“You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Rom. 8:15
Jesus came to set us free from sin and death and give us an abundant life. Just as he provided for his people in the wilderness under the most trying of circumstances, he wants to lavish his riches on us, beginning with peace of mind—an outcome of being made right with God.
He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
O wretch that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”.
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
“The Rev. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and a pioneer in the worldwide Christian contemplative prayer movement, popularized what is now known as centering prayer, a method of silent prayer that allows one to rest in the presence of God.” (NY Times, Oct 2018) His belief in the love and provision of God allowed him to confidently declare, “If we really trust God, we don’t have a care in the world.”
Where does that assurance come from? Much of our time and imagination is consumed with overcoming our fears. I heard a generation Xer assert, “What we worry about changes over time; the constant is that we worry.” Whether it be the most basic of needs for economic security or the more esoterical needs for meaning and deliverance from the fear of death, our minds fixate on the “what ifs.” Depression can lead a person to dark thoughts that never go away. “O wretch that I am! who can deliver me from this body of death?” The gospel responds: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:56-57)
Jesus came to connect us with our creator who lavished riches and love upon us. As the Hebrew Bible puts it, “In the beginning God saw that it was “tov me’ode” (very good). In pride and self-centeredness, we broke that relationship and experienced separation from the good. Fear and death entered the world. Through the resurrection of Jesus, we see that we can be free from that fear. Sin no longer rules; death is defeated. We are invited to call God “Abba” (Father).
Lord, we do not need to be afraid. You have come to give us an abundant life of joy and hope. The enemy of our souls reminds us that we are mortal: susceptible to death and want. You tell us that we are forgiven, loved, and guaranteed eternal life. Let us live in that assurance. Amen.