Lectionary Commentaries for June 30, 2013
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 9:51-62

Michael Rogness

In this passage Jesus sets out on his final journey to Jerusalem.

He has warned the disciples of his impending suffering there (9:21-27, 44-45), but even though they confess their faith in him as Messiah (9:18-20) and see him transfigured with Moses and Elijah (9:28-36), they cannot begin to imagine the horror of Jesus’ last days. But Jesus knows. He has “set his face” toward Jerusalem, meaning unwavering determination.

Normally very accepting of the Samaritans, he shocks his disciples by barely noticing the Samaritans as he heads to Jerusalem, so concentrated was he on his up-coming destiny. The Samaritan villagers “did not receive him because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” Did they reject Jesus, or did they not host him overnight since he “his face was set toward Jerusalem”?

The text doesn’t say, but the disciples take it to be rejection and impulsively ask if they should “command fire” to destroy them — as if they could even do that! An unknown copier of Luke’s gospel even adds “as Elijah did,” referring to Elijah calling fire upon the soldiers of the evil king Ahaziah, who had ruled the northern kingdom from Samaria (2 Kings 1:10-12).

Jesus uses the occasion to speak about discipleship and about the implications of following him. As the text makes clear, Jesus is speaking to those who are indeed following him, not to potential followers. As he often does, he speaks in hyperboles and exaggerations for emphasis in making his point. He is saying, “Be willing to let go of the past.” You bury the dead and move on. There comes a time when you leave the comforts of home, let go of the doorpost, and move into uncharted waters.

He knows that his disciples will soon be doing exactly that after he has gone. Their lives will be radically and unexpectedly different than anything they had imagined. They will leave behind what they have known and done and go in totally new directions.

What does Jesus mean by saying, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”? Anybody who has plowed a field knows you have to watch carefully in front of you to keep the furrows straight. Look backward and you will swerve one way or another.

How ironic it is that the disciples did exactly that in the despair and confusion following the crucifixion and resurrection. They looked back and resumed their previous occupation of fishing (John 21:1-14). It isn’t until Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit empowers them, that they begin their true work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus all around the Mediterranean.

These verses jar us into asking, “How are our lives different as followers of Jesus than what they might have been otherwise?” I remember a bumper sticker asking, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Discipleship means living in ways we might not otherwise live.

The umbrella truth above this whole topic of discipleship is that being a Christian and a disciple of Jesus gives us a whole new identity. We are no longer simply a biological unit on this earth, but a child of the God of the whole universe. We now live knowing that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Because our lives are now measured by eternal things, we are “exiles and aliens” in this world (1Peter 2:11).

Philip Scharper, editor of Orbis Books, describes the Christian life as pilgrims, but even more accurately as nomads: “A popular church metaphor is that of the people of God on pilgrimage. But a more apt metaphor should be that of the people of God as nomads. Pilgrims know where their journey is headed … Nomads are called to go by uncertain paths to a place that shall be made holy at some indefinite time by something God shall say or do. And there is no guide, no guide except a pillar of fire by night and a wind-driven cloud by day — sounds and symbols of the Holy Spirit.”

Little did the disciples know that day that they would soon become nomads on this earth, travelling all over, with no fixed home, living in often frightening and hostile circumstances, as followers of their Lord. But they — and we — were also pilgrims, because pilgrims do have a final destination, namely in eternity with God.

Leading adult forums in congregations, one of my faculty colleagues is fond of asking people, “What is God doing in your life these days?” It is a thoroughly biblical question, because we believe God’s Spirit is active within us. Yet the question catches Lutherans by surprise, because we don’t usually think in such concrete ways.

I remember visiting an African-American congregation near our home, where the pastor asked the people, “What’s God been doing in your life lately?” Whereas Lutherans would have sat in shocked silence, the people in this church, probably accustomed to the pastor posing that question often, responded one after another by standing and giving their answers, each followed by a vigorous round of applause.

Whether we think of ourselves as aliens, strangers, nomads, or pilgrims on this earth, it is because we follow Jesus, and that often takes us into new ways of living!

First Reading

Commentary on 1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21

Cameron B.R. Howard

The call of Elisha is not like other prophetic call narratives in the Old Testament.

This story lacks the dramatic visions of Ezekiel, the cherubim and seraphim of Isaiah, the burning bush of Moses, or even Jeremiah’s reassuring word from God. In fact, Elisha’s call does not involve any direct encounter with God at all. Instead, it is the prophet Elijah who initiates Elisha’s change in vocation.

The first stage of Elisha’s new call is to be a follower and servant — a disciple, as it were — of this holy man. Elisha will later be described as the man “who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah” (2 Kings 3:11). The LORD tells Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place (1 Kings 19:16), language usually reserved for kings or priests, and such an apprenticeship with the prophet likely implied succession.

Nevertheless, this scene at 1 Kings 19:19-21 ends with Elisha ministering to Elijah (vayshartehu), not prophesying with him. The same verb is used in Genesis, for example, to describe Joseph’s relationship to Pharaoh (Genesis 39:4). Later, after Elijah is taken up into heaven, Elisha will begin to exhibit prophetic powers, but when Elijah first calls Elisha, he calls him to discipleship. It is thus understandable if Elisha’s call brings to mind New Testament accounts of the calls of Jesus’ disciples more readily than the call narratives of the Old Testament prophets.

The moment of Elisha’s “anointing” happens not with a pouring of oil, but rather with the throwing of Elijah’s cloak. The precise cultural resonances of Elijah’s mantle-toss are lost to us today. It is unclear whether this was a recognized symbol of apprenticeship, a common custom among prophets, or a gesture unique to Elijah himself. In any case, Elisha seems to understand the significance of the move.

Moreover, Elijah’s mantle will continue to provide a powerful symbol of prophetic vocation and prophetic succession throughout the Elijah-Elisha narratives. When Elijah is later taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:1-14), Elisha picks up Elijah’s fallen mantle, invokes the name of the LORD, and is able to perform the same miracle with the mantle that Elijah had previously. Thus, Elijah’s draping of his mantle over Elisha foreshadows the exchange of the mantle yet to come.

When Elisha slaughters the oxen that had previously provided his livelihood, he makes a powerful statement of vocational commitment. There is no going back to his former way of life. Elisha must be prompted to make this move, cued by Elijah: “Go back, for what have I done to you?” This statement may be a rhetorical rebuke, but it may also be a question for which Elisha, at least for himself, must provide a real answer. What claim does this call make on his life? What ties must he leave behind?

Though Elisha will not perform any prophetic miracles before Elijah is taken up to heaven, his actions with the oxen show that he is indeed more than a servant. He is a prophet-in-training. Elijah has been associated consistently throughout the Kings narrative with water and food, particularly in times of drought and famine brought on by the apostasies of kings. He has made plenty out of the widow of Zarephath’s scarcity (1 Kings 17:8-16), he has been fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:6), and the angel of the LORD has brought him bread and water in the wilderness (1 Kings 19:6). Elisha, too, will cleanse fetid waters (2 Kings 2:19-22) and fill a widow’s empty jars with oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). By slaughtering his oxen and feeding the people with them, Elisha establishes himself, like Elijah, as a source of God’s great abundance.

Elisha’s call narrative will rightly prompt many sermons about vocation and discipleship. How do we recognize God’s call in our lives? What signs of our talents and gifts have we seen in the past, and what must we give up to embrace the future God is making for us? How have we seen God’s work manifested in mentors, friends, or strangers? Have we apprenticed ourselves to scarcity and fear or to abundance and hope?

Though Elisha may not know anything about Elijah’s dark night of the soul (1 Kings 19:4) in the earlier part of this chapter, we readers have been given a glimpse of the prophet’s gloom. We know that the prophetic call can be full of danger, loneliness, and despair. The prophet stands against the most powerful men in the land — the kings — and opposes their status quo. Elisha’s eagerness to follow Elijah may thus seem a bit naïve. Here the resonances with New Testament visions of discipleship become insuppressible for the Christian reader.

All four Gospel accounts describe Jesus addressing the soon-to-be disciples with the call, “Follow me.” With no hesitation, they put down their old work and take up this new vocation. It can seem absurd in its abruptness. Where is the risk assessment? Where is the accounting of their savings or their retirement portfolios? Why aren’t they holding out for 2.5 children and a house on a cul-de-sac instead?

A commitment to discipleship requires an about-face, a total turn away from the world’s values and toward God’s. The Bible witnesses to the nature of this call again and again, be it in the story of Moses and the burning bush, of Elisha under Elijah’s mantle, or of the disciples’ setting down their nets. I am reminded of the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus,” which sums up this commitment to discipleship in starkly poignant terms: “The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.”

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

Karla Suomala

Transition is never easy.

Whether it’s from one generation to the next, from one president to the next, or from one pastor to the next, the transfer of leadership can produce tension and anxiety in any community. This was certainly the case with Elijah and Elisha and their prophetic community in 2 Kings 2. Today’s portion marks the conclusion of Elijah’s career, the point at which he must concede his power and position to his younger apprentice, Elisha.

Emerging in 9th century, in the wake of the division of the United Kingdom of Israel into two separate nations — Israel and Judah — Elijah and Elisha also mark a transition in Israelite prophecy. Unlike those before them who fulfilled prophetic responsibilities as part of their larger callings as leaders (i.e., Moses, Deborah, Samuel), Elijah and Elisha were called to be prophets in a new way.

They operated completely outside the system, with no official recognition or compensation. Much like the Blues Brothers, they were free agents who were “on a mission from God!” In 1 Kings 13–2 Kings 17, they marked out careers in which they performed miracles and healings and called Israel and its leaders to task, sometimes by violent means.

An Abrupt Transition
2 Kings 2 begins with no advance warning by announcing that the transition in prophetic leadership is imminent: “God was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:1). The text almost seems to assume that we as readers were expecting this to come at some point, and shouldn’t really be surprised. But there really isn’t any narrative build-up to this moment. It comes out of left field, taking us by surprise.

Reading this text again, I began to wonder if I had missed something in all my earlier work with the Elijah-Elisha stories: When did God decide to take Elijah up into heaven? And why would God do so when Elijah was still presumably at the height of his career (and serving God did not generally involve early retirement)? In a broader sense, I wondered what this text communicates about transition in general.

A Day in the Life of Elijah
Elijah knew well that being a critic of the system was not for the faint of heart. The hostility between King Ahab of Israel (and his Queen Jezebel) and Elijah was deep and characterized by violence. In one of the best-known episodes in this relationship, Elijah issues a challenge to Ahab, telling him to assemble all of his idolatrous prophets on Mt. Carmel. Elijah intends to settle, once and for all, their disagreement over who speaks authentically for the divine (Yahweh in the case of Elijah, Baal and Asherah in the case of Ahab). At the end of the day, Elijah has scored a victory for God, but 850 prophets are dead. This event comes to characterize Elijah’s approach to his prophetic task — uncompromising and often brutal.

On the run from Ahab after his performance at Mt. Carmel, Elijah sums up his predicament, complaining, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away’” (1 Kings 19:9-10). A bit later on in this passage, God informs Elijah that there are in fact “seven thousand in Israel … that have not bowed to Baal,” and that maybe it’s time to identify a successor to the prophetic role (1 Kings 19:18, 16).

Too zealous?
The previously unknown Elisha doesn’t take over immediately, but instead begins to serve as a “prophet-in-training” and Elijah’s loyal companion. Rabbis in the Jewish interpretive tradition suggest that this transition is precipitated by Elijah’s excessive zeal. Using Moses as a point of comparison, in large part because of the many parallels between the two figures, Elijah comes up short.

The rabbis point out that Moses’ attitude toward the Israelites was characterized by his concern for the people — even when they turned away from God. Elijah, on the other hand, seemed more concerned with his own disappointments and frustrations than with the people involved. Even after a direct encounter with God in a cave at Mt. Horeb reminiscent of Moses’ own encounter there, Elijah’s vision never expands to that of an advocate for the Israelites. He remains their most determined judge.

So 2 Kings 2, according to the rabbinic tradition, offers a solution to prophetic zealotry: God simply removes Elijah from the scene in a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire. The rabbis go on to point out that while Elisha did not shy away from violence, his career was characterized instead by healings and miracles for the people.

Transition on the Ground: Elijah’s Anxiety
Once we learn that Elijah’s chariot is about to arrive, 2 Kings 2 describes a strange journey that Elijah intends to travel alone — from Gilgal to Bethel, on to Jericho, and then to the Jordan River. But Elisha refuses to leave his master until the last possible moment, traveling with him. At each point along the way, the two are met by a company of prophets, and at each point, Elijah tells Elisha not to continue on with him. Perhaps Elijah is hoping that if he just keeps moving he can postpone the inevitable transition. After all, someone who has been “zealous” for the Lord is not the type to throw in the towel easily, especially when his career is about to be cut short.

Elisha Takes his Master’s Place
Sometimes scholars suggest that it was Elisha who was afraid to let his master go, but it’s possible that there is more to it than that. Elisha is realizing that he will be left, but that no clear path of succession has been paved for him. Will all of these other prophets recognize his leadership, as the prophet among prophets? Perhaps with this in mind, he requests a double-portion of Elijah’s powerful spirit.

For an ancient audience, this corresponds to the inheritance due to the oldest son. Elisha, then, is not simply asking for “double the power” but also for an established position in Elijah’s prophetic legacy. Elijah tells Elisha that he is indeed asking a hard thing, but tells him “if you see me as I am being taken from you,” his request will be granted.

Elisha, in fact, witnesses his master’s departure and with his double portion, he picks up Elijah’s fallen mantle before the watching prophets on the other side of the Jordan, and splits the water in two. With this clear demonstration of his right as successor, Elisha crosses to take his place as the prophet among prophets in Elijah’s stead.


Commentary on Psalm 16

J. Clinton McCann, Jr.

In recent years, Psalms scholarship has been inclined to attend more carefully to the sequencing of the poems.

To be sure, it is not always possible to discern meaningful relationships among neighboring psalms; but the question is worth asking. In the case of Psalm 16, we can say at least that it makes really good sense following Psalm 15 (note also the linkage suggested by “never be moved” in 15:5 and “not be moved” in 16:8).

Psalm 15 is usually categorized as an entrance liturgy and, having entered the Temple (or more symbolically, having affirmed the desire and intent to live in God’s presence), the psalmist responds in Psalm 16 with a brief opening prayer (verses 1-2) followed by an extended profession of trust in God (verses 3-8). God is addressed directly again in verses 10-11, so the language of prayer (verses 1-2, 10-11) encompasses the extended profession of trust (and note too the brief direct address of God in a portion of verse 5).

Even the prayer portions have the character of an affirmation of faith, so Psalm 16 is ordinarily classified as a psalm of trust/assurance/confidence. In fact, Erhard Gerstenberger, a major form critic, labels Psalm 16 not only a “Song of Confidence,” but also a “Confession of Faith.” And Gerstenberger concludes, “The psalm can be compared in its function with the Apostles’ Creed in Christian worship.”[1]

The Apostles’ Creed, of course, is a (perhaps the) foundational Christian creed. If Psalm 16 is really comparable, as Gerstenberger suggests, it may be helpful to think about Psalm 16 as something like a poetic expression of and elaboration upon the faith affirmed in the first of the Ten Commandments — “no other gods” (Exodus 20:3) — and in the pivotally important Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

In short, Psalm 16 is a lovely and eloquent poetic rendering of Israel’s radical monotheism. Each of its sections — verses 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-11 — offers a variation on the theme of “no other gods” or “the LORD alone.”

Verse 1 features the major psalmic concept of “refuge,” which is introduced in Psalm 2:12 and appears frequently, especially in Book I (Psalms 1-41; see 5:11; 7:1; 11:1; 14:6; and more). To “take refuge” in God means to trust God unreservedly. This, in turn, means to submit the self fully to God, as the psalmist indicates that she or he has done by addressing God as “my Lord” in verse 2.

The theme of “the LORD alone” culminates in the conclusion to verse 2. The word “good” refers to the resources, material and otherwise, that make life possible; so the psalmist affirms that his or her life derives from and depends solely upon God.

Verses 3-4 are notoriously difficult, and translations vary considerably. According to the NRSV construal, the psalmist expresses exclusive loyalty to God by honoring those who honor God (verse 3), as well as by avoiding every semblance of idolatry (verse 4).

In contrast to those who drink idolatrous offerings (verse 4), the LORD is the psalmist’s only “cup” (verse 5). But the real unifying feature of verses 5-6 is the language of land-settlement that is drawn from the book of Joshua — “”portion” (Joshua 19:9), “lot” (18:6, 8), “boundary lines” (17:5, NRSV “portions”), and “heritage” (14:3; 17:6; NRSV “inheritance”). Because land represented access to life, the affirmation again is that the psalmist’s life derives from and depends solely upon God.

The affirmation “I will bless the LORD” (Psalm 16:7) reinforces the psalmist’s submission to God (see verse 2), since “bless” seems originally to have meant something like to “kneel in obeisance to.” The mention of “counsel” and round-the-clock instruction recalls Psalm 1 (see “advice” in 1:1 and “night” in 1:2), which opens the Psalter by orienting readers exclusively to God and God’s will, as a matter of life and death. Verse 8 continues the focus on the constancy of God’s presence, which proves to be the psalmist’s sole source of stability (see 15:5, and compare 13:4 where “shaken” represents the same Hebrew root).

The variation on the theme of “the LORD alone” involves anthropological language in verse 9: “heart,” “soul” (more literally “glory”), and “body.” The psalmist’s whole being is involved in the unreserved commitment to God. So the psalmist does what all Israel does in 14:7 in responses to God’s life-giving presence: “is glad” and “rejoices.” The Hebrew root underlying “secure” (verse 9) is ordinarily translated “trust,” reinforcing the opening affirmation of refuge found in God. The result is life (verse 10; “Sheol” and “the Pit” are names for the realm of the dead).

Not surprisingly, “the path of life” is mentioned explicitly in verse 11. This verse serves well as a culmination, since its vocabulary recalls earlier sections of the poem — see “pleasures” and “pleasant places” (verses 6, 11), “right hand” (verses 8, 11), and “joy”/”rejoices” (verses 9, 11). The repetition summarizes and reinforces the message of the whole; that is, the psalmist’s joyful affirmation that his or her life derives from and is dependent upon “the LORD alone.”

The appearance of Psalm 16 in the lectionary is an opportunity both to appreciate its artistic beauty and to open ourselves to the challenge of Israel’s radical monotheism. In our pervasively self-centered context, for instance, what difference might it make if we entertained the conviction that life is not something we achieve, but rather something we receive as a gift from God? What difference might it make if we viewed the life-sustaining resources that most of us enjoy not as something we have earned or deserve, but rather as evidence of God’s goodness? Might a pervasive sense of entitlement begin to be replaced by a posture of humility and gratitude?

My tradition tries to capture the challenge of Israel’s radical monotheism in the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which I paraphrase as follows): “What is the chief end of humankind? The chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” A symptom of our dis-ease is the fact that enjoying God is essentially nonsensical to most of us. But the psalmist knew what it meant to enjoy God! What difference might it make if we began to try to ground our pleasure and joy not in self nor in stuff but in God? It’s worth a try!

[1] Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms: Part I(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 90.

Second Reading

Commentary on Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Sarah Henrich

After his awkward, self-identified allegory of Hagar and Sarah (Galatians 4:22-31) in which freedom was connected with the idea of being an heir (4:30-31) and both freedom and heir connected with being the child promised to Abraham and Sarah, Paul seems to draw breath only to issue his ringing call in a resounding repetition of words in 5:1. In the word order of the Greek text you would hear this: “For freedom us Christ has freed.”

The sentence is enveloped in freedom language and we are with Christ inside that envelope. Freedom surrounds us and will continue to shape our lives. Our reading moves directly from that declaration and clarion call (“stand fast and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery) to the words of freedom in verse 13.

Again Paul makes the strongest possible emphasis on the “you” plural address. Again he frames the sentence with words describing the addressees: “You all,” “brothers,” “You all have been chosen for freedom.” He repeats the confident assertion of 5:1 by making personal and direct and clear, that “you all” have been chosen for freedom indeed, but Paul moves on very quickly to define the freedom.

It is not a wild, abstract freedom from restraint. Paul’s freedom does not create the culture we have become — at least not in his mind or on purpose. Paul proclaims the freedom with the passive voice of having been chosen by an implied agent, God. To be chosen by God for freedom, to have been freed by Christ is to have been freed from the dire results of life lived apart from God. It is also a call into freedom that in some ways mirrors God’s own, that is a freedom dedicated to serving others in love.

In the profundity of 5:13, Paul shows us both God and ourselves, free precisely for the purpose of service to others through love. This is to be a short essay on this passage from Galatians. Yet each of those words — free, serve, others, love — deserves its own deep exploration. I leave it to you: a sermon series on a verse? Perhaps it would refresh us all. For today, however, we need to keep going because Paul explores these ideas in the following verses.

We are freed to participate in a law, an instruction from God that is entirely contained in the great command from Leviticus 19:18 (LXX): You shall love your neighbor as yourself. That would be a “you singular”, each of you, each one of you. Love your particular neighbor. There is the law in this sense: it is God’s way of being and God’s instruction or even description for a human way of being. Now, Paul believed, such a way was open to all baptized in Christ Jesus.

I honestly run out of English words here. “Law” has such a strong sound echoing with long histories of Christian and Jewish debate and with histories of law codes, increasingly debated and enforced by bureaucratic means. Yet law as nomos does not have all those implications. Rather it speaks of God’s sharing with us what human being is to be, was created to be and what kinds of consequences there are when we ignore the calling and nature God has given.

For Paul, we are not called into some cloudy and vague spiritual world. We, along with all those first-century believers, have been called into a world that is empowered by, filled with, and shaped in accordance with the Spirit. Verse 16 makes this very clear: I continue to say this, keep on walking by the spirit and by no means make the desires of the flesh your goal. Paul has every expectation that this congregation (with whom, do not forget, he is remonstrating in very sharp terms) will be able and ought to heed him. He believes that they can distinguish between the values of a world seen through and by the Spirit and one that is not.

Yes, he gives examples of each in subsequent verses. He is intent, mentioning that he has spoken of the same things earlier (verse 21), but enumerating them again because they are brutally dangerous. Such behaviors, feared throughout the ancient world, would separate one from God’s reign. The world shaped by God’s Spirit seen in Jesus the Messiah had no room for the kinds of dangerous behaviors Paul lays out.

From idol worship to witchcraft to jealousy, these are not small peccadilloes but behaviors potentially fatal to practitioners and communities. They are useful only to achieve something in a world shaped by cultural limits, cultural definitions. Here the preacher may wish to be more current and surely will not have trouble probing the limits of our imagination. I imagine, for instance, arming teachers as one such instance of a world or flesh-defined good that only increases the downward spiral of this world.

It is also worth noting that when Paul speaks both of the behaviors to eschew and those to embrace, he uses a present tense verb, suggesting on-going practice. Verse 21 refers to “those who continue to practice such things.” Paul is well aware that human community and human life take “practice” over time, require learning and starting again. It is to that life of on-going learning, practice, and beginning again that he calls believers.

It matters deeply how believers live into a world they perceive as belonging to God rather than to any of the pagan gods or to no god with any interest in or commitment to humankind. Paul’s God is a particular God with particular qualities who has particular expectations and understandings those who belong among God’s people. This was an unusual concept in the ancient world. Perhaps it still is, though our deep shock at clerical misbehavior is a sign that we still imagine commitment to God means something about our lives.

Paul’s final words on this topic here in Galatians come in verses 24-26. By way of reminder he tells his hearers that they are Christ’s and with Christ have crucified the flesh. That dimension of life, once perhaps all they knew, is not the only one available to them. Indeed, they have died to it and been inducted into a life with new standards, new values, new ways of being, and new power to live it.

This power, God’s own Spirit, has become available to women and men alike, to slave and free, Jew and Greek as we saw in the reading from last week. It is this new life that Paul urges believers to claim. Do not look back to a world where supervision was necessary because we could not walk by the Spirit. Embrace your freedom to reject those values and ways. Live for one another, as God has lived for you.

A final word: all this harkens back to the claim that believers have been rescued from the present age (read: flesh) by God through Jesus (1:4). In this section we hear how this matters for real life.