Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boundaries

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 -- Week of 3 Easter, Year One
Catherine of Siena, 1380

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 960)
Psalms 38 (morning) 119:25-48 (evening)
Daniel 5:1-12
1 John 5:1-12
Luke 4:38-44

I haven't noticed it before, but Luke's account of the healing of Simon Peter's mother makes it appear to be another incident of Jesus' healing on the sabbath. Yesterday's story was about Jesus' sabbath appearance in the synagogue in Capernaum where he healed a man with an unclean spirit. That story sets up the sabbath conflict that Luke fully introduces in chapter six (the hungry disciples pluck grain, rub it and eat it on the sabbath; and Jesus asks "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath...?" as he heals a man's withered arm).

Today's reading has Jesus leaving the synagogue and entering Simon Peter's house, a short journey in the little village. Simon's house is probably within a sabbath's walk of the synagogue -- 1,000-2,000 yards. Then, it appears that Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law from her fever on the sabbath. Later as sabbath ends, he resumes his public work of healing: "As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them."

At daybreak Jesus "departed and went to a deserted place." (Mark's account says he went there to pray.) When the crowds find him again, Jesus does not return to Capernaum, but leaves to go to other villages to "proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God... for I was sent for this purpose." There are still plenty of sick people in Capernaum, but Jesus leaves them in order to teach elsewhere.

Interesting boundaries. Many of the rabbis whose ministry was to teach and preach the religious traditions of God's people were scandalized that Jesus crossed the traditional boundaries protecting the sabbath as instructed in the Ten Commandments. Much of the conflict that swirled about Jesus centered on his tendency to place the needs of people above his inherited religious traditions.

Yet he freely walked away from the needs of the many in Capernaum in order to fulfill his primary mission to spread the Good News of God's reign.

So many of the religious conflicts of our day are boundary issues. Can women lead? Are gay people acceptable? What should our relationship with non-Christians be? Should the church be politically involved? When should we exercise discipline toward someone in our church?

Yesterday I talked about the centrality of love as our ethical rule. What does love draw us toward in the present moment? What does love look like in the present circumstances? Do that.

Out of love, Jesus heals on the sabbath. Out of love for God (and for himself) Jesus withdraws to pray. Out of love Jesus leaves to share the good news with others.

My thoughts go to our commemoration today of Catherine of Siena. It is easy to see her as an example of one radically motivated by love. She loved Christ so much that she experienced herself as being espoused to Jesus. She loved others so much that she was a nurse to lepers and those with cancer whom other nurses were reluctant to serve. She so loved the church so much that she became involved in efforts to heal the great papal schism between rival popes in Rome and Avignon.

But in her early life, many thought she was crazy, and her family tried to make her be like other girls. She spent inordinate time in prayer and meditation; she cut off her hair, which was beautiful, in protest of her family's interference in her religious practice, her religious excess some would say. I wonder what might have happened to her if she had lived in our century instead of the 14th. Somebody would have tried to fix her. She probably would have been medicated, maybe even institutionalized. They would have believed that their care for her was motivated by love. Yet they might have medicated the saintliness out of her.

Boundaries can be so tricky. When is love a form of healing and when is it destructive fixing? When is a tradition a practice of faithful discipline and when is it a barrier to compassion? How can we be courageous yet gentle enough in our love so that we promote good and do as little damage as possible? These are the questions in the boundary lands. It's important territory.

Lowell
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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


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

3 Comments:

At 12:19 PM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Should Bishops cross boundaries?

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Should Bishops cross boundaries? That's a great question.

I think that we lost something profound in our communion when Bishops began to violate our traditional boundaries. I've always thought we were a big enough church to embrace a broad range of theology and practice. I supported a process for establishing episcopal visitation in situations where a congregation felt themselves unable to accept the pastoral administration of their bishop. I think we could have set up something acceptable that maintained our relationships and our healthy order. Instead we have something more like divorce or schism in a few places. Let's hope there will healing and new, healthier relationships, as often happens after divorce.

Lowell

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Bad Bishops may be something we have to suffer through, after all, they aren't forever. But, as we have seen from the legacy of Bishop Spong, that there are lingering effects of their ministry. I am referring to this church web site in particular Episcopal church of the Redeemer.

 

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