Genesis 25:19-34 Jacob and Esau
Psalm 119:105-112 Your word is a lamp to my feet
Or 119:1-8 Happy are those who walk in the law of the Lord
Romans 8:1-11 No condemnation to those who are in Christ
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 The parable of the sower
Sermon – Ordinary 15 Year A (Pentecost +6), 16 July 2017)
What do you think? Is human nature inclined towards God? Or, is it opposed? Do you think the basic life-force of humanity seeks union with its Creator, or separation?
These are basic issues, affecting our attitudes on many other questions. For example, what do you make of the popular psychology of self actualization, or the human potential movement? What do you make of the resurgence of paganism in Western society, in which what were once called primitive religions are being explored and attempts are made to revive pagan religious practices? Do you think that people might also be seeking something for themselves, some secret knowledge, long hidden, buried under a load of Christian beliefs in a previously dominant culture? If you think there is value in secret knowledge, in human spirituality and its affinity with natural things; and if you think that the ancient nature religions are a source of hope for humanity, then you share a great deal with the people amongst whom the early Christians lived.
When Paul contrasts being ‘in the flesh’ and being ‘in the Spirit’ he points to something in human nature that is opposed to God as well as a capacity for accepting a loving relationship with God: (Romans 8:7a,8). He does recognize a desire to please God, but sees it as a rather hopeless desire (Romans 7:18-20). So it is a little more complex than human nature either seeking God or being opposed.
People in the West in recent times have generally welcomed talk of undisciplined spirituality which builds on the essential goodness of human nature and its potential, while they dismiss talk of sin as old fashioned, negative and limiting. History never repeats itself, but they say “Human nature doesn’t change”. Some certainly have cried out with Paul, (Romans 7:24) Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?, and have later exclaimed with him (Romans 7:25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! That is the context for Paul’s teaching about flesh and Spirit in Romans Chapter 8, which he introduces, not with despair born of failure, but the opposite (Romans 8:1-2); it is only given with that message of hope (Romans 8:5-6; 14-17)[ ]