Friday, September 07, 2007

Power and Love

Friday, September 7, 2007 -- Week of Proper 17

"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
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from (go to St. Paul's Home Page and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 982)
Psalms 31 (morning) 35 (evening)
1 Kings 11:26-43
James 4:13 - 5:6
Mark 15:22-32

Today we read Mark's version of the crucifixion. On a hill that looks like a skull, Jesus is stripped and hung, brutally nailed to a cross. He has nothing, except the life that is pouring out of him. A sign announcing the cause of his execution: "The King of the Jews." This is a political killing. Rome will broke no competitors. Do not challenge the political will of the empire. It is a warning to others. Those gathered also know that this is a religious killing. He challenged the Temple, its prerogatives and monopoly. The religious authorities show what happens to self-proclaimed Messiahs. Next to him are criminals, presumably Jewish Zealots who have tried to attack the empire with force and violence. Even they also taunt him. What good is someone who will not use force to gain their way, who will not fight.

Power and dominion. Institutions of state and religion, and even those who fight against them. The people who know how to use power and use it. It's the only way they know how to solve problems. Jesus was a problem to them. So they killed him. It looked legal. They followed the appearances of the law. There was a trial. Evidence. Judgment. And now, capital punishment. That's what we do with people that we are sure are guilty and do not deserve to live.

It's a rotten system. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Money talks. The wealthy and the powerful are in cahoots, even when it doesn't make sense. The Jewish religious leaders are in bed with the Roman political leaders. Even if it doesn't make sense. The religious leaders are willing to dance to the Emperor's tune as long as they get some bones thrown their way.

Jesus has no arms, no money, no force. Only love. At the end he continues what he began. He pours out his life in the presence of darkness and brokenness. On this day, his efforts seem to be a complete failure.

From the future we hear the voice of James. He's speaking to the same powers and principalities that are nailing Jesus to the cross. He cries out against the rich, against those who are "doing business and making money." Against those who take advantage of low wages, who cheat the vulnerable and poor, and who live in luxury upon the work of others. They have their day now, says James. "You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you." The powerful oppress those who do not have power to resist them.

But we know the resistance of God. It is the resistance of love. Non-violent, non-coercive. Willing to suffer rather than to cooperate with injustice or even overcome it with force. Jesus spoke of it like a small seed that is buried in the ground. It will slowly take root, cooperate with God's creation, and bear abundant fruit. It will give up its life in order to create life. Jesus is living his teaching today on the cross.


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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

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


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