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. (Romans 12:1-2)
My friend Sue D’Alessio reflected on this passage of scripture recently, but it is such a powerful and important scripture that I decided I would take a shot at it as well. This is my favorite passage of scripture from the whole New Testament. For me, this encapsulates the whole mission and purpose of the institution of the church. Our local churches, our congregations, our communities of faith exist to discern the will of God and to align our entire lives to its fulfillment. To say “yes” to God is to present our bodies as living sacrifices – we give ourselves back to God for God to use in whatever way best serves God’s purposes. This is our spiritual worship.
The other thing I find so powerful about this passage is that the “you” is plural, not singular. Our tendency in modern Western culture is to think in very personal and private terms, looking for individual guidance for living the Christian faith. It is easy to ignore that both Jesus and Paul defined faithful Christian living in communal rather than individual terms. We, together, are the church. We collectively comprise the body of Christ. God speaks to and through the Christian community, and we can only discern what is good and acceptable and perfect as part of a baptized collective. This very simple fact means that Christians cannot be conformed to the “all about me; looking out for number one” mindset of the rest of the world. We exist for the common good, to discern and carry out the will of God – together.
This spiritual integration, this affective union, means that we are never alone, never apart, regardless of “social distancing,” and the challenges of the current pandemic. Romans 12:1-2 is my favorite passage of scripture; my favorite line from our communion liturgy is our request to God through the Holy Spirit to “make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.”
Prayer: God of transformation and new beginnings, change my thinking from “me” to “we.” Open me to the new reality that I am part of something larger, greater, and more. I give thanks for my place in the body of Christ, and ask that you help me to fully connect with my beloved siblings, that all that we say and all that we do may please you, bringing you honor and glory, and fulfilling your will. Amen
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.