I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Romans 12:1-8
B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …
C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday, August 21st in Ordinary Time
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1 “Living sacrifice” versus animal sacrifices.
2 What does being conformed to this world feel like? Being transformed to be living sacrifices.
3 The “Holier than Thou” need not apply.
4-8 Recalls Paul’s frequent illustration suggesting individuals as members of a physical body, with each adding to the whole.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Paring the pericope to vv. 1-8 focuses the discussion to how being transformed is exhibited.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: Christians are to be living sacrifices, demonstrating God to the world, yet humbly accepting the imperfections of our efforts, and recognizing the gifts of others so that jointly we might embody a holy and acceptable worship.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- Transformed to be perfect, yet reliant on others to be complete.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- Sacrifice may be heard as an onus to bear rather than as a gift to presented.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Paul Achtemeier (Interpretation: Romans, John Knox Press, 1985) notes “that unity cannot be reduced to sheer uniformity,” as diverse members and ways of acting enrich the Christian community. He suggests a sermon on the costs of conformity, a sermon that those wishing to leave the denomination need to hear.
In “How to according to Romans” ??? calls this section the Pauline beatitudes. Each person should understand their spiritual gifts and use them in harmony, so that every member or part of the body is recognized as necessary and important.
N. Thomas Wright (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Letter to Romans”, Abingdon, 2002) exegetes the word “sacrifices” as conjuring in 1st century hearers images of animal sacrifices. Thus believers are to present themselves as sacrifices, but not to be burned but to live in contrast to the world.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
Paul is beginning a section describing how Christians act differently from others.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
Live your life so that others may see how you have been transformed by Christ.