Thursday, April 03, 2008

Out of Egypt -- Daily Bread and Friends

Thursday, April 3, 2008 -- Week of 2 Easter
(Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, page 959)
Psalms 18:1-20 (morning) 18:21-50 (evening)
Exodus 16:10-21
1 Peter 2:11-25
John 15:12-27

God wants to get us out of Egypt. Egypt is the place of bondage and oppression -- where the powerful and the wealthy have excessive power and wealth and the weak and poor struggle in their shadow. God listens to the cry of the poor and the oppressed. The Exodus is the story of how God fought against the powerful on behalf of the oppressed and managed their liberation.

In the wilderness, God begins to fashion a new community that lives outside the values of Egypt. God begins to teach them the values of the alternative community -- the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God lives hopefully and dependently upon God.

In the morning they receive their daily bread. A "fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground" appears. "What is it?" they ask. (They began to call it by that question. In Hebrew, the question "What is it?" is also the words "It is manna." In other words, in our language, they called it "What?" Manna.)

There's something funny thing about manna. There is plenty for everyone each day. But if you try to save or hoard it for another day, it turns to worms. And if you are so lazy that you don't get up and collect your manna in the morning, the sun will melt it. You can't get rich on manna. You can't make somebody else poor by controlling manna. God gives it in abundance -- enough for everyone, just for today. Give us today our daily bread. God is teaching the people the economic values of the Kingdom of God -- very different from Egypt.

In John's Gospel we hear Jesus teach his disciples a new form of community. He reinforces his new commandment: "love one another as I have loved you." Then he teaches them more about that. He offers his example as the example of the greatest love. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Then he changes the whole master/teacher and master/servant relationship. He has been their master and teacher, now he elevates their relationship. He calls them "friends." We are to be friends of Jesus, friends of God, friends of one another. Radical equality.

Jesus warns them, the world hates this stuff. The world lives by the values of Egypt -- inequality and power games.

How disappointing it is when we read 1 Peter. 1 Peter doesn't get it, or just disagrees. The writer of 1 Peter defends and accommodates conventional wisdom -- the values of Egypt, but this time it is Rome; and the power of Pharaoh, but this time it is the Emperor. "For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong. ...Fear God. Honor the emperor." I'm glad Moses didn't think that was what God was telling him, or there would have been no Exodus. The reason the early church kept getting into trouble with the authorities was that they refused to honor the emperor. They declared "Jesus is Lord." They faced lions and wild beasts because they refused to "accept the authority... of the emperor as supreme."

1 Peter goes on. "Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh... For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example." The example Jesus left us is of one who refused the bondage of the authorities and masters and one who lived as a free and entirely liberated soul, without fear or deference, as God's beloved. He calls no one slave. He calls them friends.

When the Christian abolitionist movement called for an end to the institution of slavery, they preached compellingly for the Exodus -- God's listening to the voices of the oppressed and God's acting on behalf of freedom. They spoke compellingly of the friendship and equality of all people, even those who have been regarded as less than fully human. But they got beaten up by the voices of conventional values and the values of Egypt. And the Bible quoters paraded their list of verses to beat them up with. "Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference..." There were plenty of other verses. They knew their Bibles.

We see their descendants pulling out similar quotes to thwart the Exodus and liberation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians. They quote the six "clobber passages," swinging them like clubs at people who want the church to recognize their lifelong committed relationships as love. But God's truth is marching on. Our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. There is a new community that God intends. And God continues to draw us out of Egypt and into the land of daily bread and friends.

Every generation has its work to contribute to that pilgrimage. The values of power and wealth are always in flux. Will they be used for the values of Egypt and Empire or will they be used for the values of God and God's Kingdom? We live within the Biblical stories every day.

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

2 Comments:

At 11:06 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

In defense of 1Peter, the writings served the Lord's purpose, and these early Christian communities survived some horrific times, and we are here today thanks to that survival. To my mind, today the words in 1Peter remind me to remain humble in the face of persecution or of bondage by institutions or individuals. Practicing Humility is tough, and often seems unfair, but it is a necessary practice if we hope to live in community with one another. I encourage you to go back and reread the Rule of Benedict:
"The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will
nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord,
'I have come not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me' (John 6:38).
It is written also,
'Self-will has its punishment,
but constraint wins a crown.'
The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God
submit himself to his Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says,
'He became obedient even unto death.'"

 
At 8:10 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I agree -- that is a generous interpretation of 1 Peter. It was the way I "apologized" for the passage when I was more defensive about our scriptures. Now, I'm more concerned about God and God's will. And a bit more modest about the origins of our scriptures.

1 Peter has sections that merely reflect the dominant cultural values of the Roman Empire. Yes, out of a defense mechanism -- but, it is an ethic that is less than the vision of Jesus, and has been abused to keep people in their place.

Also, there is a deep difference between the promise of obedience that Benedictines take -- and I am under those vows as a member of the Order of the Ascension -- and obedience to the oppression of slavery.

I prefer the non-violent courage of people like Gandhi, Tutu, Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and MLK as an expression of humility in the face of persecution or bondage by institutions or individuals as a faithful expression of the humility of Jesus.

Lowell

 

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