Friday, March 14, 2008

Paul's Triumph

Friday, March 14, 2008 -- Week of 5 Lent

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, page 957)
Psalms 95* 22 (morning) 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)
Exodus 9:13-35
2 Corinthians 4:1-12
Mark 10:32-45
*for the invitatory

Paul has been describing the ministry he experiences as a gift from God. He has been speaking of his boldness and his hope, of the freedom he knows because of the glory of God he has seen reflected in Christ, "who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

We remember the story of Paul's being blinded by the light of Christ on the road to Damascus. In many places he reflects on that experience of enlightenment. The core of that experience is that he realized that his pursuit of happiness and of a satisfying relationship with God changed dramatically. Instead of anxiously trying please God by following every rule and law of the scriptures and tradition, Paul realized that in Christ, the job of pleasing had already been accomplished. Jesus extended to him God's unqualified grace, acceptance and love. All Paul needed to do is to accept the gift. Relax. God loves you more than you can imagine. For Paul, that is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." His freedom, confidence and hope is grounded upon that conviction of justification by faith through the love of God. That realization was a death and resurrection experience for Paul. He died to his old life -- anxiously trying to justify himself -- and he was raised into the light of God's renewing love.

The realization that God loves and accepts him before Paul ever has earned that loving acceptance changes everything. The light from God empowers him. He describes the difference God makes in his life: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed..." In each of these circumstances, the difference is everything. It is not uncommon for us to experience affliction and perplexity; there are some who also experience persecution and being struck down. For Paul, the light of the triumph of God through the cross of Jesus sustains him so that, despite these problems, he is not crushed, not driven to despair, not forsaken, not destroyed. He can weather the challenges that threaten to undo us.

Instead of struggling to overcome these problems, Paul has already surrendered in trust to the loving power of God manifest in the resurrection of Jesus which has already overcome all. He know he will share in the triumph of that resurrection, even if he looks outwardly as desperate as Jesus on the cross. Paul let his old life die with Jesus on the cross. Now he lets the life of Jesus be made visible in his life through his ministry and service. It is why he can so freely give himself away in service to the congregation at Corinth and his other friends. He is bullet-proof -- confident, hopeful, secure. That's why he can give himself away.

Paul is living the servant-leader role that we see Jesus teaching his disciples in Mark's gospel today. "Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." Paul understands. He stopped worrying about himself, soaked in the loving acceptance that is his as a gift from God in Christ, and found himself free to respond in joyful service. And when that service provoked affliction, perplexity, persecution and attack, he got through it just fine. He has already overcome all through Christ. Nothing can threaten him now, even himself. The grace, acceptance and love of God in Christ overcomes all.

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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