Life is Difficult
Friday, January 30, 2009 -- Week of 3 Epiphany, Year One
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 944)
Psalms 40 (morning) 54 (evening)
Life is difficult. Yet wonderful.
Psalm 40 begins as a paean of praise. The psalmist initially sounds so confident of God and sure of his own faithfulness to God's will. But then the mood shifts, and the writer speaks of innumerable troubles and his personal sins that have overtaken him. He is in conflict, weak and dispirited. He begs God for deliverance.
Isaiah's oracle opens with an exclamation of God's power and humanity's shortcoming. In the third of four Servant Songs, the writer identifies personally with Israel's lonesome walk. He listens to God's word and absorbs the suffering and ridicule with faithful perseverance. He stands, brave and courageous, in the midst of troublers, walking in the dark, relying on God alone. All around there are destroyers setting fires of destruction.
Paul is in a battle with the very existence of scripture and the essence of Torah that has defined his people and their religious response for centuries. Paul goes to the source, to Abraham and God's promises to Abraham's "offspring" (literally "seed," a singular, not plural word). Paul argues that God's original promise to bless the entire world through Abraham was a binding promise made to Abraham and to Abraham's single descendant. Only now, centuries later, says Paul, has God fulfilled that promise through the single descendant who is Christ. In the in-between time -- between the promise and Christ -- we needed things like the scripture and its law because we were lost and rebellious. But now the promise is fulfilled in Christ, and the scripture with its laws is superseded. We are free. Free from the prison of the law and the anxiety of trying to follow its legalisms. And that freedom is extended beyond the Jewish people; it is a gift for everyone, no exceptions. God's love and acceptance is a universal gift for all humanity. Don't you dare let the old laws and scriptures get in the way of God's fulfillment of the promise of universal blessing.
Finally we join Mark as the disciples find themselves in a dangerous storm. They row as hard as they can, but make little progress. In a spooky account, Jesus comes to them like a ghost walking on water, and the wind ceases. But they do not understand. They are left afraid and confused. Yet when they reach the other side, everyone Jesus touches is healed.
These are snapshots of our own lives and conflicts. We vacillate between faithfulness and failure, between courage and fear. Sometimes we stand and suffer, walking in the darkness while others destroy what we love. Sometimes we sense the clarity of God's blessing upon us, but then we feel confused by a contrasting religious view that seems powerful or authoritative. We row through the storm, believing and thinking that Jesus is with us, but never really knowing that firm, present sense of consolation. Then healing happens, and we are perplexed.
Life is difficult. Full of wonder and trouble. Conflict abounds. Yet beneath and within it all is the mystery and presence of God working to fulfill all things. We walk our walk. Sometimes full of courage and faith, sometimes weary and doubtful. Within it all is God.
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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
Lowell Grisham, Rector