Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reversals

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 -- Week of 2 Easter
(James Lloyd Breck, Priest, 1876))

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, page 959)
Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) 12, 13, 14 (evening)
Exodus 15:22 - 16:10
1 Peter 2:1-10
John 15:1-11

There is in Psalm 13 a great reversal that is also echoed in our other readings. The Psalmist begins with a weary cry of desperation: "How long, O God? ...How long shall I have perplexity in my mind and grief in my heart, day after day; how long shall my enemy triumph over me?"

What a familiar cry. It is a universal complaint. At some time or another we all wonder, "Will this ever end?" Our minds are confused; we can't figure a solution. Our hearts are sad; we grow depressed and weary. We feel beaten, either by enemies from outside or from our own inner failures that make us enemies to ourselves. The Psalmist wishes he were dead.

Then, with his situation placed before God, something happens. Laying his concern upon God he experiences a sense of comfort. "I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help." He lets the perplexity of his mind rest in God's mercy; his heart turns from grief to joy."

In our reading from Exodus, we see a similar process from complaint to deliverance expressed by the Hebrew people in the wilderness. They have just celebrated their escape from slavery and oppression in Egypt, but now they face a challenge that feels even greater. They have entered the wilderness. (And wilderness can be physical, mental or spiritual.) They are thirsty and hungry, hot and tired. The old days of Egyptian bondage begin to look pretty good compared with this.

God brings them water in the desert. Manna to eat. There is just enough for the day. But it is enough. They draw near to God. They look toward the threatening wilderness that has frightened them so, and they see the glory of God appearing in a cloud.

The congregation that the sermon of 1 Peter addresses is going thorough some form of crisis and suffering. There are those among them who have acted out of malice, guile, insincerity, envy and slander. "Be like innocent children," the writer implores. Look at your inheritance. Jesus was the rejected stone who become the cornerstone. You are like living stones placed on his foundation, built into "a spiritual house, to be ... a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people."

In the Gospel reading, John offers us a metaphor that helps us feel the relationship and experience that all of these passages are speaking of. Jesus tells us, "I am the vine, you are the branches." Our life is rooted in Christ. "Abide in me as I abide in you," he tells us. What a gentle and restful word -- Abide. Outside of that word, all sorts of things are going on, some threatening and even violent. There is the pruning necessary for the health of the vine. Sometimes we feel like we are losing more than we can bear. The pruning can feel so radical and threatening. There are the parts of the vine that don't continue to be connected to the center, and so they dry up and wither. That stuff gets thrown away. Some is burned. Purging our lives of that which is unconnected, unfruitful is often difficult and threatening.

But the vine brings forth fruit through the branches. And Jesus tells them that it is all about being connected in love. The abiding is an abiding in love. "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love." He's given his friends his new commandment: "Love one another." "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." The result, Jesus says, is joy. "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." The shadow of the cross is there, present and threatening. And Jesus says, nevertheless, our joy may be complete.

All of these are images of reversal. Struggle, perplexity, and threat that turns to deliverance, belonging and joy. What God does best is resurrection.

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 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the explanation of the vine analogy from John. I've always heard it explained that that which is pruned off and burned is those people who are not "connected" to Christ (i.e., the unsaved). I had never thought that perhaps this passage refers to an individual process rather than a group process. This interpretation rests much more peacefully with me. It is much more in line with the spirituality of love I am in the process of discovering. Thank you for placing a piece into the puzzle of my faith.

 
At 10:08 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the comment about the pruning. So often I find that when I internalize the images of the parables and sayings rather than externalize them, they bring me great wisdom: the calming of the storm, the healing of the demoniac, etc.

Lowell

 

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