Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dead Man Walking

Thursday, July 1, 2010 -- Week of Proper 8, Year Two
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Writer and Prophetic Witness, 1896

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 973)
Psalms 131, 132, [133] (morning)       134, 135 (evening)
Numbers 23:11-26
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 22:1-14

Another new observation in the trial calendar:  Harriet Beecher Stowe [June 14, 1811-July 1, 1896] Author and abolitionist, Stowe came from a prominent Calvinist family, but her growing dissatisfaction with its harsh tenants led her to join the Episcopal Church (her grandmother had been an Episcopalian).  Stowe's writing was influenced by the Book of Common Prayer. Some of her later novels portray the Episcopal Church of her time. (July 1)

Today's gospel is one of the most difficult parables we have.  I've only preached on it once, in 2008.  Here's a link to that sermon.  In that sermon, I interpreted this parable as a story about the abusive powers that kings, Caesars and others wield.  To stand up to power and to refuse to cooperate has its costs.  Jesus, like the person who refused to wear a wedding robe to this tyrannical king's wedding banquet, was bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness.  Yet Jesus became the bridegroom for the wedding feast of the Lamb.  If that quick summary sparks your curiosity, give the sermon a read.

What jumped out to me in today's readings was this phrase from Paul's Epistle to the Romans:  "But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." 

Paul's image is fascinating.  He pictures us like inmates on death row.  Our bodies are dead.  Our sin has corrupted and imprisoned our bodies.  Sin made active through the law condemns us as guilty.  Dead man walking.

But because of the Spirit, because of Christ, we are alive, though dead.

Dying and rising.  It is the image of baptism.  Through baptism we die to the old life and are raised into a new identity.

Dying and rising.  It is the story of conversion.  I once was lost, but now I'm found.  Was blind, but now I see.

There is a certain freedom that Paul preaches which comes from dying to an old way of life.  That old life of trying to measure up to the law was exhausting, demoralizing and anxiety laden.  It was killing Paul to try to measure up.  To be okay. 

His conversion (his baptism on the Damascus Road) was the realization that trying to be in control, trying to be perfect, trying to measure up was death.  So he quit.  He gave it up.  He died to the law and the flesh and its demands.  He became a dead man walking.  Utterly free.  His freedom came from his acceptance through Christ.  He was forgiven, loved and free.  Like Christ, he died and rose again.

Every morning can be an experience of resurrection.  In the evening we go to sleep.  We let go of the past.  It is over.  We surrender to the darkness of sleep.  We let go of our need to control.  We die.  We quit doing and allow being.  Our bodies have died; we are at rest. 

In the morning, it is a new day.  A gift.  We renew our identity as God's beloved children.  Forgiven, loved and free.  Our spirit has awakened; but we are still at rest. 

In your hands we rest
In the cup of whose hands sailed an ark
Rudderless, without mast.

In your hands we rest
Who was to make of the aimless wandering of the Ark
A new beginning for the world.

In your hands we rest
Ready and content this day.

(by Alan Jones)



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 10:47 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Hi Lowell,

Some pretty heady reflection stuff to peruse today!

So I'll give some more. I look at it in a big picture way - the material world, body, sin in a small sphere. Then, surrounding that, completely enclosing it are the layers and layers of spiritual realm. So that you really can wake up one morning, or on the road one day, and still live in the same body, but all things have become new. And from here, we begin to make different choices, based on a spiritual reality that enfolds, encompasses, redeems the sin and death of the purely physical realm.

Here you can know that Christ says Peace, be Still! to the earth, to humanity, to the gushing oil leak and the abusive power dictator and the victims of violence and oppression and you can know this peace to be spiritual truth and ultimate reality.

Here, you can begin to live into that grace that is poured out in abundance over all the earth and her creatures. And if we really practice looking through these eyes, we naturally grow into made in the image, as does all around us.

And we can say with Julian of Norwich, All manner of things shall be well.


At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the most beautiful stories of grace and reconciliation I've ever read:

I thought you might like to see this.

-- Lesley K

At 8:01 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Janet. I am reminded of the image of Jesus as the Stillpoint of all creation.

And Lesley,
the story of the Christians wearing the "I'm Sorry" signs at the Gay Pride parade is so moving. Thanks for sharing the link.

I attended our local parade last weekend, and it was such a joyful occasion. It meant so much for the mayor of the city to offer a proclamation on behalf of the event and the week. Healing is happening.



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