In my pre-shower, pre-coffee, befuddled morning state, I press the power button on the small radio, pre-tuned to my favorite station. As a long-time listener, I recognize the voices broadcasting news from world, country, state and community. Lately the information hasn’t been particularly uplifting, but at least this station offers little editorializing so—while I don’t hear butterflies-and-rainbows commentary or its gloom and doom opposite—at least it’s usually factual. I want to be well informed, and the commentaries—especially weather reports for Colorado’s storm-prone summer afternoons—often influence my daily activities and my mental meanderings during those activities.
Recently when shower and coffee had completed their morning rejuvenation purpose, I opened my Bible to the eighth chapter of Romans. (If you’re not familiar with the Bible, that’s the sixth book of the New Testament.) In these paragraphs, the Apostle Paul described for the Christians of Rome what I call a freely-walking-with-Christ-life. No longer weighed down by penalty of the Law (which no one could keep anyhow), Paul says that “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
Sidebar: Romans 8:1 became, and continues to be, a personal lifegiving whisper of long sought freedom. But more about that some other time.
As Paul is wont to do, he goes on at some length😏 to lay a superb theological foundation for all that Christ did on the cross to purchase our freedom. Many translations render Paul’s sound message with introductory words and phrases (all important of course) that I could wade through more easily if I’d pay closer attention to sentence parsing during my grade school days at Patchin School in Michigan. But instead of simply skipping over the magnificent truth of Romans eight until I had time for deeper study, I opened Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message.
Many of us are familiar with the usually translated words, by him (the Holy Spirit) we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8: 15) and even stand in awe at the implied intimacy with God since “Abba” was the Aramaic equivalent of “Daddy” as a familiar form of address. “Abba, Father.” A profound phrase that leaves my spirit quiet, humble, grateful.
But with his skill as a scholar and preacher, Peterson “lays it out” in language too clear to misunderstand or ignore. Here’s what he writes: God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
“WHAT’S NEXT, PAPA??!” How do you read those words? What’s your tone of voice? What emotions surface as you say them aloud? How can we read them in the midst of pandemic, rioting, global uncertainty? As the morning news influences my day, how might “What’s next, Papa?” impact my day?
And that’s where I leave you for now! If you care to respond, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just let the question simmer with you for a few days. I’ll be back…