Tuesday, June 30, 2009 -- Week of Proper 8, Year One
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 972)
Psalms , 121, 122, 123 (morning) 124, 125, 126,  (evening)
1 Samuel 11:1-15
When reading verses 63-65 of Luke today, some troubling images came back to me. Here are Luke's words: "Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, 'Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?' They kept heaping many other insults on him."
Images from the brutality of Abu Ghraib prison came to my mind. Stories that are still surfacing about what our officials euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation" and "special methods of questioning." Torture and brutal hazing.
The court of the High Priest has Jesus completely within their physical power. They want to accuse him of blasphemy so they will have grounds to condemn him to death.
Jesus gives them the confession they want. "From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." That's the kind of thing they wanted to hear. The accusation of blasphemy will stick. They can kill him. The irony is, according to Christians, he has told them the truth.
One of the reasons torture is such an unreliable method of interrogation is that a person being tortured will typically tell their torturers whatever they think will stop the misery. Truth is secondary. We recognized that during the Vietnam War when Americans who were prisoners of war made statements of propaganda on behalf of their captors. Everyone knew those statements were coerced and false.
We now know that much of the "evidence" used to justify the Iraq war was false information coerced through "enhanced interrogation." One of the reasons we can't proceed now with legal trials of the prisoners in Guantanamo is that we have little evidence against them that can be presented in a court of law. There may be dangerous people in Guantanamo who are actually guilty of terrorism, but we've tainted any evidence we might use against them because it comes from inadmissible "special means of questioning." Some of the victims of "enhanced interrogation" were actually innocent, including people who were wrongly picked up when officials mis-identified them.
Like so many other prisoners, Jesus was tortured. He was brutalized. We speak of that as part of his role as "victim."
Christians recognize Jesus' suffering as the manifestation of God with us. That means that God is present whenever one human being tortures another human being. God is with us in our darkest moments, those situations we might describe as "God forsaken" are actually God infused -- Immanuel, God with us.
I hope those American soldiers knew that in Vietnam and were comforted. They were not alone.
Nothing can be hidden from the light. Jesus promises that those things that are done in the darkness will be revealed. It seems like it is time now for some truth and reconciliation in this country. Much has been done in the darkness in our names.
The chief priests and scribes were religious men and public authorities. They believed they were justified in their actions, in the enhanced interrogation of prisoner Jesus. In their minds they were defending the right. They were protecting their nation and their God. So they tortured Jesus, and they got the answer they wanted from him so they could execute him.
Yet God used all of this evil for good. God takes our brutality and violence. Literally. God takes it. Then God brings new life out of it -- resurrection. Resurrection is what God does best.
As we approach our annual national celebration of independence, it is appropriate for us to pray for resurrection. We have been agents of violence, evil and death. We have perpetrated injustice even when we believed we were justified in our actions. We need confession and forgiveness. We need light and resurrection.
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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