Friday, December 14, 2007

Renewing the Center

Friday, December 14, 2007 -- Week of 2 Advent (Year 2)

"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 (Book of Common Prayer, p 937)
Psalms 31 (morning) 35 (evening)
Haggai 1:1-15
Revelation 2:18-29
Matthew 23:27-39

Haggai intends to encourage the people to rise up to a common purpose on behalf of the whole, to rebuild the ruined Temple. The tragic exile is over. The Persian king Cyrus has restored the people to their land and given them renewed autonomy over their affairs, though they do experience some threat from enemies. The people have rebuilt their homes, but things are not healthy.

"Consider how you have fared," says Haggai. "You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag of holes." It is a fragile people. What should be done? Rebuild the Temple, says Haggai. "Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? ...Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land..."

While each individual and family looks to its own interests, their prosperity is shallow. The Temple is the symbol of their communal life and the place where God meets God's people. Attend to the center, and the circumference will be blessed.

Reading this passage from the perspective of our situation, it offers another interpretation. Ours is a nation in which people have pursued their own interests, built paneled houses and sown much. We eat and drink and clothe ourselves; we earn wages. But so many of us are deeply dissatisfied. There is a hunger deep in our souls, and our wages seem never enough.

So many do not participate in the general prosperity. Healthcare becomes more expensive and less accessible, savings rates have plummeted, credit card debt is crippling, we buy more and want yet more. Our nation is stuck in warfare, deficit spending, trade imbalance, growing gaps between rich and poor, and arguing what is and what is not torture, what kind of family will be and will not be recognized, how many freedoms must be sacrificed in the name of security. Indications of climate change have us listening to the messages from the land as "the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce."

Maybe it is a time for our people to be recalled to our center. The Temple is a symbol of communal life and the place where God meets God's people. Attend to the center, and the circumference will be blessed. What are the needs and interests that we all share? How can we commit to those priorities?

Haggai demanded that his people move their focus from their individual needs to the corporate needs of the whole society. He asked them to move beyond their material pursuits and become spiritually grounded. He promised that if they would shift their priorities and invest in the whole, the center, the Temple -- blessings would return.

His voice may be a voice for our times as well.


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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.

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


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