Daily Devotion – April 4, 2020 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
In the Book of Romans (perhaps Luther’s favorite letter of Paul), Paul writes to comfort fearful people. In fact the passage for this week is meant particularly for that. We don’t know if a plague was rearing its ugly head at the moment Paul was writing; certainly there was frequent cholera and typhus everywhere Paul lived. But in Luther’s day, the plague came many times to Europe and people were much closer to death than we are in the 21st century. We can avoid thinking about it altogether most of the time, and so we do. But in Paul’s day and Luther’s day, people just had to deal with death all the time.
Paul wants his readers/hearers to set aside the flesh and set their minds on God the Creator, and on Jesus, whom God raised from the dead to conquer death and give us hope, and on the Spirit, who dwells with us whether we acknowledge it or not. It’s as if Paul is saying something like this:
“I know you are concentrating right now on your bodies and on the bodies of the people you love. In your good times, that fixation is going to entertain you and so involve you that you will forget about God the Father, Son, and Spirit. In your bad times that fixation is going to scare you to death. Cut it out.”
“For five minutes, just set your mind on God, for heaven’s sake. In God there is life and hope.”
Luther wrote, “Life is full of misery. Think upon the Prince of Peace.”
It’s pretty easy to focus on the perishable nature of the flesh, of our bodies. Especially when there is danger nearby. All the more reason to use the time we have in these bodies to be helpful and hopeful and invest our energy in lifting up one another. So for five minutes each morning, let us set our minds on the Triune God and use the peace and life that comes from that investment to pay it out to our brothers and sisters, our parents and grandchildren, our neighbors and friends. Paying out the life and hope we receive every morning to folks who don’t have any – that could expand the amount of life and hope by quite a lot. What a harvest we might have!
Dear Lord God,
Come to us each morning. Tap us on the shoulder and remind us to set our minds on you. Work your work in us so that we may share it with everyone else. It is abundant, you are gracious, and we need reminding, but we can participate. Amen.