Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Basics

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 -- Week of 2 Epiphany, Year 2
(Phillips Brooks, Bishop of Massachusetts, 1893)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Prayer Book, p. 945)
Psalms 38 (morning) 119:25-48 (evening)
Genesis 9:18-29
Hebrews 6:1-12
John 3:22-36

I was struck today by the opening of the reading from Hebrews, where the author lists some of the basic elements of the teaching about Christ. This list includes "repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."

The first phrase probably refers to a basic contrast between the Christian message and other contemporary faiths, including Judaism. Most (but not all) of the early Christians emphasized that our relationship with God is a gift from God freely given, not something we can earn or attain through right behavior -- moral or ritual actions. All that is necessary is faith -- accept the gift of Jesus that you are accepted by God.

Baptism has been the rite of initiation and identity. One becomes a Christian through baptism, a ritual dying to the old identity and life, washing it away, and a rising to the new identity united in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the basic introductory path to the Way of Christianity.

Laying on of hands was a part of the early rite of baptism. It was also a way the spirit was conveyed to empower certain ministries. Laying on of hands with prayer has also been a means for the invocation of God's power and presence for healing and wholeness.

The church spoke of the new life of resurrection as having already been accomplished through Jesus. Although we hope for the resurrection after death, this new life is already a present reality. In baptism we die to the old life and are raised to new life. What God does is bring new life out of all of death's manifestations.

And the church has looked to God in hope to bring a final sense of justice and right to all creation. Through God's generous and healing judgment, all wrongs shall one day be righted.

Our church today lives in these same places that the letter to the Hebrews speaks of. We teach that God is continually reaching out to us with unqualified love that is ours as a gift to claim through faith. We teach about baptism and the lifelong call to live out our Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, p. 304. Beginning in February, Chuck Walling will be leading a class on baptism Sunday mornings at 10:00 at St. Paul's in anticipation of the annual great baptismal feast of the Great Vigil of Easter.) We practice the laying on of hands through Confirmation and Ordination, but especially through our healing ministries, including the new Healing Touch ministry. We try to live the resurrection life and trust God (and not ourselves) for judgment. The thought recalls a quote from today's Lesser Feast observance for Phillips Brooks, who wrote, "Whatever happens, always remember the mysterious richness of human nature and the nearness of God to each one of us."

Our reading from John's gospel also underlines the baptismal theme. John and Jesus are both baptizing. It causes a bit of conflict, and John defers to Jesus, the bridegroom.

The readings remind us of our roots, the basics of our faith. We enter into an intimate relationship with God who is revealed to us in the mystery of the Trinity. We promise to "continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; ...(to) persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord; ...(to) proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; ...(to) seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself; ...(and to) strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."

This is what we teach as our baptismal faith and what we live out in the resurrection life and what we empower through prayer and laying on of hands. Ancient and ever new.



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
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 --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at

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

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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