Re the Daily Office Readings 3/29/2020

The Daily Office Readings of the Episcopal Church (USA) are available at a number of websites including Mission St Clare (https://www.missionstclare.com/english/) as part of Morning Prayer.

So on this 5th Sunday in Lent when many of us would really like to be coming together at St. Dunstan’s, 6205 University Avenue, Madison WI, we get this from Paul:

“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.” (Rom 12:1-2)

All of life is worship. That’s Paul’s, and, I think, Scripture’s vision of our human vocation, expressed universally at the beginning of Genesis and in psalms like 8, 103, and 104, expressed for Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai: “you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:6). Commentators generally agree that these first two verses introduce a major chunk of Romans running through chapter 15, so all the questions addressed there—living together in the parish, relating to the government, building bridges across ethnic divides—are questions of worship. And, in this season of too many dislocations, it’s worth remembering that the worship is equally honorable whether we come with full or empty hands. (It’s the poor widow’s two small copper coins that Jesus notices—and praises (Mark 12:41ff).)

Translators struggle with the end of v.1 (NRSV’s “spiritual worship”; Greek logikēn latreian). ‘Spiritual’ suggests interior or immaterial, but Paul’s talking about presenting our bodies. Perhaps KJV’s ‘reasonable’ is better, in the sense of a worship that matches / mirrors / corresponds to the mercies of God with which Paul has started the appeal.

We’d prefer to be gathered with Rev. Miranda at the altar. Paul reminds us that it’s at least equally important to God what we do at our own altars (worlds!), presenting all of our interactions as living, holy, acceptable sacrifices. Which makes me wonder: what transformation(s) (v.2) in my life might bring the biggest smile to G-d’s face?

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