Tuesday, February 23, 2010

God's Hidden Work

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 -- Week of 1 Lent, Year Two
Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr of Smyrna, 156

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 45 (morning) 47, 48 (evening)
Genesis 37:12-24
1 Corinthians 1:20-31
Mark 1:14-28

It is easy to become discouraged, even despairing. We humans seem such a stupid lot. Over and over we fail to see clearly and to act wisely. We have the capability to wipe out extreme poverty globally, to extend health benefits to every American, to offer education and digital connections to virtually everyone on the planet, and yet we squander our potential in self-centeredness, greed and silly distractions.

God intends good for us, however. No matter how difficult we make it for God, the divine love and wisdom is working to overcome our stubborn hearts and to bring us blessing.

Jealous brothers plan violence against their kin. They will tear the sign of privilege away from Joseph, the coat with long sleeves (or many colors), and will throw him in a pit to die. But God will use their evil plot to bring them eventual blessing. Before the blessing comes, Joseph will have to endure slavery, however.

Paul bemoans the fact that nearly everybody missed the coming of God's anointed one. The religious Jews demanded signs that fit with their religious expectations -- expectations grounded in the Biblical prophecies of political domination and military triumph. Jesus wasn't that kind of leader. They wanted that kind of leader. They wanted their nation to kick butt and take names, and so they missed the opportunity when God sent them a different kind of leader. Jesus' triumph over Israel's enemies was his own cross.

The Greeks demanded a wisdom that fit with their philosophical traditions. They wanted to debate in the abstract the virtues that create honor among the wise. Jesus wasn't that kind of leader either. He was counted among the peasants, condemned as a state enemy, and executed not in a noble way as a hero, but in a disgusting death as a criminal-traitor.

Jewish fishermen from Galilee. It's like the pipe-fitters' union from Springdale. Not the place you would look for God's revelation. The Gospels never mention the two significant cities in Galilee, Sepphoris and Tiberias. Can anything good come out of Galilee anyway?

In and through it all, God is working. God uses our jealousy and violence to open new ways for life. God takes our blindness and pride and moves below the surface to bring life out of death. God takes the unlikeliest people and opportunities and turns them into blessing.

We need God to work right now. There are so many opportunities to extend community and peace, opportunity and health. Every time we try to do so, the demons scream. When Jesus taught love of neighbor and when he extended healing to where it was lacking, the demons screamed, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?" Yes. Jesus intends to destroy all demonic systems that deny the values that would connect all of us together into one human family, bringing nurture and care, empathy and hope, to encourage individual and social responsibility to make ourselves and the world better. The demonic voices of self-interest and pride, of greed and division, continue to bluster with their threatening rhetoric, just as the demons did to Jesus.

But somewhere there is a Ruben who is quietly working behind the scenes to rescue Joseph from the pit, somewhere there is a Paul holding up the path of the cross, somewhere there are the fishermen doing their humble work -- to save the vulnerable, to soak up evil with non-violent love, to gather people gently into nets of love.

Faithful hearts pray for God's hidden work, and we seek to be the quiet instruments of God's accomplishment. Are you today's Ruben? Are you today's cross follower? Are you today's fisher of love? God doesn't need very much, to do so much.


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


At 9:38 AM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

I can't resist the urge to reply.

How can you even write that whole first paragraph? I mean seriously, it is laughable. "We" have the capability to wipe out extreme poverty? Do you mean me personally? Am I or you going to walk the globe and give everyone a 6" Subway? Come on Lowell. We elected your hero Obama, gave him all the votes he needed to accomplish EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. What did we get for it? Higher unemployment, more war, more dead soldiers, more debt, more debt on the way, more division, more division on the way, now they are talking about changing the rules to make it easier to pass more laws. Everyone in America gets free education (no parental involvement needed), the government helps people get digital tv converters so no one will miss Jay Leno's sarcasm, we can now all hear Couric's version of the news, and lord Obama is now able to come into everyone's house and try to convince the other 94% of us that the stimulouse worked.

What more do you want, what more does the false messiah need? He has the votes, the press, the military, ACORN, SEIU, and the adoration of the whole world.

Could it be that the Bible is actually right? That we CAN'T save ourselves. That JESUS CHRIST is THE way THE truth, THE life? That NO MAN (including OBAMA) comes to the Father but by HIM?

Could it be that we DON'T have the capability to do all you proclaim, thst we aren't evolving at all, that what is broken in us all is unfixable by us at all? Look at the evidence Lowell. There is NO evidence that we will ever do what you suggest we can or should do. There is no evidence that we squander our potential because potential is impossible to verify. We can claim potential, but in the face of constant unachieved potential you HAVE to admit that your evaluation of our potential is merely speculation at best and more likely misguided as it dimishes Christ and our utter reliance on Him.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

So, I am not discouraged in the least. I am more encouraged than ever

Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Andy said...


To me this was a very inspiring blog! Probably the most inspiring of all the ones I've read! I sat here and thought wow now that will preach!

What does the Lord require of us? To do justly, To love Mercy and walk humbly with The Lord! To care for strangers widows and orphans.

We are the repearers of the breach! We are to be the ones who reflect God's love and grace to the world! I hope I can be that willing vessel of honor that would lift high the cross of love and compassion to the hurting hordes of humanity.

And If I may say I don't believe it was the Obama administration that gave that gave the rebates for the Tv converters. That was our previous president. Personally I would rather our nation go into debt rebuilding the economy, helping those who have nothing rather than building bombs and enlarging our military and lieing to the american people. Let us not forget that Mr Obama was elected by a very large majority and it was not just Father Lowell and I who voted for this man.

Is it a bad thing to give to those who have nothing? When has education been a bad thing?

I think it a rude and an extremely uneducated remark to insinuate Mr. Obama as the anti-christ. Prehaps someone listens to the talk radio stations a bit too much. This is an attitude that reminds me of those people who burned witches at the stake. This strange and dangerous thinking certianly is a slippery slope leading into radicalism that makes the Gospel of Jesus into a reason to hate and pass unreasonable judgement. Humblehumanity'a comment is very disturbing and seems centered around a literalist apocolyptic theology.

Thanks once again Lowell for this inspiring message today! May it light a fire of inspiration to all that read it!

God Bless
Andy Burdge

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Ah Greg. I've missed you. Thanks for your commentary. We still owe each other our promised coffee together.

Maybe you are unaware of Jeffrey Sachs' notable study in 2005 "The End of Poverty." It's a wonderful book. I recommend it to you.

Sachs has spent much of his life as a free-market economist helping repair third-world and broken systems so that they might become healthy. He's got a track record on the ground, in other words.

Sachs shows that for the first time in the history of the human race, we have the capacity to eliminate extreme poverty from the globe. We have the wealth, the technology, the means of distribution to end extreme poverty. What we most lack, is the will.

What would Jesus do?

Sachs is one of the leaders of the Millennium Development Goals and works closely with Millennium Villages to plant pilot development projects in some of the most challenged places on the globe.

Is it too far fetched? We've eradicated smallpox. During the 20th century, smallpox claimed 300-500 million lives. When I was born, 50 million people each year died of smallpox. It is now eradicated from the earth.

Thank God people didn't just say we're broken and can't be fixed. We have no potential. Just believe in Jesus and keep dying of smallpox.

Our brother James taught us: "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."

And Jesus taught us who our naked brother or sister is in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbor is anyone who is in need.

Who would Jesus deny health care to? Who would Jesus tell us to give up on? We are supposed to do the work that Jesus did. Jesus healed. Jesus fed. Jesus extended compassion -- beyond the borders of his religion, nation and tribe.

Go thou and do likewise.


At 4:15 PM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...


You said "Is it a bad thing to give to those who have nothing? When has education been a bad thing?"
Few if anyone in America have nothing.
Who runs the school? Education in America is a disaster. Teachers unions are holding many for ransom, huge percentages of kids never graduate and many that do are too dumb to do much except manual labor (good thing we have lots of shovel ready jobs) and lets not even get into the curriculum. So yes, education can be a bad thing.

Lowell wants to end global poverty and yet we can't end it here in Fayetteville AR. Obama IS a false messiah because he declared himself a messiah, you remember that hope and change thing, (and incidently he didn't win my a large majority) so my stating his obvious failures is no stretch at all.

I appreciate your evaluation of my education, I really needed that. Thanks

Now let me gently suggest to you what my comment was about since you somehow interpreted it wrong. The Bible says, and it says it quite literally, that the world suck. It sucks because of YOU and ME, LOWELL, and OBAMA. It will always suck. YOU, ME, LOWELL, and Obama will NEVER fix it. WE will NEVER make it NOT SUCK.
You prefer to read the Bible as a really swell story to make you feel good, go for it. But the evidence that we can and are making the world better is not there, sorry if that doesn't support your supposition, people are suffering greatly. My interpretation, literally, says try, work, pray, give, but it also says trust. Trust that Christ WILL bring glory to himself, not to YOU, ME, LOWELL, or BARRACK.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Andy said...

You are right. The world does suck. We should all put on the sackcloth, dine on ashes and cry. We should go into the hills and live in caves and only look out for ourselves. I don't want to be around all those needy people. Let them help themselves. After all God only helps those who help themselves.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

It is not that I am right. I was simply saying that the Bible says the world is corrupt and broken, and that "we aren't who we have been waiting for" and our president told us. If that doesn't sit well with your worldview, then maybe you need to reevaluate your "take" on the Bible, or totally get rid of it instead of getting rid of parts of it.
I don't really know how you got to your conclusion based on my last two sentences. I said try, work, give, pray and trust but remember that Jesus will complete the work. Maybe your problem is in your comprehension. Did you take reading for comprehension in school or did you take "Evaluating the Education of Others 101".

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


First a bit of political response. Greg, you aren't making reasonable, grounded, or fact based arguments. You are mostly emoting. Obama never said he was the Messiah, that was just right wing ranting, trying to call him a Messiah because so many people were so enthusiastic about him. Note, Sarah Palin inspires comparable enthusiasm -- I've not heard the left use Messiah/anti-Christ language. Just drop that silliness.

U.S. Education has slipped recently to ninth among industrialized nations. The reasons are debated, but many fault some of the provisions of the "No Child Left Behind" teaching to the test reforms championed by Republicans. I don't know enough to judge. But I do know that most of the nations that rank ahead of us are those nations that you would call "socialist." And most of those nations are friendlier toward labor organizing among teachers and government workers than we are. (By the way, those heroes on 9-11; the police and firefighters who ran into the Twin Towers without hesitating, were all members of organized labor unions.)

Now to theology. Greg, you've bought into a particular strand of theology best articulated by John Calvin in the 16th century. You seem to have a firm commitment to Calvin's doctrine of total depravity.

Calvin was as superb theologian. The "Calvinism" which followed him did not demonstrate his breadth of vision, in my opinion. And as I read the Bible, and listen to the voices of other great Christian theologians, I find total-depravity to be a poor way of articulating the nature of the problem of the human condition.

Jesus did not treat the world and its people as though they were totally depraved. Jesus regarded people with love and compassion. He saw goodness where others saw uncleanness. He brought healing, forgiveness and love, rather than condemnation, judgment and "you suck." In fact, the only people he tended to get judgmental with, were those who were certain that they were right and insisted on telling others that they were sinners.

Enough for this morning.

I know it's short notice, but do you want to catch lunch today Greg?


At 9:57 AM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

Well you can certainly argue what you about about Obama's messiah status. Why would they be enthusiastic about a man coming to power who literally said "spread the wealth". Both people illicit excitement and enthusiam, true, (and im not a Palin supporter) but with differing messages. Obama is one of government intervention (i won't list the failures there) and on of personal responsibility and small government (whether that will be the culmination or not). The messages are diametrically opposed.

You find total depravity a bad articulation of the human condition? Well then how would you articulate it?
I see the world and the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of total depravity. Do you have any evidence to support your view?
The American system of government has without question produced the most prosperity, communism has produced the most dead people, monarchies have produced lots of cool castles, and dictatorships have produced lots of hijacked jets.

"Jesus did not treat the world and its people as though they were totally depraved." REALLY, so he suffered abuse, torture (not waterboarding by the way), humiliation and death for what? Just wanted a little adventure? I'm not sure I get the significance of the cross in light of your theology.

Evidence. A good lawyer can argue his way to acquittal. But I think evidence would be preferred. When we achieve utopia, then I will question my belief in total depravity. Until then, I place NO trust in Obama, Palin, Lowell, or Greg for that matter. I will continue to do my best and continue to trust in my redeemer.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Andy said...

needless to say my previous remark was completely sarcastic in nature.

I don't believe my method of interpeting the Bible has anything to do with the issues we are talking about here. I'd love to discuss that topic with you! And if you wish I'll give you my email and we can certianly continue that discussion. To discuss it now would be side stepping the issue. And I wouldn't want to cloud up Father Lowells blog anymore with my comments.

As far as your education goes my intent was not to insult you. "A good lawyer" as you put it can usually site where his evidence comes from. Prehaps I should have chosen different words.

There is a verse in the bible that always gets me. "whatever you do to the least of these you have done it unto me" Not only is Jesus speaking of the human condition he is refering to our action in response to it.

I pray that i can help meet the needs of others in the name of Christ. Maybe in some way i can reflect the grace that has been shown to me in the lives of those others

At 12:07 PM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...


Your interpretation of the Bible is what forms your worldview and thus inseperable from any discussion. And methodoloy is also irrelavent because ultimately we were discussing the result of that search. Both of our interpretations lead us to do unto the least of these, which noone is arguing. You have tried to put words into my mouth that were never uttered.
My initial comment was directed at Lowell's worldview. That worldview was illustrated in the first paragraph. Lowell claimed we were "capable". I disagreed. I then offered evidence (i actually think it is proof).


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