I sometimes find Paul’s writings less appealing than other parts of scripture; he doesn’t hesitate to challenge or complain, and some of his admonishments are hard to grasp outside their ancient context. But then I come upon moments of tenderness that remind me of the urgent love that drives him from one place to another.
Today’s passage ends on one such note of tenderness: “We are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” Even before they arrive, Paul and his companions anticipate a joyful meeting of brothers and sisters.
I realized not long ago how easily the phrase “brothers and sisters in Christ” can dwindle into cliché. But those we are given to love—those to whom we are sent—are “our people,” bound to us by ties deeper than blood, as cells in the same body, working together in ways we can never fully fathom toward God’s mysterious purposes.
I remember traveling to North Carolina to meet a sprawling clan of cousins I had heard of but never met. A wide, warm welcome greeted me just because I belonged to “Uncle Jack” or “Aunt Effie.” They loved me before they knew me. A place was prepared for me because I belonged to them.
Though there is a dark side to clan culture, that experience helped me imagine more fully what it might mean to greet those we don’t yet know as brothers and sisters: Whoever you are, I come to you in love because we are loved by the One who made us for each other. So we can meet in hope with open hearts and confident curiosity about what gifts may come in our meeting.
Loving God, you made us for your own delight and for one another. Help me to recognize in each encounter your invitation to extend and receive grace. Amen.
The end of Deuteronomy completes the story of the life of Moses. Although he led the people out of Egypt, he is not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he lost his temper in the desert. The difficult task of leading the people back to the land will fall to Joshua. The psalmist calls out to God for mercy because the people have been suffering as a result of their disobedience. Paul defends himself against the charge that he has been preaching out of a desire for fame or money. The approval he seeks comes only from God. Jesus has yet another confrontation with religious leaders attempting to trick him. He avoids their schemes and emphasizes that love of God and love of neighbor summarize the entire law.
Read Deuteronomy 34:1-12. When has a leadership transition in your faith community been difficult for you? When has it been sacred?
Read Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17. How do you make God your dwelling place?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. How can you strive to love those whom you have never met? How can you meet new people with love as siblings?
Read Matthew 22:34-46. How do you wrestle with the Bible? When have your questions strengthened your faith or revealed something new?
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