December 2, 2013

Hope Renewed

By Upper Room Books

Charles W. Allen is a chaplain for Grace Unlimited (Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry) and an Affiliate Professor of Theology at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions is a longstanding—and beloved—resource published by Upper Room Books every year. Each week’s readings are reflections on scripture passages in the lectionary for that period.

In 2013 you can not only read these daily devotions but also comment on them, ask the writer a question, and respond to others who are reading the same material each day. We are looking forward to building a community of Disciplines readers! Just sign in and add your comment in the Comments section following the Monday blog post.

Each Monday an introduction and the initial reading for the week will be posted. Come back to this Monday post throughout the week to continue the conversation about the week’s readings and prayers.

Read Romans 15:4-13

Why do you read the Bible? Do you read it to win arguments? Maybe. I know I have. But Paul stresses a deeper reason. The scriptures were written to encourage our hope. That’s how Paul has come to read and understand the scriptures, and it behooves us to read scripture in the same fashion and for the same reason: to encourage our hope.

We recall that Paul started out as an overenthusiastic religious bigot. He thought he correctly interpreted the scripture. Then the God of Hebrew Scriptures spoke to him in the voice of a man he had despised. He realized that he had been persecuting God and God’s people—in the name of God and God’s people!

Even more amazing, God recruits Paul instead of punishing him. He has been welcomed, unconditionally welcomed, and then recruited to share the news of God-in-Christ’s welcome, not just with people like him but with people he has regarded as unworthy outsiders. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ was a Jew. Jesus assumed a particular identity with the people of Israel and yet threw open wide the radical welcome to those outside the Jewish faith. After his experience, Paul cannot look at scripture in the same way. He now sees every passage, every word, as reflective of this new community inhabited by God’s spirit in Jesus Christ.

The community isn’t new any more, but it’s still inhabited by God’s spirit in Jesus Christ; you and I are being welcomed into it daily. We read and listen to scripture, trusting that we’ll find our hope encouraged by the same God who already welcomes us. We hope that some day we will learn to live in a harmony that extends to everyone. “Let all the peoples praise him.”

Greet us, O God, with outstretched arms, that as we read words written in former times we may find our hope renewed. Amen.


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