Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good Deeds Punished

Thursday, February 14, 2008 -- Week of 1 Lent (Cyril & Methodius, Monk & Bishop, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885) (Not St. Valentine's Day - there are several martyrs named Valentine; nothing historic is known of them)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (
Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)

Psalms 50 (morning) [59, 60] or 19, 46 (evening)

Genesis 39:1-23
1 Corinthians 2:14 - 3:15

Mark 2:1-12

Today we have echoes of suspicion in the presence of goodness that come to us from stories that are centuries apart. There is an old folk saying, "Let no good deed go unpunished."

Joseph gets blackmailed. He is hardworking, honest and upright. He's also good looking. He's working for Potiphar, the Pharaoh's captain of the guard, and Joseph has earned a place of trust. But Potiphar's wife has eyes for the slave. These things happen to immigrants without papers and others who are vulnerable and weak. She tries to entice him into her bed, but when Joseph refuses, she traps him with a false accusation and circumstantial evidence. An honest slave has no standing in a "he said, she said" contest with a lady of standing. He is thrown in prison. But God is with him, in slavery, in honor and in prison. And his virtue continues to shine forth. be continued. (These serial stories are great fun to read, aren't they?)

In a way, Paul's words in 1 Corinthians are something of a commentary on our first reading. He says that God will judge the quality and value of our work. Good work will prevail; that which is lacks integrity and character will eventually be revealed. Cutting corners in the short term has long term consequences. Faithful adherence to the highest standards will be revealed and rewarded in time.

But in the meantime, conflicts pop up and some will accuse even the best of intentions.

As Jesus is teaching and healing, a group of friends goes to extraordinary lengths to get their paralyzed friend into Jesus' presence. They remove the woven mats that serve as a roof covering and lower the man on his bed into the midst of the crowded room. Jesus is delighted. He commends their faith. To the paralyzed man he says, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Alarms go off among the pious. Only God can forgive sins. The forgiveness of sins is a divine prerogative. There is a Temple with an elaborate system of purification and sacrifice that is the correct and orthodox path to forgiveness. It is also a big business, the Temple monopoly on forgiveness.

Jesus brushes away these foundational paradigms, challenging the Temple monopoly and claiming immediate access to God's forgiveness, saying "'So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,' -- he said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.' And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them..." Matthew's Gospel adds that the crowds were "filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings."

Jesus opens up direct access to God and God's forgiveness. Seems like a good thing? Not so, to many. Some took offense at what they perceived to be blasphemy. Only God can forgive sins. Who does he think he is? (And he uses this enigmatic title "Son of Man," which like aces on a poker table, can go "high" or "low," meaning simply "mortal" Son of Man or "superhuman" Son of Man. Jesus leaves the ambiguous interpretation to the listener.) The charge of blasphemy will follow him and eventually stick.

And he has taken on some powerful vested interests. The Temple monopoly is a multinational business. It supports a complex network of people and institutions. It will not be challenged without exercising its power to protect its monopoly and interests. Healing this paralyzed man this way will make moral enemies.

But like Joseph, God will be with him, in prison and beyond to the cross and even through death.



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


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home