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If you ever get to Venice, one of the places to see is Saint Mark's Square, the spot Napoleon called "the drawing room of Europe." But if you go there, make sure your belly is covered up. It’s not that there's exactly a dress code, but there is an expectation of decorum. At any given time there can be thousands of people in this famous square which is surrounded by great architecture and sites of historic importance. But some people just don’t get it, and they aren’t above wandering onto the square bare-chested or with their midriff exposed. Some carelessly drop litter and others try to set out picnic lunches on the square. Still others treat the nearby Grand Canal as if it were a beach.

So recently, in addition to posting signs naming the prohibitions, they have started employing a squad of women as stewards of the square to make sure tourists are not taking unwarranted liberties and pay due respect to the historic property. These stewards wear special T-shirts to identify their role and they try to do their work in a friendly way. They speak several languages so as to deal with foreign tourists. Most visitors who are corrected by a steward respond positively. However, when tourists turn aggressive, the women are able to call in police backup who can hand out fines ranging from 25 to 500 Euros. Actually, the stewards aren’t there to stop people from enjoying themselves, but to remind them of the importance of conducting themselves in a way that recognizes the specialness of the place.

Our reason for discussing all this is not to lament the state of our dress or manners, but to illustrate the idea that there are times and places where we need a steward to direct us in how to be in the square of life. That can be hard to hear in our individualist, don’t-fence-me-in society, but it's true nonetheless. And that brings us to our reading from Romans, where the apostle Paul contrasts what he calls life in the flesh with life in the Spirit. Romans 8:1-11.

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