Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Temple of Protection

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 -- Week of Proper 26
(William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1944)

"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 990)
Psalms 61, 62 (morning) 68:1-20(21-23)24-26 (evening)
Nehemiah 12:27-31a, 42b-47
Revelation 11:1-19
Matthew 13:44-52

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field." That saying opens our gospel reading today. It is followed by the parallel saying of the discovery of the pearl of great value. Finally, Matthew includes another image of the judgment at the end of the age. He concludes with a phrase that may be autobiographical. Matthew is a scribe who "brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old," the teaching of Jesus and the interpretation of the Torah.

We don't have too hard a time interpreting these sayings inwardly. The field and the treasure describe an inward landscape. It is also important to read John's book of Revelation as a spiritual or symbolic geography. Centuries of attempts to literalize or externalize the visions, such as the "Late Great Planet Earth" or the "Left Behind" series, have left behind the litter of bizarre speculation.

So John helps us imagine the temple and the altar which are at the center of the inner reality of the believer and the faithful community. The eternal core is safe and protected even while chaos reigns in the outer environment of the political, social, and economic worlds (for John, the corrupt, material excess of the Greco-Roman culture). Though God's people may be assaulted politically, socially and economically, they are actually safe within God's Templed protection.

John speaks of two angelic witnesses who live out the symbol of the Temple scene. They are both conquered and victorious. They represent the people of God, the two olive trees, both king and priest. They represent the final two prophets Elijah and Moses -- Elijah "shut the sky" and Moses authorized the plagues. Their witness is their words, the fire that pours from their mouth.

During the period of evil, a temporary and passing time, they appear to be defeated, but they are nevertheless triumphant. The City will see their exultation. This is the exultation that is prepared for all God's faithful, John is saying. The "breath of life from God" will enter and restore those who have suffered.

After this second, and temporary woe, the heavenly voices return to remind us that "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever." Then begins a eucharistic prayer: "We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign..." And the temple in heaven is opened, and the ark of the covenant made visible. (Remember the splitting of the curtain in the Jerusalem Temple at Jesus' crucifixion.)

John is using symbolic and creative language to say offer some of the same kinds of prayers that we have been reading in the Psalms numbered in the 50's and 60's. He speaks of the spiritual and physical attack that the powerful wage upon the poor and upright. He encourages hope and perseverance. God alone is our refuge, rock and tower. God will protect and redeem the beloved. This is the great treasure that when found and embraced is of immeasurable value. Of more value than all of the worldly powers.



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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 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think i can thank you enough for these daily reflections and all the "out reach" programs for St.Pual's. The comfort recived from all of these ministries are priceless to me and so many.
bless you thank you for keeping me conected to my spiritual needs/church home , when i can't get there much in person!
Thanks be to God !!!
Jen Cole
(i use anonymous becuase i forgot my log in months ago)

At 6:59 PM, Anonymous tom said...

Every time I encounter one of these stories from the Gospel of John I am overwhelmed by the density of the narrative. So much going on. So many levels of meaning. So many indicators pointing toward new ways of thinking.

Lowell, your comments on the man born blind do justice to that density and show how many ways one could go with the story. Thanks. Tom Umholtz


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