Friday, February 15, 2008

Conflicts of Consciousness

Friday, February, 15, 2008 -- Week of 1 Lent
(Thomas Bray, Priest and Missionary, 1730)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 95* & 40, 54 (morning) 51 (evening)
Genesis 40:1-23
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Mark 2:13-22
*for the Invitatory

One of my two closest friends from childhood grew up in a very observant Baptist home -- no drinking and no dancing, no dice or cards allowed. His two best friends were both Episcopalians, the denomination about which they quip, "Wherever you find four Episcopalians, you'll always find a fifth." It seemed from the outside that they only thing Episcopalians forbade was the use of your salad fork on your meat.

Jesus scandalized the most religiously observant in his society. Today we see him eating at the home of a tax collector -- a Roman collaborator whose practice inevitably included some form of extortion. Other than the disciples, the only guests that are mentioned are sinners. "Sinners" has a specific meaning in the New Testament. A sinner was one who deliberately did not try to obey the Jewish Laws, one who intentionally set oneself apart from observance of Torah.

And sitting at table meant something different in Jesus' culture. Because meals occurred in the open, on patios or in homes with open windows and doors, the whole community could observe who ate together. A meal was a public event. To sit at table and eat with someone conveyed a social message of acceptance and alliance. It was the cultural norm to be very careful about whom one ate with. It was a public message of approval. Jesus ate with sinners tax collectors.

On the other hand, the ministry of the school of the Pharisees was to carry the observance of the Biblical commandments and the holiness of the Temple into every home. It's what we try to encourage in our formation and education programs at St. Paul's -- incorporate the values of God into your daily life.

What does it say about Jesus that he so flaunted convention and caused such scandal to those who were most religiously conscious?

The story continues. Why don't your disciples fast like John's? Jesus says, in essence, "I'm here! It's a big party!" Break out the wine. Strike up the band. Let's party! (But watch which fork is for the salad.)

Here's where it gets tricky. Jesus adds this dimension of outreach, inclusion and joyful celebration to the central ethos of his life with God. But he also incorporates the good things that are the fruits of the ancient traditions of his culture. When he heals and forgives he tells his friends to go and sin no more. He invites them to live a high ethic, summarizing the whole of the Jewish law and Torah in the commandment to love God, self and neighbor.

As he steps into a new and higher state of consciousness, he carries with him all of the lessons from the old state of consciousness into the new place. He puts the new wine into new wineskins, and thus he doesn't lose the old wine in the old wineskins.

There is a theory about the stages of consciousness that human beings and civilization go through in our process of growth. (Clare Graves, Don Beck, Christopher Cowan, John Lamy, Ken Wilber) John Lamy has a nice summary in the current edition of the magazine Spirituality & Health. Briefly, the stages are (Lamy's labels) Survival, Magic, Power, Law & Order, Autonomy, Green, Integral and Beyond Integral. At each stage, we learn a value system and unique skills. Each stage of development represents a leap in consciousness that brings a new set of values, and ideally, we carry forward the wisdom of all the previous stages as we progress. You can't skip stages. You've got to master each to jump to the next.

Lamy sees much of the culture war that divides America as a battle between the largest single group in today's population -- Law & Order -- and the pragmatic rationalists of the Autonomy stage along with the smaller emerging Green movement (egalitarian, consensual, caring; promoting interior life, diversity, environmental and feminist movements). Each tier is deeply convinced that its value structure and its outlook on life are the only legitimate ones.

It is helpful to see each stage solving the problems of the previous stage, but also bringing the best values of the previous into its consciousness. That's enough for what is now a longer than usual Reflection. You might want to read the article though.

In the context of today's Gospel reading, Jesus is inviting the Law and Order Pharisees to let go of the exclusion and condemning judgementalism that is the unhealthy manifestation of their value system, and to carry their good habits and ethics into a new, more open paradigm. Such a paradigm shift was no easier in Jesus' world than it is in ours.


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


At 10:13 AM, Blogger Amy Wilcox said...

Great Reflection today. I am eager to read Lamy's article. It reminds me of M. Scott Peck's stages of religious/spiritual development.

I smiled at the discussion of Episcopalian habits. When I decided to attend the church, folks from other denominations said I was becoming a "Whiskey-palian". LOL In fact, I have found the essence of Christ's teachings at St. Paul's, where the first two commandments rule. :-)

At 1:28 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

When I read of the "green" stage of consciousness, I had this strange vision of Kermit the Frog singing, "It's not easy being green."

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Doug said...

You can learn a lot from Kermit!


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