Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Two Traditions

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 -- Week of 5 Epiphany, Year Two

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 947)
Psalms 78:1-39 (morning) 78:40-72 (evening)
Genesis 26:1-6, 12-33
Hebrews 13:17-25
John 7:53 - 8:11

It seems to me that today we have two stories that offer a traditional value for both Jews and Christians that each has historically violated.

First we have the stories of Isaac's early life among the Philistines. The location is the valley of Gerar, just a few miles from modern Gaza. It is a dry, arid area with an underground layer of clay which draws water that flows from the hill country. We read today of several incidents of conflict between Isaac and the Philistines. Much of the conflict involved water.

When Isaac dug a well and found a valley spring, the local herders complained, "The water is ours." So Isaac moved. He dug another well, and there was a similar quarrel. So Isaac moved again. On his third try, Isaac dug a well, and there was no complaint.

What happened? The first two wells tapped aquifers that affected and compromised the pre-existing wells of the native Philistines. Isaac acted honorable and traditionally by moving, eventually to a site where his use of water did not harm his neighbor.

Some of the anger and frustration that modern Palestinians report has to do with similar conflicts over water. In many places where Israelis have created settlements in the land formerly held by Palestinians, the Israelis have dug wells that have compromised or even eliminated the water sources that the Palestinians depended upon. Some native farmers have lost their livelihood because they could not water their crops or animals. Some communities have been severely disrupted. In many of the stories I have heard, the Palestinians have been unsuccessful in their appeals through the Israeli authorities. I'm sure there are stories in which their water rights have been upheld, but I've not heard any of those stories. (Maybe a reader can help me with a reference.)

The creation of Israeli settlements in land occupied from Palestinians has been a primary source of conflict and bitterness. Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been a primary source of potential threat and violence for many years. What if modern Israelis had followed the course of their ancestor Isaac? What if they had planted settlements with sensitivity to the water needs of their neighbors already occupying the land? Had they done so, much suffering and conflict might have been avoided. They also would have been acting within the example and character of their own tradition and heritage as passed down by Isaac.

The story in John 8 is an ancient story of the Christian tradition, but its position in the Gospels is disputed. Some authorities place it after Luke 21:38, others in another place in John's gospel. Most ancient texts lack this story in this place, but it is an old story.

They have caught her red handed. The woman was in the very act of committing adultery. The scripture is clear. The law of Moses demands that "you shall purge the evil from your midst." (It is interesting. Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 demand that both the man and the woman caught in adultery should die. Where is the man in this story?)

Jesus arrests their act of judgment. "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." No one steps up.

I read from the Access Bible, and this is one of those days when it offers a very helpful annotation, saying, "The story illustrates 3:17; 12:47." Here are those verses. 3:17 -- "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." 12:47 -- "I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."

What if Christians would live with the same grace and tolerance that Jesus exhibited? As a culture, Christians have become so noted for their judging nature and intolerance, especially toward sexual things, that we know instinctively what people mean when they say of a woman, "She's a sinner." We know what the bumper sticker means, "Jesus, save me from your followers." What if Christianity were known more for its compassion and tolerance than for its judgment and condemnation? When will we learn to act within the example and character of our own heritage and tradition given to us by Jesus?


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 10:11 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

If you haven't already read it, don't go on your Israel trip without reading The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan. You can find it in paperback and it is a wonderful and true presentation of two families (one Israeli and one Palestinian) and the relationship they develop over a number of years after they have each lived in the same home with a Lemon Tree in the backyard. It is filled with the history of each of their families and gave me the best understanding I have ever had of the problems in the region.

Hope you have a great trip and I'm looking forward to following your blog.

Nancy Smith
All Saint's Russellville

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Nancy. I'm looking forward to the trip.



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