Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Sword of the Mouth

Tuesday, December 11, 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 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 937)
Psalms 26, 28 (morning) 36, 39 (evening)
Amos 7:10-17
Revelation 1:9-16
Matthew 22:34-46

In John's opening vision of the book of the Revelation, he sees "one like the Son of Man" whom he describes with dramatic power. One of the characteristics John gives us about this Son of Man relates to something that was also in our Sunday reading. John says of this Son of man: "from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword." In Sunday's first reading from Isaiah, the prophet speaks of "the shoot that shall come out of the stump of Jesse" (a Messianic identity) and in a wonderful passage describes the righteousness and justice and peace that will issue from his presence. The most "militant" verse says of this coming Messiah "he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked."

In other biblical imagery the focus of power is in the hand. The hand is the instrument of the power of coercion. But the messianic power that Isaiah and John speak of is the power of the mouth -- the power of witness and word and testimony. The exercise of power that Jesus manifests is not violent or coercive, but persuasive and yielding.

We see that verbal power exercised in contrasting ways in the other two readings today. Amos is an "in your face" kind of guy. When the priest of the important shrine of Bethel hears Amos' prophecy of Israel's overthrow and God's intentions against the house of the King Jereboam, the priest Amaziah sends word to the king and banishes Amos from the shrine. Go back to where you came from, he says to Amos.

Amos lets the priest have it. "Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land." No minced words, from Amos. But note, his power is in his words. He does not use violence or coercion; he only prophecies its immanence.

We hear a far different flavor of "word-power" from Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Today we get the exquisite summary of the law. "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Ultimately love is the greatest power in the universe. The word of love endures and prevails. This is the Messiah who strikes the earth with the rod of his mouth -- the message of love -- and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked -- with love. It is love that breaks and overcomes the false self within each of us and the corporate evil and injustice that infects the world. The cross and resurrection is the sign and effective victory of love over all.

It is the mouth of God and the word of love which triumphs.


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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


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