Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Golden Rule

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 -- Week of Proper 21

"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. 986)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning) 94, [95] (evening)
2 Chronicles 1:1-3, 30:1(2-9) 10-17
1 Corinthians 7:32-40
Matthew 7:1-12

We hear the teachings of Jesus through the scholarship of Matthew today speaking within the great tradition of Jewish Rabbinical teaching. He tells us: Do not judge others. Take care for your own failings first. Do not force the gospel on unwilling ears. God is benevolent and wishes to give good gifts -- ask, seek, knock.

Verse twelve is a version of the Golden Rule. This ethic of reciprocity is found in virtually all religions. "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." The great Rabbi Hillel who died during Jesus' childhood offered the same principle in the negative: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the Law and the Prophets; the rest is commentary, go and learn."

In 1893 the first Parliament of the World's Religions gathered to create an international dialogue on faiths. The President Charles Bonney said the Parliament hoped "to unite all religion against all irreligion and to make the Golden Rule the basis of that union. The centennial celebration of the Parliament in 1993 published a "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" which is worthy of study as a starting point for claiming a universal ethic. (the introduction to the text is found at http://www.interfaithstudies.org/ethics/declarationtext.html -- the full text is downloadable from the "resources" tab of the web page for the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions http://www.cpwr.org )

There were many parallels between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Hillel. Jesus attached himself to the village of Capernaum whose synagogue was influenced by Hillel. Hillel was a moderate interpreter of the Jewish Law. His teaching was challenged by the stricter interpretations of Shammai, who lived during Jesus' life. Until 70 AD, the House of Shammai tended to predominate; after 70 the House of Hillel prevailed, and became the tradition from which modern reform Judaism traces its roots.

It appears to me that many of the conflicts we read of between Jesus and the Pharisees, colored by the early church's conflicts with the synagogues, are better interpreted as conflicts with the teachings and disciples of Shammai. Jesus' own teaching has many consistencies with that of Hillel. One famous conflict that we have in our gospels regards the sabbath. Shammai taught that "humanity was made for the Sabbath," but Jesus and Hillel both taught that the "Sabbath was made for humanity," a more moderate view that allowed provision for response to certain human needs in spite of the Sabbath observance. For Hillel and for Jesus, love of one's neighbor was the central ethic for all people.

How ironic and tragic that Christianity and Judaism fell into such dark historic conflict. The heart of our origins is the same. How many injustices and how much violence might have been avoided had Christians been faithful to our Rabbi and his teaching: "Do not judge... How can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? ...In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."


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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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