Monday, February 22, 2010

Three Stories for Lent

Monday, February 22, 2010 -- Week of 1 Lent, Year Two
Eric Liddell, Missionary to China, 1945

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning) 44 (evening)
Genesis 37:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-19
Mark 1:1-13

First a word about our new commemoration from the proposed calendar Holy Women, Holy Men:
Liddell, Eric [Jan. 16, 1902-February 21, 1945] One of the Olympic medalists commemorated in the movie Chariots of Fire, Liddell was born in China. His parents were Scottish missionaries, and he became a missionary to China as well. After he won his Olympic medal running, he was ordained (1932) and returned to China. He elected to stay when British citizens were evacuated because of the fighting between Chinese and Japanese, and was eventually put in an internment camp where he died in 1945. (Feb. 22)

We begin three stories today that will take us through much of Lent.

The Joseph saga is the longest story in Genesis. It tells how the family of Jacob becomes a great people. Like the nation, Joseph will be enslaved and rescued. God's hand will be present throughout the drama.

In first Corinthians we join a conversation already in progress between Paul and the urban congregation that he founded in Corinth. He is writing, probably from Ephesus, to answer questions and address issues that have come up in the life of the congregation.

And Mark is the earliest Gospel that we have. I think it is an especially appropriate Gospel to read in Lent, for the passion of the cross looms over the entire narrative.

All three of these stories open with conflict. Joseph, the youngest and favored child, is having arrogant dreams with images of his entire family, even his mother and father, bowing down to him as if he were their patron and superior. We can feel the resentment and jealousy brewing within the family.

Paul writes to a congregation that is in the middle of potentially divisive quarrels. There are various cliques and parties within the Corinthian church. We can almost hear echoes of a future history: "I belong to Luther's people; I belong to Calvin; I belong to Peter; I'm the only one who truly follows Christ." Paul will warn the congregation about the destructiveness of these proud divisions, and urge them toward union in Christ.

Mark opens his "good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" with the herald call of John, preparing the way from the wilderness in the tradition of the ancient prophets. Jesus comes to John and is baptized. Jesus experiences a theophany -- he sees the heavens torn apart, the Spirit of God descends upon him, and a voice speaks of him as God's Beloved Son. Immediately Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, like the Exodus story of God's people, where he meets the evil powers of chaos.

Resentment, jealousy, division, conflict, wilderness, evil and power. This is the backdrop of our three stories that will walk with us into our Lenten pilgrimage. Whatever is broken or askew in the human experience is part of the Biblical stories. Yet we know, God works with our soiled and weakened stuff to bring about unexpected blessings. As we enter the anger, pain and even violence of these ancient stories, we also know that God is moving beneath them to save.

God's story isn't set among the diamonds of exemplary, good people living charmed lives of peace and obedience. God's story is always set within the challenges and tragedies of our sad limitations. God works in and with our brokenness. God uses our evil for good.

As we enter this Lent, we ask God to do for our generation what God has shown in past days. Work within the conflicts, jealousies, violence, lostness, evil and misuse of power that is so present in our age, and bring us the salvation that Joseph, Paul and Jesus reveal. We need your help once again.


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
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

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

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 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These reflections are very helpful to me today as I find myself in the wilderness. Nothing is what I thought it would be, and much is being taken from me and keeping me from doing what I thought was my calling. It helps to remember that regardless of the external circumstances, God is always with me, and that there is a Divine Purpose to everything.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

May you know the comfort of God's water in the desert.


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