1 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.
9 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.
The apostle Paul set a high standard for the way Christians go about our daily lives. Our “appropriate service” to God, he wrote to the Christians in Rome, is to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice.” In his day, as in ours, that approach to life was not a part of the culture’s “common sense.” To live it out would take inner transformation, not conformity to the world’s values and practices. We need to change the way we think: “This world” is literally “this age”; the “renewing of your mind,” then, includes thinking as citizens of the coming new world.”*
Dear God, I offer my life to you as a living sacrifice. Keep transforming me from the inside out, so that I don’t climb off the altar every time you call me to something challenging. Amen.
* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 256236-256237). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 256260-256262). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
My wife, Doris, and I are co-creating a Bible study for her Live! Women’s Bible Study this fall based on favorite children’s books of yesteryear. The working title is “Biblical Lessons from Your Childhood Bookshelf,” where we look at classic children’s books like A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, Madeline, and Amelia Bedelia to see what Godly insights they might offer.
Using (some snarky souls might claim abusing) our Couple’s Small Group, we spent an evening with Curious George last week as a dry run. Our hostess, Joni, and their daughter, Michala, helped add to the festive atmosphere with yellow-hat-shaped-treats, banana bread, and Monkey Juice as a beverage.
Curious George was the creation of H.A. Rey & his wife Margaret. They were social friends as kids in Hamburg, Germany in the early 1900’s, but met up again when they were both living in Rio de Janeiro. They fell in love, got married, & raised 2 mischievous marmosets as pets in their apartment. For their honeymoon, they traveled to Paris, France, and, loving the creative energy of the city, stayed for 4 years.
With the onset of WWII, the Nazi’s began to threaten France with invasion. The Reys, being Jewish, fled Paris on bicycles early one morning carrying only some bread and cheese, H.A.’s pipe, and their manuscripts of a playful monkey. (A border official, concerned that their bulging briefcase was filled with stolen documents, stopped them for questioning in the midst of their journey. Seeing the colorful drawings of the friendly monkey, he smiled and let them pass.) Their escape via bike, train, and ship would take 4 months of hurry-up-and-wait travels via South America to eventually reach the U.S.A.
H.A. commented later that it felt foolish to be writing children’s stories of a mischievous monkey in the midst of the horrors of war. (His use of bright colors was to defiantly contrast the gray & black he felt around him.) Yet the Reys, a la Paul’s urging in today’s passage, wouldn’t let the world’s groupthink dictate how they felt or how they acted. The Reys didn’t pretend their circumstances weren’t grim - rather, they sought to transform their conditions by living joyfully in the midst of their bleak situation. Perhaps we, too, could choose to not let societal norms chart the course of our own lives, but rather live lives in accordance with what we know to be good and right.
I would submit Curious George is so appealing because he, just like us, is flawed. There are no bad guys in his misadventures. His troubles are the result of his not listening to instructions or because he just couldn’t resist some temptation. Yet, interestingly, The Man in the Yellow Hat is always there to offer him a hand and to bring him safely home. Many of Curious George’s naughty escapades end with the pajama-clad George safely snuggled in the lap of The Man in the Yellow Hat as they share a story about dinosaurs in a tall wingback chair – as if to remind us that nothing, not even painting an apartment to look like a jungle, will be able to separate us from the love of God.
And with that, I’m going to buy some Curious George flowers – aka Chimp-pansies.
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