right mind, which every one God assigned according to a measure of faith. 4 For just as in one body we have many parts, but the body parts all/many/entire not do the same function, 5 in this way though many we are as one body in Christ, but this according to one another with many body parts. 6 But we have different gifts according to the grace given to us, if it is preaching according to the portion of the faith, 7 if ministry/service/mission do it in the ministry/service/mission, 8 if it is in the encouraging/comforting, then do it in the encouragement/comforting; the sharing/giving/imparting in generosity/liberality, the being a leader/having authority over/managing in diligence/eagerness/zeal, one doing acts of mercy in cheerfulness.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

(JFC) Alan Alda, the actor said somewhere, "Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work, risking, and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful: yourself." Some of these bits of advice might approach some of what Paul is urging the recipients of this part of this Epistle to be about doing.

Hermeneutical Bridge

Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.

Peer Pressure

      Roy had made two important decisions before completing his three years in prison. In addition to his good behavior which led to his early release, he asked Christ to come into his life in order that he would be able to change the direction of his living. He also resolved that upon his release he would devote major time to influence the young people in his old neighborhood to steer them in the right direction.

      Roy was an African American, raised in an area of the city where drugs and crime were the main activities. When he returned there upon his release, it was not the same old neighborhood he had known - it was much worse. Where would he start in his determination to influence the youth of the area? When he visited one of the local Baptist pastors, he was greeted with some reservations. Was Roy for real when he asked the pastor how he could help the youth of the community? After recovering from his initial mild shock, the pastor made several suggestions, one of which was to contact the local chapter of Big Brothers.

      The people at the agency knew of Roy and his former reputation for getting into trouble, but they were willing to assign a "little brother" to him. The boy they assigned to him was 12-year-old Evan, the oldest of six children of a single parent.

      Roy wasn't quite sure how t start his relationship with Evan, but he suggested they spend a bit of time shooting baskets at a decrepit court in the neighborhood. After a half hour of trying to get his shooting form back and playing one-on-one with Evan, Roy suggested they get a coke.

      "My momma told me you just got out of prison," Evan said tentatively as they sat drinking their cokes.

      "You got that right," Roy replied. "And I'm sure you know that is a bad place to be. I don't want any more of that. Tell me what's going on with you."

      Evan paused before answering softly, "They want me to join a gang."

      "Who wants you to?" Roy asked.

      "Oh, just a bunch of guys - some are members and some are thinking about joining. They want me to come along."

      "Well, let's talk about this whole gang thing for a while," Roy suggested. Roy told him his own experiences with gangs and the near guarantee that a gang would get Evan into trouble sooner or later. "The problem is, members of the gang so often want you to do things that get you into trouble. That's how I landed in prison."

      "It's hard not to join," Evan said quietly. "All the guys in the 'hood say they want us to join."

      "I know it's hard," Roy agreed. "But let's look at some other things you can do that are a better choice."

      "Like what?" Evan wanted to know.

      "Stick with me for one thing," Roy suggested. "I'll spend as much time with you as you want. And maybe we can help turn some of the other guys' minds around, too. Should we give it a shot?"

      Evan looked up at his new Big Brother and said, "Let's give it a shot. C'mon, I'll beat you in a game of one-on-one!"

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