Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Warning and Wisdom

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 -- Week of Proper 5, Year Two
Columba, Abbot of Iona, 597

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 971)
Psalms 72 (morning)       119:73-96 (evening)
Ecclesiastes 9:11-18
Galatians 5:1-15
Matthew 16:1-12

All three readings today give warnings. 

In both Paul and Matthew's writing, they use the metaphor of yeast as an image of decay and corruption.  It only takes a little yeast to leaven the whole store of flour. 

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus warns the disciples of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees as he reminds them of the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes.  The Pharisees and Sadducees display a party spirit, each withdrawing into a circle of settled and certain teaching, unable to be open to the surprising and creative Spirit of God's new activity.  Look at the miracle of the loaves.  Jesus fed a multitude of Jews and another multitude of Gentiles.  Everyone was welcome.  Everyone was fed.  There was abundance.  Open your eyes and see, he tells his disciples.

Paul's argument is with the Judaisers in the congregation in Galatia.  These are Christian followers of Jesus who also insist that the baptized continue to observe the laws and statutes of the Jewish Torah.  For Gentile converts into the Church, it would mean that they would need to be circumcised in order to join the congregation.  Paul passionately objects.  To justify yourself by following an objective set of laws nullifies the gift that Christ brings us.  He says it cuts us off from grace.  In one of his most exemplary sentences, Paul exclaims, "the only thing that counts is faith working through love."

We are at the core of Paul's teaching here.  It starts with the gift of God through Jesus -- the gift of acceptance, justification.  We are offered a whole and right relationship with God.  It is a gift.  Pure gift.  No strings attached whatsoever.  You don't have to do anything to be offered the gift.  No laws, no performance, no circumcision.  All you need do is accept the gift.  That's what faith is.  The acceptance of the gift of acceptance. 

"The only thing that counts is faith working through love."  There is an alternative translation.  "The only thing that counts is faith made effective through love."  You have been lovingly accepted, therefore, love your neighbor -- live in love.  The summation of Christian ethics for Paul is the commandment to love.  We are accepted and made free as a gift.  Through faith accept the gift, then make that free gift effective by living in love toward your neighbor.  "For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"  Of there is anyone who compromises this gift by demanding the observance of laws and traditions outside the simple commandment of love, that person is the yeast that is corrupting the gospel, says Paul.  Their teaching is so damaging, Paul says, that he cries out in frustration, "I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!"

Well!  That's how strongly Paul feels about those who would turn Christianity into a religion of behavior according to rules and conventions rather than a living relationship of love grounded in the grace and gift of God.

One more warning.  You may activate your faith by living in love, but that doesn't guarantee that you'll have a pleasant, effective or just life.  The New Testament reminds us of that by the story of the cross and our invitation to pick up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus, the good and just One who was crucified. 

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes gives word to that warning -- "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all."  He gives an example of a small city that is saved by the wisdom of one man, but that same man is forgotten later and ignored.  It is good to be wise, but don't expect people to pay attention to your wisdom. 

Enjoy what you can, says the Teacher.  Love, says Jesus and Paul.  And be aware that there is much that corrupts and destroys the best we can do.



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


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home