Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Faith and Works

Tuesday, September 4, 2007 -- Week of Proper 17
(Paul Jones, Bishop and Peace Advocate, 1941)

"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. 982)
Psalms 26, 28 (morning) 36, 39 (evening)
1 Kings 8:65 - 9:9
James 2:14-26
Mark 14:16-72

What we do matters, but God is everything.

Underneath the joy and thrill of the celebration of the completion of the Jerusalem Temple we read of a visitation from God. God appears to Solomon, saying that the house is consecrated and that God has "put my name there for all time." If Solomon will walk "with integrity of heart and uprightness, ... then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever." How happy such divine reassurance must have been.

But there is a condition. "If you turn aside..." then no land, no dynasty, and the Temple will be torn down. Sadly, we read knowing that Solomon and Israel will fail in their faithfulness of word and deed.

Today we are reading in James, the epistle that Martin Luther, following his own argument of "faith alone," called "a work of straw." James disputes with those in his own day who rely on "faith alone." "Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." Even the demons believe, he says. But you've got to walk the talk.

So we conclude with Peter in Mark's Gospel. Peter fails to walk his talk. He does not live up to his promises. He is unfaithful, denying Jesus for the third time in a single evening during the time of trial.

But we know the rest of the story. The resurrected Christ will appear to him and restore him. Peter will be invited to reclaim and articulate his love for Jesus three times. His faith will become the rock that the church will be built upon. At the core of the Christian relationship with God is the means of repentance and reconciliation.

So we receive the challenge. Jesus summarizes the law in the commandment to love. We are asked to trust God by loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Faith and works. Dead faith is the faith that claims some form of belief but fails actively to love. Yet the path to reconciliation is always open

What we do matters, and God is everything. Recognizing our failures to act and our unfaithfulness is another form of acting faithfully. Being contrite for our failures and offering them to God openly and remorsefully is another form of acting faithfully. Christ promises to restore us in a reconciling forgiveness just like he restored Peter so that we may be free to renew our promises and to act on them with competence and power once again.

The only difference between Judas' betrayal and Peter's was a matter of pride insisting upon control. Judas took matters into his own hands when he recognized his failure. In an ultimate act of control, he took his own life out of grief rather than embracing his greif in surrender to God. Judas acted, but his act was without faith that God could forgive him. Peter surrendered and was restored to action.

What we do matters, but God is everything.


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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
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


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