Musings on Scripture

– and what isn’t always said

Tag: Hope

Trinity 7A

Published / by Steven Secker / Leave a Comment

Romans 8:12-25

12Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body and you will live. 14All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

© livingthelectionary

18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24In hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what is seen? 25If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.


Through his promotion of, and respect for, women in the churches he formed, Paul was clearly as inclusive of women as he could be in the very patriarchal society of the first century. It is thus appropriate, given that political correctness and the feminist movement now deny us the long-established use, in English, of male pronouns in a generic sense, that the Greek word αδελφοι (adelphoi) is translated in the NSRV as “brothers and sisters”. I have no doubt that Paul would have been including the women as well as the men.

Paul declares that we are debtors; but despite telling us what we are not debtors to, never tells us what he considers we are debtors to. Just like a good educator, leading people towards an answer but never giving it to them, he leaves it to those in the audience to ponder over, and to work out for themselves, where that debt lies.

We are made of body and spirit. The body, the flesh and blood of our mortal appearances, can lead us astray. We are tempted to seek and acquire things which are transient and please us, without consideration for others, and too often we succumb to those temptations, in the process separating ourselves from God. Paul’s reference to dying has nothing to do with the cessation of the processes which keep our bodies functioning, but to the death which comes from being separated from God. On the other hand, if we allow God’s Spirit, working within us, to direct us, then we will nurture that relationship with God who continues to feed and nourish us. Those who had become Christians in the early churches, and even some of us in 21st century churches, might feel as if we have bonded ourselves in slavery because of the rules and regulations which being part of a particular church might impose on us – you must dress like this; you must speak like this; you must address the priest like this; you must like music like this; children should be seen and not heard. The list goes on, but that is not what Paul wants his audience to think. Far from being forced into a restrictive relationship with “the owner”, becoming a Christian is like being adopted into an unconditionally loving family, with God as the head. Many of us have never experienced unconditional love; some even deny it is possible for humans because their own experiences are far from the love which God quite willingly gives us, but God is love, and loves all of us unconditionally.

Being adopted into God’s family allows us to call Him “Father”, and to share with Christ in the abundances which are offered, but it doesn’t give us the right to avoid temptation, or hurt, because of the evil which abounds where God’s love isn’t allowed to enter. Yes, we will suffer for the sake of the Good News, but not in the same way as Christ Himself suffered. Commenting on the restrictions which Covid-19 has required of us, a young male from Broadmeadows (in the north of Melbourne) revealed an appalling lack of appreciation and care for older people, as if they were dispensable because they were passed their “use by” date. People continue to suffer and to die because of the lack of concern for others displayed in such a comment. I’m sure that God is crying because this suffering and these deaths would, to a large extent, be avoided if people around the world stopped thinking of themselves more than others. Let’s turn that around and tell Satan to leave everyone alone.

Throughout our lives we strive to do ‘better’ and we tolerate suffering and pain when we can see the ‘better’ future. That is precisely what Paul is picking up on when he says that the sufferings of the present time pale into insignificance when compared with the glory in the life hereafter. Just as growing up from being a newborn baby through the toddler stage and on into spiritual adulthood our eyes are opened to the wonders of this world, what the Spirit foresees is our discovery of what it is like to be ‘children of God.’ Several respected commentators note Paul’s reference to labour pains. Why is that surprising? Not only are there many references in scripture to feminine images of God, but also Paul’s churches had a significant number of female leaders.

Have you ever yearned so much for something you expect to occur that you groan, outwardly or inwardly, in anticipation? That is what it was like for the early Christians, looking forward to the second coming of Christ, which they expected in the their own lifetimes. Just as last week’s reflection on the Parable of the Sower made a distinction between hearing and listening, so, here, Paul makes a distinction between hoping for something and anticipating it. Let us be patient in our hoping that we might return to a society where we are all concerned for each other.

If you want to read the reflection on Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43 see http://frends.biz/reflections/23rd-july-2017-trinity-7/

Advent 2 (Year A)

Published / by Steven Secker / Leave a Comment

Romans 15:4-13

4Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name’;
10and again he says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
11and again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him’;
12and again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Text © The New Revised Standard Version (English version), alt, used with permission.


©Mission Venture Ministries

Earlier in Romans, Paul had been trying to get together those who were adamant that scriptural teaching had to be adhered to for all time, and those who had a more liberal approach, that it was guidance, and circumstances could change. Even though Paul has been, for many centuries, held in high regard as a teacher of the gospel and an apostle for Christ, we still have the same problem today. We listen to such readings, but do we hear the message? Evidence suggests we don’t! What was written was for our instruction. Jews and Christians in the first century AD essentially had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their guide. Those scriptures were passed on orally for centuries before being committed to writing, and the context was changed to fit the circumstances in which the story was being told. There was no intent for the scriptures to be a rule book by which life must be directed and constrained, but they were to be used to guide people in the way God wanted them to go at the time. Certain foods, if not prepared or stored properly, caused illnesses and death, but as we learned how to protect ourselves from the reasons for those illnesses we found the constraint no longer had any relevance. For those whose lives were not the best, being forced to keep to a regimen that was oppressive or dangerous would certainly not have given any sense of hope, which is what Paul wants us to get from his writings.

If the message of Christ’s Good News was recognised then the Romans would be able to live in harmony with each other despite their differences. It was not important whether a house church adhered to a liberal or a conservative approach provided the focus was on the gospel, on the hope that the gospel brings, and on bringing others to Christ. Reading this passage as guidance for us in the 21st century, we are to worship in whatever ways we find acceptable when we proclaim the gospel, as if we are all together. Some people like traditional services and will be turned off, or will leave the church if required to have contemporary prayers and songs; others prefer the contemporary and are turned off by the traditional, but we can all live as Christians and praise God both together and in our own ways.

How often do we welcome others as we might expect Jesus to welcome us? Is that false smile a give-away that we really don’t want our established way of being challenged? Is the group discussion with friends going to encourage new people to stay? Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, who had persecuted Christians before his conversion, is determined to get across his message that Christ’s message is for everyone, not just for the Jews. Yes, He came as a Jew, but that doesn’t limit who is called into eternal life by welcoming Christ into their lives.

There is hope in this world if those with blinkered views can accept the challenge of opening their eyes – remember the saying ‘there are none so blind as those who WILL not see’ – and accepting everyone without judgement and without negativity.Earlier in Romans, Paul had been trying to get together those who were adamant that scriptural teaching had to be adhered to for all time, and those who had a more liberal approach, that it was guidance, and circumstances could change. Even though Paul has been, for many centuries, held in high regard as a teacher of the gospel and an apostle for Christ, we still have the same problem today. We listen to such readings, but do we hear the message? Evidence suggests we don’t! What was written was for our instruction. Jews and Christians in the first century AD essentially had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their guide. Those scriptures were passed on orally for centuries before being committed to writing, and the context was changed to fit the circumstances in which the story was being told. There was no intent for the scriptures to be a rule book by which life must be directed and constrained, but they were to be used to guide people in the way God wanted them to go at the time. Certain foods, if not prepared or stored properly, caused illnesses and death, but as we learned how to protect ourselves from the reasons for those illnesses we found the constraint no longer had any relevance. For those whose lives were not the best, being forced to keep to a regimen that was oppressive or dangerous would certainly not have given any sense of hope, which is what Paul wants us to get from his writings.

If the message of Christ’s Good News was recognised then the Romans would be able to live in harmony with each other despite their differences. It was not important whether a house church adhered to a liberal or a conservative approach provided the focus was on the gospel, on the hope that the gospel brings, and on bringing others to Christ. Reading this passage as guidance for us in the 21st century, we are to worship in whatever ways we find acceptable when we proclaim the gospel, as if we are all together. Some people like traditional services and will be turned off, or will leave the church if required to have contemporary prayers and songs; others prefer the contemporary and are turned off by the traditional, but we can all live as Christians and praise God both together and in our own ways.

How often do we welcome others as we might expect Jesus to welcome us? Is that false smile a give-away that we really don’t want our established way of being challenged? Is the group discussion with friends going to encourage new people to stay? Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, who had persecuted Christians before his conversion, is determined to get across his message that Christ’s message is for everyone, not just for the Jews. Yes, He came as a Jew, but that doesn’t limit who is called into eternal life by welcoming Christ into their lives.

There is hope in this world if those with blinkered views can accept the challenge of opening their eyes – remember the saying ‘there are none so blind as those who WILL not see’ – and accepting everyone without judgement and without negativity.