Thursday, February 25, 2010

Forgiveness

Thursday, February 25, 2010 -- Week of 1 Lent, Year Two
John Roberts, Priest, 1949

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 50 (morning)       [59, 60] or 19, 46 (evening)
Genesis 39:1-23
1 Corinthians 2:14 - 3:15
Mark 2:1-12


First, a note about today's new commemoration from Holy Women, Holy Men, our proposed calendar:
John Roberts [1853-1949] Welsh Anglican missionary, who came to the Wind River mission in Wyoming in 1883. He founded schools among the Shoshone and Arapaho peoples so that children might be educated. Roberts translated most of The Book of Common Prayer into Arapaho and served among native peoples for 66 years. He worked closely with Chief Washakie [c. 1804-1900] of the Shoshone people, whom he converted from Mormonism to the Episcopal Church. He also claimed to have buried Sakajawea who, he said, had returned to her people after the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (Feb. 25)
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One of the major revelations of Jesus is the insistence that God is near, accessible, and exceedingly compassionate.  God is love, intimate and present.  God is with us, and human beings have ready access to the divine.  In fact, as the Gospel of John particularly insists, we are in a vital, living union with God and with one another.  Jesus reveals to us a God who is not distant, but close; a God who is not exclusive and unapproachable, but one with us; a God who is not angry and punishing, but loving and compassionate.

We see one aspect of this revelation in today's story of the healing of the paralytic.  This is a wonderful story when read at a literal, physical level.  The friends of a paralyzed man use their ingenuity to bypass the crowd by lowering his mat from the roof.  It is also a wonderful story when read, as the ancient interpreters encourage us, on a symbolic or metaphorical level.  People get stuck, emotionally frozen and paralyzed.  Sometimes they can't get themselves out of their darkness without the help of others.  If there are barriers in the way -- too many people, I can't get an appointment -- it takes friends to help them through the obstacles.  The metaphorical interpretation is especially helpful when we hear Jesus' healing word to the paralytic:  "Son, your sins are forgiven."  Sometimes it is our sins, our paralyzing guilt or a sense of deep unworthiness, that can get us stuck and paralyze us. 

Jesus speaks with intimate, gentle familiarity -- "Son."  And Jesus speaks what tradition says is reserved only to God, words of absolution and forgiveness.  In that day, the Temple held a monopoly on forgiveness, and it was big business.  Jesus makes forgiveness immediate, accessible, and free.  Matthew's version of this same story (9:1-8) frames this as an issue of authority.  The authorities say that Jesus is blaspheming by declaring forgiveness, but Jesus replies, "So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- then Jesus heals the paralytic.  The crowds were "filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings."

Jesus reveals that forgiving is no longer only a divine prerogative, it is freely accessible from God and it is a human endowment.  Elsewhere we will learn that the well of forgiveness is infinite.  When Peter tried to set a boundary around forgiveness, "How often should I forgive my neighbor, as many as seven times?"  (Seven is a symbolic word meaning "complete.")  Jesus multiplied the answer. 

The God that Jesus points us to, the God that Jesus incarnates, is a God of infinite love, compassion and forgiveness; a God who comes to us in human flesh, and who blesses us by being one with us -- "I in you and you in me."  This is the radical rebellion that Jesus brought to religion, and it earned him the accusation "blasphemer" from those who believed they were protecting God by keeping God as a distant judge. 

"We have never seen anything like this!" the crowd remarked.  The stuck, paralyzed man stood up, picked up his mat, and walked away into new life.

Lowell

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Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

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

2 Comments:

At 9:23 AM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

Andy, reading Lowell's comments makes one feel good. It gives us all warm fuzzies. But then reality hits. God is loving and compassionate and yet we have incredible suffering. Where is the disconnect? Is Lowell wrong? Is Lowell telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well, consider the reality, the disconnect and you must be the judge.

Maybe God's compassion and love doesn't translate to earthly comfort. As I sit in earthly comfort my first instinct is to thank God and I do. But maybe, just maybe, the comfort that I so relish is not always a blessing because it gives the impression that I control more that I really control. This illusion of control steals glory from God, it lessens my reliance of Christ, and it perpetuates the myth (according to my worldview) that if I work harder and smarter then I can accomplish much. I don't think God will judge us by our accomplishments, if he did we would all be in trouble. He will judge our hearts (widows mite).
So I will do what I believe God wants me to do. I won't, however, try to tell you what to do and force you to do it by voting in a government who seeks to take the place of an all-knowing God.

 
At 9:11 PM, Anonymous janetlgraige said...

God's love, compassion, forgiveness for me can translate into love and compassion and forgiveness for others in this world. It is more of a daunting challenge than anything warm or fuzzy. And with God's grace and my prayer, action, presence, someone else may come to know God's love and compassion - may learn to live forgiven - even in this secular country and this suffering world. Does God need me to act, to pray, to be present in the suffering? Maybe, maybe not. But does the one who can't, for whatever reason, reach out to God need me? I would say that is why we act, why we pray, why we stand in this world at all.

Thanks Lowell. Another classic!

Peace, Janet

 

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