Thursday, August 12, 2010

Samson and Jesus

Thursday, August 12, 2010 -- Week of Proper 14, Year Two
Florence Nightingale, Nurse, Social Reformer, 1910
More about today's commemoration at our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 979)
Psalms 105:1-22 (morning)       105:23-45 (evening)
Judges 14:1-19
Acts 6:15 - 7:16
John 4:27-42

As I read this part of the story of Samson today, two thoughts came to me. 

First, I remembered how much I loved these stories when I was a little boy.  These were great stories of strength and conflict.  Samson was like a super-hero, strong and mighty, doing battle with the bad guys.  He could tear a lion apart with his bare hands, and single-handedly take on a town, kill thirty men, take their festive garments and pay off the wicked Philistines.  The world was black and white; good and evil; right and wrong.  Samson was powerful and strong -- fighting for the right.  I loved these stories.

Second, I remembered when it hit me some years later, that Samson behaved like a thug.  I now know that the Philistines were a more advanced culture than Israel at that time.  The Philistines worked with metals that were unavailable to the Israelites.  They lived in the more fertile coastal plain, had a productive and diverse economy, sent ships for international trade, built chariots and cities, and lived in a more sophisticated culture than the more primitive hill-dwellers of Israel.  How different the Samson story would have sounded from the perspective of the Philistines. 

The Philistines are more like us -- the U. S.  Wealthy, powerful, internationally respected.  From their perspective, Samson is something of a terrorist from a group of religious fanatics.  His story would sound entirely different if told by the Philistine writers.  To them, Samson would be someone akin to Osama bin Laden.

The Samson saga is fascinating and compelling.  But it's all about killing and fighting and hurting.  Nothing gets solved.  We know the end of the story.  The blind prisoner Samson achieves his greatest feat through his death.  He kills a stadium full of Philistines.  How about that.  He showed them.  But nothing else was solved.

Cut to the scenes in Acts and in John. 

Stephen has begun his speech before the council.  He interprets the history of Israel, emphasizing God's initiative and God's promises.  He recognizes the divisions that are part of their story, the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery, but God was with him.  Stephen will continue his story, reminding the people of their failures and of God's faithfulness.  When he sees a vision of the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, he will be stoned to death.  But his witness will inspire others, including Saul, to follow a new way.  At the core of this new way, for at least its first three hundred years, was a commitment to a non-violent pursuit of love.

And in our Gospel, Jesus engages in a scandalous conversation with a Samaritan woman until he has broken down the hostility and conflict of four hundred years of animosity between enemies.  The Samaritans, who usually taunt and occasionally attack Jews traveling through their land, invite Jesus and his disciples to stay with them.  He does so.  There is reconciliation, healing and peace.  Jesus opens a new way.

The Jesus saga is fascinating and compelling.  It's all about loving and healing and reconciling.  We know the end of the story.  Everything gets solved.  The willing victim Jesus achieves his greatest feat through death.  He absorbs all of the evil and violence of the world into his body and spirit, and he returns only forgiveness and love.  He releases a spirit of resurrection that lives eternally, making peace between those who are divided, reconciling into one those who were estranged. 

Now that I am older, I like this story better than Samson's.  



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 8:56 AM, Blogger Hannah said...

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At 4:32 PM, Blogger Pearl said...

This is a beautiful perspective. I often read your daily writing and catch my breath at your ability to simply unfold the truth. Bless you.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for you kind word.


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