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What is the good life? That’s the question humans have asked themselves over the ages. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428– 348 BCE), widely considered one of the most important and influential individuals in human history, and one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality; stated that defining the good life is the question that philosophy seeks to answer. How do we choose between two actions? What is the better path? How do we live with one another? Does good for me come at the expense of good for another? When it’s complicated which good do I prioritize, my own?; or that of my neighbor?
Psalm 84 wrestles with this fundamental question. The poet asserts that the good life – being happy, lead-ing a life of integrity, is rooted in community with God. It’s living in the house of God: the Temple, the space where heaven and earth meet and God dwells. It’s described as a place of birth and nurturing, like an oasis of water that springs forth in a barren and lonesome land. It seems as if the poet is evoking this “good life” in the face of a challenge or threat. He asks for strength, rekindling his hope as he focuses on the proximity, promise and providence of God.
In Romans 6, Paul continues his theological project of explaining how the world is and how God in Christ makes it new. He has explained who God is, what God wants from and with us, and how sin (“missing the mark” – or “our failure to be part of God’s purpose”) keeps us from knowing this life-fulfilling community. We can’t repair our failure on our own. We can’t redeem our world of hurt with our own force and imagination. Instead we have to look to Jesus – his teachings, his life, his death – as the Way in which we rediscover what life is about, who God is, who we are created to be, how God has always intended for us to be intimately and intricately involved in the divine purpose of fulfillment, blessing and community of creation.
Paul talks of the good life as the new normal. In Christ we can access a radically different, free, and liberating way of holy living. Holiness is the word for describing what God is, where God dwells, how God moves – the new normal to which God invites us. To enter in to this dwelling place, this way of life, we have to die in the waters of baptism and be resurrected into this new normal.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION & EXAMEN:
• What engaged you, enraged you, or surprised you in the text?
• Psalm 48 paints a poetic picture of what it means to life a life of integrity or happiness. How would you describe such a life in your own words?
• Paul talks of baptism as a death to an old life and a birth to a new life, like going down into the water to drown and being lifted up to a new existence. How have you experience baptism (or daily faith) as this sort of resurrection? If not, why not?
• To what do you want to die? For what do you want to live more fully?
• How is the Spirit of God inviting you – or us as a church – to act, speak, be or change through this word?
CLICK HERE to download a text study sheet PDF on these scriptures.