Friday, February 01, 2008

Joyful Gifts

Friday, February 1, 2008 -- Week of 3 Epiphany, Year 2
(Brigid [Bride])

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 945)
Psalms 40, 54 (morning) 51 (evening)
Genesis 17:15-27
Hebrews 10:11-25
John 6:1-15

"...let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith..."

The book of Hebrews rejoices that we have been given the honor of entry into God's presence through the gift of Jesus' offering. We have been reconciled to God and made pure. The writer sings with gladness, encouraging us to "hold fast to the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful."

Abraham and Sarah are also singing with wonder and joy. At an advanced age, when it seemed impossible, they are to receive the gift of a child. Their happiness becomes deeper than their doubt. The word comes to them that their child will be called "laughter" -- Isaac, which means "He Laughs." The promise of the gift of the land will go to him and many nations shall spring from his heritage.

Abraham also asks for a blessing on his child Ishmael, born to Hagar, Sarah's slave. He too shall be the ancestor of a great nation.

This covenant is confirmed on Abraham's part by the ritual of circumcision. It is a practice that is continued as a religious ritual by Jews and Muslims, and as a custom by most Christians in the West.

From Father Abraham come the three great faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. How his heart must break when they fight with one another.

The joy continues in our third reading when Andrew brings a boy to Jesus. The child has five barely loaves and two fish. "But what are they among so many people?" asks Andrew.

Even a little, when brought to Jesus in faith, becomes abundance. The multitude is fed and satisfied.

In John's gospel, everything is significant, especially numbers and details. At the end of the meal, Jesus tells them, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." When they do so they find that twelve baskets are filled. Twelve is a symbolic number meaning the fullness of God's people. It is the product of the spiritual order (3) and the created order (4). John's intent is clear. No one is to be lost. All are to be gathered up into God's feast. All are to eat and be satisfied.

That is a part of faith that I embrace "with a true heart in full assurance of faith." In fact, my experience of God is so full of joy and completion, that I find it impossible to imagine anything less than the fullness of God's ultimate triumph, for all of Abraham's children and all God's children from whatever family, language, people, or tribe.

Even when this earth looks old and barren, divided by violence and ancient resentments, God is birthing a new joy an fulfilling God's promises for the land. So the closing of the reading from Hebrews seems an appropriate doxology for this reflection: "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Lowell
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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 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


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 www.stpaulsfay.org

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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