On the 12th Day of Christmas

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.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.  —Romans 12:1-8

Amazingly, as much as Jesus embodies life in the kingdom of God, it is now up to a bunch of others to finish what he started.  Those who are finishing what Jesus started are, collectively, known as the Church.  This includes but is not exclusive to those who sit in sanctuary pews on a Sunday morning.  Jesus even defines his kindred as being made up of those who ‘do the will of God’ (Mark 3:31-35).  For as much as we may talk about family values, the values that defines Jesus’ family are actions that are in accord with God’s will, or God’s hope.  God hopes for the sick to be comforted and the poor to be given relief.  Every day, people of differing and/or no religion provide healing to the sick and assistance to the poor.  Isn’t it amazing that God’s will does not really require our consent?

According to Matthew, Jesus ends his earthly teaching with a metaphorical teaching on sheep and goats (Matthew 25).  This seems to be his last great teaching, as it encapsulates his teachings and actions from throughout his life.  I often read this as a “If you’ve learned nothing else…” kind of teaching.  Instead of elevating faith, prayer, worship, preaching or tithing, Jesus lifts up acts of compassion as the ultimate good.  Devotion to God cannot be relegated to Sunday worship, but must be a full-bodied, all-in kind of proposition.

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