Thursday, December 17, 2009


Thursday, December 17, 2009 -- Week of 2 Advent, Year Two
William Lloyd Garrison, 1879, and Maria Stewart, 1879, Prophetic Witnesses

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 939)
Psalms 50 (morning) [59, 60] or 33 (evening)
Zechariah 4:1-14
Revelation 4:9 - 5:5
Matthew 25:1-13

First, a note about the new observances from our trial calendar:
William Lloyd Garrison [1805-May 24, 1879] Abolitionist, journalist and social reformer, he was one of the founders of the Anti Slavery Society. After the Civil War, he became an advocate of Women's Suffrage, Temperance, and Civil Rights for Blacks.
Maria Stewart [1803-Dec. 17, 1879] Orator, educator, and first African American woman to speak publicly on behalf of women's rights. Although much criticized for her boldness, she campaigned tirelessly against all forms of oppression. She organized many schools and Sunday schools in major cities along the eastern seaboard. (Baptist) (Dec. 17)

We have a parable today that is unique to Matthew, the story of the ten bridesmaids. It picks up a couple of themes that appear elsewhere in Matthew's gospel. Like several of his parables, it seems to work best as an allegory.

Matthew urges his readers to live virtuous lives that accomplish good deeds. The righteous actions that one does is one's treasure, like a wedding garment, or like the oil for a lamp. They cannot be shared or given away. Each must be responsible for one's own life and for the measurement of one's good deeds. The wise bridesmaids have lived in such a way that they have accumulated enough good deeds (oil) to persevere through any potential delay. The foolish bridesmaids have a more limited supply of oil, and when challenged by an unexpected delay, their supply is exhausted. The others cannot share with them. So the foolish bridesmaids leave and miss the passing opportunity.

The other theme that Matthew repeats here is the reminder that moments of opportunity, moments of grace, may be sudden and unpredictable, therefore, be alert, be prepared always. Earlier Matthew had described the coming of Jesus as the coming of a house burglar. You cannot know when. So be ready always.

There are moments of decision, moments of opportunity. We must seize them or lose them. Often our response is related to our preparation. Have we been wise? Have we been lazy or foolish?

I've written occasionally about my grandfather, who was an important part of my early life. More than any other person, it seemed to me, he gave me unqualified love. Because of him, it was easier for me to imagine a God who loved me absolutely and without qualification.

Granddad was a likable and outgoing person. He had a gregarious personality and the natural gifts of a Southern storyteller. He came from a large family born in the rural hills. Every one of his siblings, I believe there were eight, had lived through childhood, an extremely rare circumstance in those days. In his 70's, every one of his siblings was still alive and healthy, including Uncle Joe, the eldest, at 88.

Granddad talked about that anomaly, that all his siblings had lived and were still alive. It had a mystery and power for him. I believe that he had an almost magical belief that as long as all of his siblings were alive, he couldn't die, he couldn't be threatened by death. So he didn't think about it. He didn't really imagine his end, and he didn't do the kind of preparation that most of us do as we advance in years.

If I am remembering correctly, Carl Jung taught that we spend the first half of our lives becoming who we are and we spend the second half of our lives preparing to die. Granddad was very old before the first of his siblings died, from pneumonia contracted after a bad fall into a well. It seemed to shock him that they weren't all invincible, that they could actually die. The thought of death surprised and insulted him, it seemed. He wasn't ready to face the notion. He didn't really have enough time to absorb it. The last part of his life he lived with a resistance and resentment that had not been present in his earlier life. He didn't seem to make his last journey with the same character that he had lived the rest of his life. He ran out of oil, it seemed.

Preparing is a life's journey. We have little control over timing. Tragedy strikes. Opportunity opens a door. Decision presents itself. Will we be wise? Will we be ready to respond responsibly? Now is the time of preparation.


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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
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

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

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


At 8:40 AM, Blogger George said...

A variation on Jung I heard once: We spend our childhood wishing we were grown up and our grown up years wishing we were children again.


At 8:29 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

There's also something Jung said about everyone he had ever met who had problems in the second half of life -- those problems were always that of finding a religious outlook on life


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