Monday, February 08, 2010

Surprise!

Monday, February 8, 2010 -- Week of 5 Epiphany, Year Two

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 947)
Psalms 80 (morning) 77, [79] (evening)
Genesis 25:19-34
Hebrews 13:1-16
John 7:37-52

We awoke today with a fresh blanket of snow covering the ground. Pretty modest fare compared with 20 inches or so that my sister outside of D.C. is coping with. I read in the paper that massive areas of coral have died of cold in the Florida keys. It appears that climate change has even extended into the netherworld. It is pretty obvious with the Saints win in the Super Bowl that hell has frozen over. And I'm not about to board an airplane until I know that the flying pigs have been accounted for.

(For those who aren't football fans, I grew up in Mississippi where our professional team was the New Orleans Saints. "Hapless" was the usual word applied to them. Just as Mississippi was always 50th in every ranking, the Saints were the worst franchise in the NFL. My college quarterback Archie Manning was one of the best quarterbacks ever. He led the Saints for ten years, never with a winning record. The team was so bad, that for a while fans wore bags over their heads to hide their identities and called the team the "Aints." Archie's young children asked their mother if they could join in the "boo-ing." When will the Saints win the Super Bowl? When pigs fly and hell freezes over!)

Yet God's doing the impossible and unexpected is a major theme of scripture. In Genesis today we read of the birth of twins, Esau and Jacob. Breaking with the strict traditions of hierarchy and inheritance, the younger Jacob becomes the dominant, often through questionable means.

In the Gospel reading from John today, we see a dispute about Jesus. The Biblical literalists close the book on him: "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived? ...Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee." It is noteworthy that John's gospel has no story of Jesus' being born in Bethlehem. From the perspective of the Gospel of John, Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus comes from Galilee. Impossible? Unexpected? Open your eyes and see.

"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings..." says Hebrews. The text is referring to Biblical laws that have been central to Biblical identity for centuries, the kosher dietary laws. In the name of a new way, Hebrews insists that our hearts "be strengthened by grace," not "by regulations about food." It is not hard to imagine the outpouring of objection from those who would have identified themselves as Biblically observant -- We follow the kosher laws God gave us from the Holy Word. Surprise! God changes the rules, says Hebrews.

In the same paragraph we read "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Yet the whole story of Jesus is the story of God's doing a new thing.

God's steadfast love endures forever and the compassion of Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. When we speak of that which is unchanging and enduring, we speak of the divine character of grace and love and the divine passion for justice, which is love expressed corporately. Too often, in the name of faith, people have made lesser things eternal. Yet, over and over God surprises us, bringing grace, love and justice through the unexpected person or the unexpected event. Literalists and legalists are always the last to recognize those divine actions. Established structures are usually slow to embrace God's new ways as well.

We can become anxious in a world where hell freezes and pigs fly, where the younger supplants the elder and treasured traditions are broken, where scripture is reinterpreted and things aren't as we always believed them. But God will not be defined. If we are to drink from the water of the Spirit that Jesus speaks of today, we must be willing to let God be manifest in Galileans and second-borns. We must be able to be surprised by the unexpected source of divine grace.

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

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