The Hope Canteen Podcast, Episode 40: Abraham and the Promises of God

Abraham and the Promise of God
Episode 40 – Romans 4:13-25

On today’s podcast, we are talking about Romans 4:13-25. This is part of a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a community in Rome. At that time, Rome was the capital city of the biggest empire in the ancient world. In the short passage today, Paul is reflecting on the promises God gives to Abraham. The whole story of the Jewish people leading to Jesus begins in a promise that God made to Abraham around 4000 years ago.

The question for Paul is what does it mean to be in relationship–or covenant–with God? Is our relationship grounded in our ability to fulfill the commandments of God? Or is it grounded in our trust in the reliability of God’s promises? For Paul, we really need to grasp this distinction if we are going to have a rich and deep relationship with the living God.

Join the conversation! How do you remind yourself to trust in the promises of God? Please add your own thoughts and insights in the comments below.

Love Builds Up

1 Corinthians 1:13 - Love Builds Up

At first glance, this week’s Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 8:1-13) doesn’t seem to be relevant to us in the 21st Century. Paul is counselling the church in Corinth as they deal with a divisive issue.

An Ancient Conflict

Paul is wading into a conversation about whether Christians can, in good faith, eat meat that has been used ritually in pagan ceremonies. This is not a burning issue for us. But we can still glean a principle that is important for every generation to grasp. (And on a side note, this is often how Scripture works. It might speak to an ancient conflict, but there is always a more generalized spiritual principle that we can discover.)

The principle that Paul gives us in this conversation is that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks to Christians who feel that they have a greater level of spiritual enlightenment than others in the church.

The issue is that the “enlightened” people know they can eat this meat with a clear conscience, so they look down on people who are hesitating in fear of spiritual contamination. They see themselves as the strong and the others as the weak.

While we don’t worry too much about this problem these days, the principle continues to come up in other ways. We still have people who feel that they are more spiritual than others. They have achieved a ‘higher level’ of spiritual experience and maturity. And in fact, some may indeed be more spiritually mature. In the example of the situation in Paul’s time, he actually agrees with the ‘strong.’ Clear knowledge and understanding is important. It is better to be knowledgeable than not.

Love Builds Up and Knowledge Takes Second Place

However, there is a problem with knowledge. Overemphasizing its importance often leads to pride, superiority, and power. In turn, these develop unequal and broken relationships. For Paul, knowledge is not the ultimate good. That place always belongs to love. Later in the letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us, “If I…can fathom all mysteries and have all knowledge… but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Does this mean that knowledge is unimportant? Of course not. We are called to study and learn and grow. This is an essential aspect of discipleship. But it never replaces the central importance of love in the Christian faith.

In fact, all knowledge should lead ultimately to love.

The Hope Canteen Podcast, Episode 23: The Mind of Christ

the mind of Christ (Philippians 2)

In this episode, we’re turning to Philippians 2:1-13. This is a passage from one of the letters that St. Paul wrote to encourage the early church. This chapter contains some of the most beautiful poetry in the New Testament, and has some important teaching for us on unity, hospitality, and Jesus Christ as the model for discipleship.

Join us around the virtual table as we reflect on St. Paul and what it means to develop the mind of Christ. Please join the conversation! Add your insights in the comments below.

Praying with Scripture (Lectio Divina Series – “Oratio”)

Praying with Scripture

Christian spirituality is always a response to what God is doing. Having received from God, we respond, first in prayer and then in action. In the first two movements of Lectio Divina, we have been learning how to open our hearts so that we can receive the word that God wants to speak to us today. This prayerful preparation comes in slow reading and intentional meditation on what we hear. All of this is a way of praying with Scripture and trying to listen deeply.

Word-Filled Prayer (Oratio)

After we have meditated on God’s word, we turn to prayer. The tradition calls this Oratio (Prayer), which is word-filled prayer. Oratio transitions organically into praying with minimal words. We call this transition to wordless prayer Contemplatio (Contemplation). In this reflection, I will look at word-filled prayer, and in the next reflection I will turn to contemplative prayer. 

Prayer is Responding to God

From meditation, we turn to prayer. Prayer is a wonderful gift from God. It is an amazing opportunity to be in dialogue and conversation with God. In Lectio Divina, we are prayerfully responding to any insights that emerge from our meditation. There is a constant pattern of hearing God’s word in Scripture and then responding in prayer.

Praying with Scripture: A Personal Example

For example, when I was reading Scripture devotionally the other day, I was working through the letter of Paul to the Philippians, Chapter 3. In this passage, Paul describes all of the advantages he had as a Jewish Pharisee. He was well born, had a great education, was well known for his commitment to the law, and blameless in his observance. Many people would have been jealous of the advantages he had. And yet, he considers all those advantages as rubbish compared to knowing Christ. The love and grace of Jesus Christ is worth far more than any of his privilege. He sings about the joy he feels in knowing Christ, and his willingness to trade everything else for it. He writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…”

When I read those words, my heart jumped. I thought, “I want to know Christ like that too! I want to know the power of Christ’s love like Paul did. That’s what I really want.” So in my reading, I meditated on those passionate lines from Paul: what would this look like for me? Then I turned to my time of prayer, and this is what I brought to God. Using Paul’s words, I prayed, “I too want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection! Please, Lord, let me know this tremendous gift that Jesus has given us.” I just took the words from Paul’s letter and I MADE THEM MY OWN.

Bringing the Prayers of Our Hearts

This time of prayer is obviously whatever you make it. The structure of Lectio Divina is extremely flexible. It is only meant to be an opportunity to bring the prayers of our hearts to our loving Father.

Perhaps there is something in the reading that confused you, or that you didn’t like. Make that the content of your prayer. Maybe you just felt a strong emotion when reading something in the passage. Make that the content of your prayer. Ask God about it. Long after the prayer is over, you may find insight into what is going on spiritually within you. Maybe something in the reading encouraged you. Voice that to God. Maybe the reading spoke to a bad habit you are struggling with. Make that the content of your prayer. As we pray with Scripture, nothing is out of bounds.

I hope you see the profound flexibility of this way of coming to God. Lectio Divina only lays down a framework. You get to make it your own. There is only one real requirement for growth in the spiritual life. Just keep showing up, every day you can.