Monday, September 15, 2008 -- Week of Proper 19Today's Reading for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)Psalms 56, 57,  (morning) 64, 65 (evening) Job 40:1-24Acts 15:36 - 16:5John 11:55 - 12:8Throughout the earlier narrative, Job has questioned and challenged God's justice. Job sees the unrighteous prosper and the righteous suffer. Job is a righteous man who suffers in extremity. Job has challenged God to justify this injustice.
God answers Job out of the whirlwind. But God's answer is not truly an answer to Job's question. God challenges Job with a counter question: "Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?"
God then describes two mythological beasts (we read about Behemoth today). God rules a vast world beyond human knowing. It is not a world that is centered on the needs of mere humans. God controls the wild, chaotic and evil powers of Behemoth and Leviathan, but does not necessarily exercise that control for the benefit of human beings. These fearsome powers have their place in God's universe. We do not know their purpose or function. They cannot be domesticated; they do not serve humanity. God allows these evil and chaotic creatures and powers to exist within God's controlling power and God's mysterious purposes. The human race is not the center of the universe.
We'll read more tomorrow.
We get a peek at some of the underbelly of the early church. Paul and Barnabas have traveled together for a long time, surviving death threats and hostility, preaching the Gospel and planting congregations throughout Asia Minor. After the end of the Jerusalem Council with the apostles, Paul and Barnabas' mission among the Gentiles has been confirmed. They stay a while in Antioch. Then they propose to revisit the congregations that they have begun.
There is a fight. Barnabas wants to take John Mark with them, but Paul still resents John Mark for leaving them during the earlier journey. The mention of his departure in Acts 13:13 sounds straightforward, but apparently Paul was urked. Today we read that "the disagreement became so sharp that [Barnabas and Paul] parted company; Barnabas took [John] Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out..."
That's a big split.
There's something else that is striking. In Lystra, Paul chooses a young disciple named Timothy to accompany him. Timothy's mother is Jewish and his father is Greek. As the son of a Greek father, Timothy is not circumcised.
Although the Jerusalem Council has just rendered a pivotal decision saying that Gentiles joining the Church do no have to be circumcised, nevertheless Paul has Timothy circumcised so that he will be more acceptable to Jews as they travel. This is pretty remarkable. Elsewhere in Paul's letters we have some very heated language from Paul directed at those who would circumcise Gentile disciples. Some of his bitterest debate is in defense of their right to belong without circumcision. Yet, for this expedient purpose, Paul has Timothy circumcised at the beginning of their new missionary journey. Fascinating.
Finally, I'm always struck by the way Jesus complements the generous extravagance of Mary's anointing. Her act symbolizes the desire to offer worship that is beautiful, aesthetic, and costly. It is Judas who resents the expense. "For what she spent on the costly ointment, you could have relieved the poor." It is a cynical response, coming from Judas. He did not truly care for the poor. He was not honest in his stewardship of the disciple's common purse. Jesus commends Mary's generous act of extravagance, without compromising his teaching that we have responsibility toward the poor.
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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
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Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church