Monday, April 27, 2009

Conscience and Revolution

Monday, April 27, 2009 -- Week of 3 Easter, Year One

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 960)
Psalms 25 (morning) 9, 15 (evening)
Daniel 4:19-27
1 John 3:19 - 4:6
Luke 4:14-30

"Conscience doth make cowards of us all." -- Hamlet

"...we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God..." -- 1 John 3:18f

I hope I don't misrepresent him, but I think Thomas Keating says that guilt is a good thing, for about thirty seconds. Our sense of guilt should move us to immediate repentance and then renew our intention to live rightly again. We should quickly accept God's forgiveness, and walk boldly into our future, cleansed, renewed, empowered.

False guilt is the slime that hangs on to us even after we have confessed and been forgiven, and it can suck the boldness and spine out of us. C.S. Lewis fantasizes the residents in heaven almost bragging about the terrible sins they committed while on earth as a means of praising God's greatness. "You think God forgave you of a lot, let me tell you what God forgave me of..." Humble bragging of the failures that God has restored. It is simply pride that insists that our behavior has been so bad that it disqualifies us from being fully alive.

God is greater than our hearts, greater than any guilt our hearts can accuse us of.

How interesting it is what Jesus chooses to read when he enters the synagogue in Nazareth. In Luke's account, Jesus has been baptized, has finished his journey in the wilderness where he has wrestled with temptation over what kind of leader he will be. In Luke's gospel, the visit to the synagogue become's Jesus' inaugural announcement.

He can choose any reading from the Hebrew scripture that he wishes. He picks from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." As everyone waits, Jesus speaks to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus announces his agenda as enacting God's care for the poor. He announces liberation and enlightenment. He denounces oppression. And he proclaims a Jubilee year. The Jubilee year is the year when all inequality is restored. (Leviticus 25:8-12) All debts are forgiven. All land that has been bought and sold reverts to the original equal distribution. If some have become poor or indentured through business and commerce and others have become wealthy and powerful through business and commerce, it is all reversed in the Jubilee year. Everyone is restored to equality.

This is radical stuff. It is classical, prophetic speech. It is an agenda that is both political and economic. And it is not well received. The people seek to treat Jesus as a false prophet and to kill him, but he escapes.

Before escaping, Jesus sends a couple of insulting barbs toward the congregation. He implies that their identity as God's chosen is meaningless. He pricks their pride, reminding them that Elijah blessed and fed a foreign widow during a famine that had left many widows in Israel hungry. He reminds them that Elisha healed a foreign leper when there were many lepers in Israel. God shows no favorites. God loves the foreigners and those of other religions as much as God loves us. In fact, Jesus points to God's preferential treatment toward those outsiders.

This is not "feel good religion." This is a revolution. And in Jesus' revolution, there is no place for pride, entitlement, or domination. The Nazareth congregation didn't want to hear this. I wonder if we do?



At 9:19 PM, Blogger Angie said...

hi...i listen to your podcasts as they are forwarded from a good friend of mine who was a member of your church before moving to tx...i love your thoughts each day..and appreciate the way you always seek to tie in the historical perspective as well as the "world view" of the scripture writers....imo that is the only way to accurately interpret and to be able to understand the scriptures as they were meant to be understood...thank are touching lives ...angie- abilene, tx

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks so much, Angie. It is fascinating how interconnected we can be now through "the web."

Thanks for listening.


P.S. I think you can set up a direct RSS feed from our web site. Go to, click and click the orange symbol next to "Morning Reflections podcasts"


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