Daily Riches: First-Century Faith Today (Diana Butler Bass and Rodney Stark)

“As much as contemporary believers might find similarities between our time and that of Christianity in ancient Rome, the two are not the same. The ancient Mediterranean world that Rome once ruled was a vast, culturally diverse set of societies, unrelated by languages, economics, religions, and histories, all forced into political unity by a brutal military. Vast numbers of people who inhabited the Roman Empire resented or hated Roman rule and experienced few, if any, benefits from its social and economic structures. The empire was not in any modern way even vaguely democratic or inclusive; instead, it was a rigidly hierarchical and status-based world of haves and have-nots, of masters and slaves. Unlike a Hollywood sword-and-sandal film, the ancient world was not a pleasant place absent conveniences such as sewer systems and running water. As sociologist Rodney Stark describes, ‘Greco-Roman cities were small, extremely crowded, filthy beyond imagining, disorderly, filled with strangers, and afflicted with frequent catastrophes—fires, plagues, conquests, and earthquakes.’ Unlike Western urban life today, where even the poor have access to marginally acceptable services, ‘life in antiquity abounded in anxiety and misery’ for nearly everyone.” Diane Butler Bass

Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” 2 Corinthians 11:25-27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is your faith deep enough and strong enough that it would sustain you in a world like the one described?
  • Is the gospel you trust in and share with others sufficient for such a world? Would it make sense? Would it be heard as good news?
  • Imagine yourself living in that world. What would it mean to live like Jesus there?

Abba, thank you for the cushy life I enjoy. Show me what you expect of me in my privileged time and place.

For More: A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. If you liked this, please share it! I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: And They Say You Never Sing (Diane Butler Bass, Don and Emily Saliers, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Toby Mac, Wolf-Dieter Zimmerman)

“And they say you never sing.” Toby Mac (“Hey Devil”)

“Some experiences are beyond words; they call forth lyrics instead. Singing marks spiritual passages–both the formal ones of birth, marriage, and death, and the informal ones of commitment, doubt, and renewal. …In many ways Christians sing faith. Musicians Don and Emily Saliers think of music as ‘soul practice,’ because music awakens our souls to matters beyond the ordinary. At moments of change in Christian history, music often opens the path that cannot be articulated, for poetry and song take us to places that prose cannot. ‘Music is not simply an ornament of something already understood in words,’ writes the Salierses. ‘Rather, ordered sound mediates the world to our senses and animates–literally, ensouls–those who enter it deeply.’ …Martin Luther wrote hymns for congregations to sing in their own languages—a daring innovation. Although medieval people participated in the Mass, vernacular singing enabled people to experience the church’s liturgies in powerful new ways. Luther loved music. He played several instruments and once commented, ‘Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise.’ …Luther thought music aided people in memorizing scripture, thus deepening their understanding of the written word. Luther advised clergy to sing Bible readings during Sunday worship and encouraged congregants to sing during Holy Communion. …Beyond Germany, followers of the French reformer John Calvin … busily translated the psalms into metrical verse to be sung in unison during services. Calvin himself extolled music’s power to ‘delight,’ recognizing its ‘almost incredible power to sway hearts in one sense or another.’ And English reformers created entire sung services of biblical texts, psalms, and prayers in their native tongue.” Diana Butler Bass

“‘The hymns of the ancient church, of the Reformers, of the Bohemian brethren,’ the songs of those ‘who had lived and suffered through the Thirty Year’s War … all came alive for us … and we felt them to be our own. They mirrored our situation, they echoed our praise, they voiced our petitions, they articulated our repentance. In this group experience the church became once again a living reality for us, without boundaries of time or place, and we became increasingly conscious of being her members, men committed to her service, come what might.'” Wolf-Dieter Zimmerman, describing the experience of theological students in Bonhoeffer’s clandestine seminary

“Let the godly sing” Psalm 33:1

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • Have you experienced music’s power to transcend mere words?
  • Would people at church say of you that “you never sing?” If so, why is that?
  • How can you harness the “almost incredible power” of song for the good of your life with God?

For More: A Song to Sing … by Don and Emily Saliers


If you liked this, please share! I appreciate your interest! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)