Tuesday, November 27, 2007

All You Have to do is to Die

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 -- Week of Proper 29

"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 (Book of Common Prayer, p 994)
Psalms [120], 121, 122, 123 (morning) 124, 125, 126, [127] (evening)
Nahum 1:1-13
1 Peter 1:12-25
Matthew 19:13-22

Years ago theologian Bob Capon conducted a clergy conference for us. Bob creatively articulates a theology of grace. He is completely convinced that everything that is significant is given to us by God as sheer grace. The only thing we can do to earn or merit or to receive God's abundant and triumphant grace is to die.

He looks at the story of the rich young man that we read in Matthew as a type of story. Here comes someone who has done very well by all common measures. He has lived a good and virtuous life. He has kept the commandments. So Jesus goes to the place of his attachment and demands something from him that is impossible, at least it is impossible for him. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Jesus knows this is more than this man can do. The young man is attached to his possessions and unable to let them go. Jesus also knows that one day the man will be detached from his possessions. That day is the day of his death.

I know some people who have surrendered all of their possessions out of loving obedience to Christ. Several orders of monks and nuns make such an act of self-surrender a prerequisite to entering their orders. Bob Capon says Jesus would ask them to give up something else, something equally impossible, depending upon each person's particular attachments.

Bob says Jesus demands everything. It's more than any of us is capable of giving. We must die to receive.

Grace and salvation are not a commodity of exchange. You can't follow the right rules and give up your possessions and receive grace and salvation. There is no form of transaction with God; no give and take; no tit for tat. God claims it all. The only way to receive is to have empty hands. That's why Jesus came most especially to the little, the leprous and the lost. They were the ones who were poor enough, free enough to respond, because they had nothing to hold on to. They were the deadest of all.

In both the gospel and the epistle reading today we are exhorted to childlikeness. "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." (Matthew) "Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance." (1 Peter) Children, the little ones, are an image of those without power, without money, dependent and without progeny who owe it to them to take care of them. For Bob Capon the whole arc of the gospel is bent toward the weak and empty handed. Only they can receive grace. Anybody who approaches God with a transaction, with something in your hands, is like a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle. Impossible.

The good news, all you have to do is to die to qualify.



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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 2:19 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Paul "died in Christ" although his body was alive enough to travel, write, and preach. We all want to feel God's grace, His love, and be assured of His salvation while we are in these bodies. Jesus' life, Paul's teaching, and the experiences of the Saints show us that you don't have to wait for physical death to receive grace and salvation. Might I put a positive spin on your commentary by saying that we have to be born to receive God's grace and salvation?

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Yes, I think that's a fair spin. I think that Bob Capon would say that we are all born to receive God's grace and salvation and all we need to do to receive it is to die. (and he defines dying broadly -- i.e. taking up one's cross daily)



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