Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Standing

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 -- Week of Last Epiphany, Year Two
Shrove Tuesday
Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda, and Martyr, 1977

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 951)
Psalms 26, 28 (morning) 36, 39 (evening)
Proverbs 30:1-4, 24-33
Philippians 3:1-11
John 18:28-38

We have discussions about "standing" in each of the readings today.

Psalm 26 is one of my least favorite. The writer is so sure of his righteousness and integrity that he asks God for judgment, particularly a judgment that will justify him in the presence of those integrity he challenges.

How different appears the stance of the oracle in Proverbs. "I am weary, O God, I am weary, O God. ...Surely I am to stupid to be human..." The writer looks upon the vastness of the universe and recognizes his limitations. He is incapable of wisdom and cannot know the divine. He closes with a poem about small animals who demonstrate amazing skills, and he cautions against self-aggrandizement.

Our reading from Paul is particularly interesting to me. Paul is reflecting on a conflict between those in the congregation who are Jewish Christians and those who are Gentile Christians. The Jewish Christians are insisting that they have a higher standing than the others because they have inherited and followed the traditions of Judaism. They obey and follow the Biblical law of the Torah, given by Moses. The sign of their obedience and their standing before God is the sign of circumcision. These Jewish Christians are telling the Gentile converts, if you want to have standing before God, as we have, you must also follow these sacred traditions; you must also be circumcised.

Paul disagrees vehemently. The essence of our standing before God is the gift of grace, acceptance before God through Jesus. Our standing is sheer gift. There is nothing we must do to earn or achieve it. The only thing we need to do is to accept the gift. That's faith. Justification before God comes by trusting that God gives us the gift of full standing before God through the life and death of Jesus. Justification by grace, through faith.

Paul turns to the Jewish Christians, who think they have more standing than the Gentile Christians, and he calls them dogs. (A dog was a metaphor of shameless greed.) Paul asserts his standing under their system and says it is rubbish. Paul is circumcised; a zealous, law-observant Jew; fully accounted as righteous under the law. That is rubbish, he says. He puts his faith in Christ, and he gains "the righteousness from God based on faith." No more performance based standing. No more achieving your own standing before God. That's rubbish. "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

For Paul our standing is our relationship with Christ, a living relationship based on his goodness, not ours. We live in him, and out of his energy we respond with lives of thankfulness and service.

Finally we have the ironic confrontation between Pilate and Jesus. Pilate appears to have the power of life and death over all, including Jesus. He charges Jesus with claiming to be the King of the Jews. Jesus asserts his royalty. "My kingdom is not from this world." His is not a kingdom of violence and fighting, like the famous "Pax Romana" -- a peace imposed by the force and bloodshed of the Roman Legions. "If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting..." Jesus redefines his role as king. "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." The world-weary sovereign, Pilate shrugs, "What is truth?" He gets no answer except the One who stands before him -- Truth personified.

We stand in a heritage of truth. The truth of Jesus who shows us the way of God -- the way of love, compassion, non-violence, and justice. Our standing is not something we earn through knowledge or performance. Our standing is God's gift to us, freely offered for us merely to accept. It is not a standing to be lorded over others in pride or exclusion, but a standing to be lived out in love and service.

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we come to God in humility and penitence. We will acknowledge our standing as mere mortals before the divine. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Out of that humble start, we will be invited to walk the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, which leads to resurrection. We are given standing to walk with God. It is God's gift to us, humble dust, raised to divinity.

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

3 Comments:

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous janetlgraige said...

My kingdom is not "from this world," instead of "of this world."

What a difference a preposition makes. Thank you.

And may we each come to experience more fully God's kingdom these next forty days.

Janet

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger Anders Branderud said...

Quote: “congregation who are Jewish Christians and those who are Gentile Christians”

(le-havdil), A logical analysis (found here: www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim)) of all extant source documents and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

Judaism and Christianity have always been two antithetical religions, and thus the term “Jewish Christians” is an oxymoron.

Ribi Yehoshuas talmidim Netzairm still observes Torah non-selectively to their utmost today and the research in the above website implies that becoming one of Ribi Yehoshuas Netzarim-followers is the only way to follow him.

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Ahh Anders. You can thank God that you are not like other men, sinners and fools, who do not follow the law and live in the one, true way. You have the only way. All others are lost sinners. You alone may go down to your house satisfied.

Thanks Janet for the witness of the preposition. May it be a Holy Lent.

Lowell

 

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