Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Tuesday, June 8, 2010 -- Week of Proper 5, Year Two
Roland Allen, Mission Strategist, 1947

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 971)
Psalms 61, 62 (morning)       68:1-20(21-23)24-36 (evening)
Ecclesiastes 8:14 - 9:10
Galatians 4:21-31
Matthew 15:29-39

A new observance from our trial calendar:  Roland Allen [1868-June 9, 1947] Anglican priest and missionary to China and Africa, he worked to establish local, self-generating churches instead of ones supported by colonial missions. He was the author of the influential Missionary Methods: St. Pauls or Ours? (June 8)  (He's one of my favorites on the new calendar.)

You cannot expect that justice will happen, says the Teacher of Ecclesiastes.  "There are righteous people who are treated according to the conduct of the wicked, and there are wicked people who are treated according to the conduct of the righteous.  I said that this also is vanity."

Study as we may, we will never truly understand truth, we will never comprehend the depths of wisdom or reality.  Every scientist knows that each new discovery only brings new questions.  "No one can find out what is happening under the sun.  However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out."

Whether we are good and noble or we are corrupt knaves, we all will die and eventually be forgotten.  It is the same end for the good and for the evil, "since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice."  It is better to be alive than to be dead, says the Teacher, "for living dog is better than a dead lion."  But the Teacher has no theology of an afterlife of paradise and justice:  "the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost.  Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun."

Today's reading summarizes the Teacher's philosophy.  Accept the reality that there is no justice, we cannot comprehend wisdom and truth, and we all will die, good and bad alike.  The Teacher faces these realities fully and tells us to live while we may live.  Enjoy your work while you can.  Enjoy your life while you can.  "Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do.  Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head.  Enjoy life with the wife who you love, all the days of your vain life that you are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do with might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going."

The appeal is not to mere hedonism.  The Teacher advocates virtue and righteous dealing.  He only urges us to be modest in our expectations.  Do good for its own sake, and enjoy the doing.  But don't expect that you will right the wrongs of the world or that you will be rewarded for your good doing.  Do good when you can, and enjoy whatever enjoyments you are given.

In a way, Paul makes a similar argument in today's reading from Galatians.  He wishes to pop the balloon of those who think they have a system that will assure them of standing before God.  Those who follow the law of Torah claim that in their following, they are righteous, they are in the right with humanity and God.  Paul says they are only slaves.  Slaves to the rules, and thus self-centered in their actions and anxious in their being.  Throw it all away, says Paul, and be free.  The law is only slavery that brings death.  True life, true freedom is a gift.  The gift of justification by grace through faith.  So enjoy.  Accept the gift.  You are accepted.  Accept the fact that you are accepted.  Be free.  Alive.  Enjoy.  When you can, do good.  Look toward the needs of others.  Be free.

And Jesus feeds the multitude.  Everyone.  The good and the bad.  The lazy and the industrious.  Everyone present gets fed.  Matthew reproduces word for word much of Mark's earlier account of the feeding of the 4,000.  Mark's version makes it clear that this crowd is a Gentile crowd -- foreigners, of a different religion.  Although they are not the people of the promise; although they know nothing of the scripture and the traditions; although they do not observe the prayers and ethic of Jesus' people -- Jesus feeds them all.  And there is an abundance left over.  We might hear an echo of the ancient Teacher's voice:  "Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do."

"This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  (Psalm 118:24)



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 10:56 AM, Blogger Sterling said...

Seems the Teacher of Ecclesiates was the first Existentialist. Their philosphy (to me) is summed up as "life sucks then you die".

As Christians, we have faith that there is a transcendant existance beyond this life that makes the toil of this life worth living. That this might be "spring training" for the fall season that lies beyond. Such is the mystery of the creator and creation.

There are events that happen in life, for those lucky enough to observe them, that portend a greater connection to the creator and the mysteries than the existentialists would concede. Maybe they are too caught up in their pity party to connect with the good all around us.

We should live for today and never take a day for granted, as the Teacher would advocate. As you said, Lowell, be free to live and love! Those whom know love (in any of its 5 manifestations) have been lucky enough to connect with the Creator, and have caught a glimpse of enlightenment; but only a glimpse.

I believe that from love comes truth, or at least one pure truth that is irrefutable. It's enough to reinforce one's faith that life really DOESN'T suck, and that there is life after Spring Training.

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Good words, Sterling.

And in his somewhat cynical way, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes also asserts that life is good. "It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion."

Like you, I prefer a more optimistic perspective. I believe that creation is good; that life is good. I want to follow and contribute to that good. I recognize that you can't count on justice. Sometimes foolishness, wickedness and accident overturn things. But the signs of God's presence and blessing are everywhere, if we can only keep our eyes of hope open.

Tell me about the five manifestations of love that you mention.



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