Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Triumphalism

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 -- Week of Proper 3, Year Two
Bede, the Venerable, Priest and Monk of Jarrow, 735

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)
Psalms 26, 28 (morning)       36, 39 (evening)
Proverbs 15:16-33
1 Timothy 1:18 - 2:8
Matthew 12:33-42

One of the characteristics of of faith is its essential humility.  Jesus consistency resisted those who insisted that he show them some sign of power in order for them to be impressed enough to follow him.  Jesus deflected the disciples' dreams of status and honor that they assumed would be theirs as followers of the Messiah and as confidants of the true God. 


Today Jesus denies a request for a sign.  The only sign they will be given, he says, is the sign of Jonah.  For the early church, the story of Jonah's descent and return from the belly of the whale was a precursor and metaphor for the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.  The sign of the cross is the only sign necessary, said the early church.  The cross is the way of humiliation and death.  The path to life is through death, Jesus teaches.


This is not the kind of teaching that these questioners are looking for.  But Jesus only continues to burst their bubble of pride and precedence.  Jesus tells them that the famous sinful Gentile city of Nineveh will be in a more privileged place than they because the people of Nineveh listened to Jonah, and something greater than Jonah is here.  Jesus tells them that the Gentile queen of Sheba who famously visited Solomon in ancient days will sit in judgment upon these who think of themselves as insiders, God's particular and chosen people. 


Triumphalism is not an appropriate characteristic for God's people.  We are not to assume that have a privileged place before God just because we believe that we follow the correct faith.  The Bible points out abundant examples of faith that are outside the circle of insiders.  Our duty is to respond humbly to what God has given us, and expect to see God's presence and grace in the unexpected circumstances and people.  For Jesus' listeners, criminal execution would be a completely unexpected circumstance for the demonstration of God's presence and grace.  They also would not have expected God's presence and grace to be especially manifest outside of the believing community, among those of other faiths.  Jesus tells them that their view is too narrow.


Christian arrogance and triumphalism is inappropriate for us just as Jewish arrogance and triumphalism was inappropriate for these whom Jesus addresses today.  We are not to sense ourselves as privileged and special simply because we have found the truth of Jesus.  To follow him is to accept his path of humility, the way of the cross.  We are to die to our own sense of power, and humbly expect to see God's presence and grace manifest in all times and places, including among those who are not of our faith.


We've heard the warnings.  Humble seekers from outside our traditions are closer to God's truth than we are when we function with an arrogant sense of certainties.  God has shown us the way.  To follow Christ is to follow his humble path of self-emptying love for all.

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
 

1 Comments:

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Seoc Dughlas said...

I mase a copy of this comment, in case you didn't get it the first time. I noticed it didn't post like I thought it would... if you get this twice, I'm truly sorry.

Yes, Father. I completely concur on the irrationality some people have on guilt. There are times in which I'm still crippled by the effects of guilt and shame. Fortunately for me, I've am moved by the Grace of God, as the Holy Spirit, inside me, reminds me continously to "take it easy. We all can afford to learn from our mistakes and move on, being better and stronger for it."

I don't think the Holy Spirit plays guilt trips. It's been my experience that if anything, the Holy Spirit would like for us to go beyond all that.

Thanks for listening...

Jack.

 

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