Friday, August 10, 2007

Two Ways

Friday, August 10, 2007 -- Week of Proper 13
(Laurence -- Deacon, and Martyr at Rome, 258)

"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
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Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 978)
Psalms 88 (morning) 91, 92 (evening)
2 Samuel 12:1-14
Acts 19:21-41
Mark 9:14-29

Abusive power and money, followed by the effects of spiritual power -- our readings today are a study of contrasts.

David has used his power to seduce Bathsheba and to effect the death of the honorable soldier Uriah. But the prophet Nathan confronts David's wrongdoing. Because David has the power of life and death, Nathan must charge David indirectly. He uses a story as a metaphor of David's abuse of power. David recognizes his responsibility and his sin. Now he must live with the consequences. Whenever the powerful abuse their power, it causes suffering for the weak and vulnerable.

We move to Ephesus where Paul's ministry provokes a threatening response. Ephesus housed a shrine to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and fertility. It is called one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and was a destination for pilgrimage and devotion. Beautiful statues of the goddess with many breasts survive in museums today. The cult of her devotion brought many travelers and much money to Ephesus.

In today's reading in Acts a sliversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, provoked the artisans to attack Paul and his companions as threatening his business and the honor that the city derived from cult of Artemis. The crowd almost turns into a riot before the town clerk can quiet them. When religion begins to pry into money matters it will always elicit a strong response.

But Jesus meets a crowd and shows another way. There is a parent with a son. From childhood the son has suffered from something frightening and threatening. The description sounds like grand mal seizures. Help him, cries the father. Jesus invites him into the way of hope. "All things can be done for the one who believes," Jesus tells him. In a wonderfully candid response, the man responds, "I believe; help my unbelief!" Jesus heals the boy. Later the disciples asked why they could not heal him. Jesus makes it clear that such things come through God's agency, through prayer.

We live in a world that is corrupted and dominated by the abuse of power and by the power of money. These powers exercise their dominion through a culture of fear -- dominate or be dominated; everybody's out to get you so get them first; use power to get what you want; money is power; it's all about money. Typically those with the money have the power, and they use their power to expand their power.

That is not the way of Jesus. His way is the way of compassion and love. He sees all people as children of one Father, and his work is to bring healing, especially to the suffering. His power is God's power, which decries force. This is the cross Jesus invites his followers to pick up daily and carry.

I believe that this is the ultimate power that will overcome all division and oppression. I believe, but I see so few results. Ours is a culture that worships money and power; our leaders promote fear to exercise power and domination. That way will never prevail. The way of hope is the way of God. I believe that compassion, love and healing will overcome the abuses of power and materialism. I believe; help my unbelief.



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

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
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At 8:14 PM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

Except politicians aren't Jesus. They never will be. We shouldn't look for them to be Jesus. Honesty and responsibility should lead us to search for the truth.

And the truth is, there are things to fear in the world. Osama's, killers, rapists and our neighbors who would do us harm.

Jesus doesn't want us to fear them, but lets be honest, we can't let these people have free reign.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

The truth of the scripture tells us not to be afraid. Versions of "fear not" or "be not afraid" appear in the Bible 365 times, I'm told. One for every day of the year.

I think our politicians led us unfaithfully when they exaggerated the fear of ben Laden in order to provoke an indefensible war on Iraq who had no relationship with Al Qaeda.

We know how to deal with organized crime -- and that's all Al Qaeda is -- we did that successfully with the KKK and the Mafia. Do not be afraid. Do not exaggerate their power. Use wise police tactics to infiltrate and compromise their secrecy. Use the power of goodness and hope to inspire the community to be unafraid and to betray them to the light. To amplify fear is to play into their only weapon. There is a big difference between leading with faith and hope and manipulating fear to rationalize violence and the compromise of constitutional freedoms. We've been led by fear, not by truth.



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