Thursday 28 May 2015

Bible Book:

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (vv. 15-16)

Romans 8:14-17 Thursday 28 May 2015

Psalm: Psalm 139


In the Graeco-Roman world of Paul's time, the institution ofslavery was the underpinning of the economic order; it would havefelt completely normal. The relationships between masters andslaves could vary a great deal, though of course every slave wassubject to the will, or whim, of their master or mistress. Anyonecould find themselves in this situation of bonded labour, if theywere unfortunate enough to be conquered in battle or ended up inimpossible debt, so some slaves were well-educated and heldresponsible posts. But many slaves were born into the condition. Itwas possible to be freed; many masters gave their slaves theirfreedom as a legacy in their wills, and such 'freedmen' took thesurname of their former master and could inherit significant wealth- but they remained ex-slaves.

But there was another way in which your status could be changed,and this was completely transformative. Not only children butadults could be formally adopted into someone's family, takingtheir name and in every sense being given the status of an heir.This was an honour usually granted by someone who had no heir butchose a young man (it was usually a man) they respected to be theirson. So when Paul speaks about the "spirit of adoption", this iswhat he means. Becoming a Christian and receiving the Spirit of Godgives us every conceivable right to address God as our father inthe most intimate way, as one whom he regards as truly hischild.

This passage also conveys beautifully what is going on when weutter our prayers to God. We do not need to rely on our ownefforts, but on the Spirit who is "bearing witness with ourspirit", whether or not we know what words to use. I am part of ateam at church who do Godly Play with the children (a special wayof creating sacred space and letting them hear a Bible story), andat the end we have a prayer time. We have a candle and a littleceramic dove, which represents the Holy Spirit, and I tell them howthe Spirit helps us pray without words. Then these small childreneasily and reverently hold a deep silence together as we let theSpirit help us pray.

To Ponder

  • Are you ever gripped by a spirit of fear - perhaps due toanxiety, stress, loneliness or grief?  If so, how does it helpto recall this passage?
  • Try spending some time in silence, inviting God's Spirit tobear witness with your spirit as you pray without words.


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