Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How do you know?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 -- Week of Proper 14
(Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Seminarian and Witness for Civil Rights, 1965)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html (go to St. Paul's Home Page www.stpaulsfay.org and click "Morning Reflection podcast")


Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 978)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning) 94, [95] (evening)
2 Samuel 14:1-20
Acts 21:1-14
Mark 10:1-16

Last Sunday we had a session of "Grill the Priest" with the youth of our EYC (Episcopal Youth Community). One of the best questions that I got was from one of the young people who began with a quote from 1 Corinthians (10:13): "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." He asked, "How do you know what is to the glory of God? How do you know what God wants you to do for the glory of God?"

In some way all three readings wrestle with this question today. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul travels toward Jerusalem, visiting with the Christian communities at every stop. In Tyre some with prophetic gifts spoke to him. "Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem." In Caesarea the prophet Agabus offered a prophetic act to warn Paul that he would be handed over for punishment if he goes to Jerusalem.

Paul is steadfast in his conviction that he is called by God to travel to Jerusalem. He lives into one of the central themes of Luke's entire message reflecting upon how God's will is accomplished in the midst of rejection. "For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." He is confident of the will of God and what he should do "for the glory of God."

What an appropriate reading for the feast of Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian who came to Alabama during the voting rights struggle of 1965. He stepped in front of an angry white crowd to protect a black girl, and he took a fatal 12-gauge shotgun blast meant for her.

God's will is not so clear in 1 Samuel. We have the story of the complicated family relations of David. His general Joab manipulates a decision about the return of David's son Absalom. Traditional justice would demand Absalom's blood or banishment because he killed his half-brother Amnon for the rape of Tamar. But the actress from Tekoa plays to David's compassion, and he rules an exception to the tradition for her. It is really a ploy on behalf of the return of Absalom. David's compassion might have been rewarded, had Absalom acted with integrity, but this bending of the rules will not play out well. David is caught in a dilemma. What is God's will for David concerning Absalom?

Finally we have the questions in Mark about divorce and remarriage. Jesus makes a straightforward statement declaring all divorce as being against God's will. The exceptions that Jewish law allows were created "because of your hardness of heart," he says. The text goes further. Acknowledging that some may legally divorce, Jesus speaks an absolute ban on remarriage as long as the former spouse is still alive.

Until 1978 (I believe) the Episcopal Church followed this scripture and forbade any service of remarriage when a former spouse was still living. But people who had rediscovered the possibility of love, companionship and commitment with another person came asking the church's blessing upon a new life that felt like resurrection, new life and love coming out of the experience of the death of a former relationship. Our priests could not bless those new relationships. Typically a priest would refer the couple to a friendly Methodist pastor who would be free to conduct the marriage service.

After decades of seeing the fruit of the relationships of second marriages, many of which were loving, faithful, and life giving, the church changed its Canon to allow remarriage under some careful conditions. It was a controversial decision, but the witness of so many whose lives had been blessed after divorce turned the church's heart in compassion away from the tradition laid out in Mark 10. I think of our former Bishop Larry Maze who spoke of his divorce as his greatest failure and of his marriage to Beth as one of his greatest blessings. What is God's will "for the glory of God" for marriage and families, especially after the death of a relationship?

Lowell
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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
St
.
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

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11 Comments:

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God for the exceptance i feel at St.Paul's
i stumbled in there after years of feeling bad from an unnamed church who kicked me out and aside because i divorced from an abusive marriage. God would not want any one to be abused.
I learned lessons, have a great son and new family/life of 13 years i love and am loved. God understands this change and was with me threw it. i snuck into a St.Paul's service after a year of free yoga to find even in my ratty yoga cloths, with peirsings , dyed hair, and tattoo's i was excepted divorce remarige and all. i love my church home and am very thankful

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

Apparently the "seriousness of sin" does not apply to committing adultery. If Jesus' own words aren't more authoritative than the church, "how now shall we live"?

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Anonymous appears to have been the body part cut off from their previous church (as we discussed yesterday). I am glad Anonymous has been stitched back onto a new body. Jesus is performing transplant surgery in Arkansas! Now, do we need to look for a biblical passage affirming organ transplants or making the body whole again?

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

NO. I think Lowell was flippant in his comment. "I believe the EC followed scripture" he said. Now they obviously must not be if they were until 1978.

While I admit this is a short commentary for a very deep subject, the seriousness of the subject could be more carefully noted. He does not the controversial nature of the decision, but not the possible ramifications.

 
At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am sorry if my comment caused any stirring of negativity, or any pain for Telmeimrong... i won't tell any one they are wrong, nor am i looking for any one to say i was rite. my only wish was to share in Gods healing and acceptance i felt. it is not ours to judge others and i don't wish to be judged by any human again.
all though i suppose if we question our beliefs or others beliefs, even if its due to what some one said/wrote we do/don't agree with then maybe this is good also, as our questions can bring us even closer to the Lord Almighty and his divine love deeper then we could ever know.
Jen Cole
claynjen@yahoo.com

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Don't be sorry anon, for the negativity of telmeimrong. The strong "NO" seems to have been aimed at my question of the need to look for scripture supporting my "Jesus the transplant surgeon" theme. I was looking to Lowell to find those unifying themes from scripture that we can agree on in these divisive times.

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

Jen,
My negativity was not directed at you but at the church leadership. While your acceptance is great and a vital ministry of your church, discipleship is also a vital ministry. This is where truth is important. The truth is that Jesus said what he said. I just felt Lowell could have addressed the issue with more seriousness.
My strong NO was just to emphasis that I don't disagree with the need to "transplant" on the contrary,I fully agree with it.
Jesus spoke the truth, however divisive that truth may have or will be. I don't think Jesus is necessarily the person to look to to find unifying themes.

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

I've never known anyone who has gone through a divorce who didn't realize how painful and tragic it is. The word "sin" comes from an archery term for "missing the mark." When a marriage dies, it is never what was intended when the couple said "until we are parted by death." The pain is profound.

Jen and many others have found themselves trapped in marriage relationships that were abusive and life-damaging. Would telmeimrong have them stay? Maybe the woman should be more submissive to an abusive, domineering, even violent husband? That's part of the weakness of biblical literalism. It can result in injustice and a violation of the law of love.

I can look around at dozens (maybe hundreds) of second marriages that are vehicles of grace and a blessing to God's creation. They are reflections of the power of resurrection, hope and new life. I'll bet telmeimrong knows some second marriages like that as well. Would it be better to rob these people forever of their opportunity for love and service through a healthy, life-giving, spirit-filled relationship just because they failed the first time? One strike and you're out.

When religion is blind to the presence of the spirit it forsakes it's origin. Let's reinstate slavery and the monarchy. That's the presumption of the Bible. Wouldn't want to change for compassion's sake.

Lowell

 
At 11:30 PM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

I was more concerned with the presumption of church leadership. I wouldn't presume to have any say in anothers marriage.
Mat 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

But that is just what Jesus said. No big deal I guess.

 
At 11:43 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

What the church leadership did was recognize the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22f) in the life-giving loving relationships of Christian couples who had remarried after divorce.

The church continues to hold up the ideal of marriage "until we are parted by death." The church still seeks to support families through struggle and conflict to persevere in their commitments. The church still recognizes the tragedy and suffering when a relationship dies and divorce happens. Until 1978 our church did not allow for the possibility that a divorced person could hope for remarriage while a former spouse still lived. That law was not life-giving. It left loving people isolated and without opportunity for them to live in a family, to give themselves in love to another, to grow in those unique ways that we humans grow through marriage.

Our church witnessed the grace and spiritual fecundity of couples who went outside our denomination, remarried, and lived fulfilling, wholesome lives as husband and wife. So, we followed an ancient trail. We changed a law in order to promote a greater good.

Jesus did that same thing with the kosher laws and the Temple monopoly on forgiveness of sins. Proponents of democracy and representative government did that same thing when they challenged the divine right of kings. Abolitionists did the same thing when they declared slavery an institutional evil. At each of those steps, defenders of the literal laws of the Bible resisted them. Jesus was crucified for blasphemy -- for daring to open the traditional interpretation of Biblical law to his invitation to radical love incarnate. The Bible clearly accepts monarchy and slavery as cultural and political norms, and Bible believers resisted the rise of democracy and the freeing of slaves quoting one part of the Bible while our democratic and liberating ancestors quoted other parts of the Bible.

Every generation has its opportunity to widen the arc of love and justice by following the way of Jesus. Every generation has that path challenged and blocked by the legalisms of the status quo. Both turn to scripture to defend themselves. But the arc of the spirit points us in the direction of expanded love and justice. In every conflict between love and law, I'm following Jesus down the road of love. After all, that's how he summarized the law -- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.

When our church opened the possibility of remarriage to divorced persons, we were faithful to the summary of the law given by Jesus even as we recognized we were leaving the letter of the law as recorded by Mark. I don't know if you know any couples who are holy and spirit-filled families though one or both may have been married before, but if you do, take a look at them. Should their love and fruitfulness be suppressed or blessed? I've got no question how Jesus would answer. The same way he answered all of the marginal, outcast and sinners. Your faith has made you well.

Lowell

 
At 11:01 PM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

Lowell,

Here was your opportunity to have a discussion about the covenant relationship of marriage and what do you do, you explain why the church is more gracious than Jesus. I am not saying the church shouldn't accept or allow divorce, I am saying it is above to do so. The church has no right to overrule God. I think you owe your members a more balanced exposition.

 

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