Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Present in Spirit

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 -- Week of Proper 20
(Sergius, Abbot of Holy Trinity, Moscow, 1392)

"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. 984)
Psalms 78:1-39 (morning) 78:40-72 (evening)
2 Kings 5:19-27
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Matthew 5:27-37

We are not alone. We do not act alone. We are formed in community and we live in community. Everything we do affects for good or ill, all other beings.

As we continue with the legends about Elisha, we have this entertaining story of Elisha's servant Gehazi, who tries to take advantage of the situation following the healing of Naaman. Gehazi's secret is not hidden from the prophet. "Did I not go with you in spirit when someone left his chariot to meet you?" says Elisha.

In First Corinthians Paul scolds the congregation with a similar admonition. The issue is one of scandalous sexual immorality within the congregation. "For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over..." he demands.

There is an alternative translation to one phrase that intensifies the context of the sin. The last phrase in the sentence just quoted could also be rendered, "I have already pronounced judgment on the man who has done such a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus." Whatever we do, we do it with Jesus. Jesus is present. And because we are united with Christ, whatever we do we do it in the name of Jesus.

That sense of our responsibility as people who dwell within the life of God is reinforced in Matthew's Gospel today. In a saying that ramps up responsibility beyond behavior into intent, we hear, "'You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'" That's a verse that has planted fear in every boy raised in the Bible Belt. The proximity to the series of admonitions to cut off and throw away body parts which cause sin adds to its intensity. This frightening section concludes: "Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or "No, no'; anything more than this comes from the evil one." I remember becoming so scrupulous as a child having read these passages, that I tried to limit my responses just so. I found myself quickly trapped into the necessity of more elaborate speech when my teacher called on me in class.

There are unhealthy ways to respond to these teachings, obviously, but a serious attention to one's intent and action is important. Thoughts matter. If we allow our minds and imaginations to fly undisciplined, we are creating the background for self-deceit. The greatest self-deception is the supposition that our acts are hidden.

There is something supportive in living in constant recollection of the presence of Christ. It can be helpful to recognize others as being with us in spirit. We can be helped and encouraged by the "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven." Sometimes the spirit of a mentor or parent can give us new strength and courage to act in a way that they have led us. Sometimes their spiritual presence can lead us away from that which would be damaging. We are not alone. We live in community. Everything we do affects, for good or ill, all others. Let us see how that realization can inspire our action today.



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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.


At 10:03 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

1 Corinthians 5:1-8
"Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church. It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you..." "And you are arrogant!"
Paul's words to the Church in Corinth retain their passion and fire to this day. So much of today's news is about sex that we forget Paul's warning that we should also be concerned about arrogance in touting our behaviors as a newly defined morality.
To paraphrase our former President, it all depends on what the meaning of immorality is. I guess that depends on where your basis of morality comes from.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I liked what the Episcopal Church passed in 2000 in a resolution on the sexual values that we expect our members to live by: "we expect such relationships shall be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God." I think that's a sound basis for morality.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen Lowell!!

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Telmeimrong said...

Lowell thinks, very scary when we thinks.
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

Jesus - bridegroom
Church - bride
That is the holy love, that image is what enables us to see the image of God, not some sick, twisted lust of the flesh that is derived by humanities fallen nature., be it homosexuality, bisexuality, polygamy, man-boy love, premarital sex, etc,
Amen God!!

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I'm curious, telmeimrong,

Are you married? If so, how long.


At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am married. 15 years.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

How wonderful.

I can imagine what a blessing your marriage is to you. Kathy and I celebrated our 32nd anniversary this summer. One of my hopes is that we will live long enough to celebrate number 50 one day. I've had the privilege of officiating for the renewal of marriage vows at several 50th Anniversaries. It is a deeply profound grace to share life and love together with one's beloved partner for half a century.

I also know gay couples who have been together for 50 years. Their commitment and love seems just as genuine and grace-filled as my own marriage.

You've been married 15 years. Don't you hope to reach your Golden Anniversary? Can you recognize the goodness of other loving relationships that endure for 50 years? Gay couples manage that without the customary support that you and I receive from our churches and our culture. Is the 50-year faithfulness of gay couples not an expression of fidelity and love that you can acknowledge?


At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"seems" you say.

Fidelity I will acknowledge. Fidelity is not proof of God's blessing. Love I will now acknowledge, at the very most this is a worldly love. I don't see it as the self denying love that Christ displayed to us. It is the kind of love that seek to satisfy its own needs and defy, for its own pleasure, the Biblical model, and Its instruction.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

So would you characterize your own marriage as "a worldly love" -- not the "self denying love that Christ displayed to us" but a "kind of love that seeks to satisfy its own needs"?

I doubt that you would use that kind of language to describe your marriage of 15 years. That's not how I would characterize my own marriage of 32 years. Nor is it what I have seen in the loving relationships of gay couples who have been together longer than either of us have been with our wives.

Can you see fidelity and love in your own marriage of 15 years? I hope so. Can you also see the fidelity and love in the relationships of gay couples who have been together 50 years? I hope so.



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