Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reality and Vision

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 -- -- Week of 4 Advent, Year One
Henry Budd, Priest, 1875, and
Charlotte Diggs (Lottie) Moon, Missionary in China, 1912

To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 938)
Psalms 72 (morning)       111, 113 (evening)
Isaiah 28:9-22 
Revelation 21:9-21 
Luke 1:26-38

There is something wonderfully compelling about reading the three lessons in order today.

Isaiah announces to the unjust rulers in Jerusalem that God is about to use aliens and foreigners to teach them a lesson.  It is a strange deed and an alien work, says Isaiah, but it is "a decree of destruction from the Lord God of hosts upon the whole land."

In the midst of the decree of destruction, Isaiah says that God is laying a foundation stone:  "One who trusts will not panic."  Still Isaiah is urging the King to trust God instead of alliances with Egypt.  Still Isaiah is insisting that the elites practice economic justice toward the poor.  God's measuring tools are justice and righteousness, and God will destroy everything else, the prophet insists.  "I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.  Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through you will be beaten down by it."

What a contrast we have with John the Divine's vision of the heavenly Jerusalem.  Upon the mountain, the holy city descends from heaven.  "It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal."  The description is magnificent.  It's measurement is 1,500 miles around with walls 300 feet high (the numbers are all symbolic numbers representing completeness).  It is built of fine jewels and precious metals.  It's twelve gates are symbolic of the whole people of God (whose number is twelve).  John sees the heavenly city as the dwelling place that God chooses, where God's glory dwells with humanity.

Then we read of the announcement of God's glory coming to dwell with humanity -- the story of the Annunciation to Mary.  The angel Gabriel tells her that her child will be holy.  "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  Mary's simple response of faith is the perfect example for the church -- "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

Today we live in the tension between the reality and the vision.  We witness our generation's failure of justice and righteousness even as we hope for the gift of the heavenly Jerusalem.  We know the promise of God's glory dwelling with us in the life of Mary's child Jesus.  Jesus takes the horrible failures of our destructive ways into his own life, grabs them on the cross in perfect obedience as the servant of God's will, and raises all into heaven, only to return in resurrected glory to dwell with us in a new kingdom for which there will be no end.  We live with all of this today.

May we face the injustice and unrighteousness of our day with trust in Christ, God's glory dwelling with and in us, and may we live confidently in peace in the kingdom he has given us.

One final note.  For Episcopalians who are former Baptists, today should be a delightful commemoration from our new calendar.  You will remember the Lottie Moon Christmas missionary fund.  Lottie Moon is now in our proposed calendar for her inspiring missionary work in China and the evolution of her own transformation as one who was able to move from condescension to union with a foreign culture.  We also honor Henry Budd, the first person of First Nation ancestry to be ordained an Anglican in North America.  He served in Canada, and translated the Bible and Prayer Book into the Cree language.



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 -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See 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 9:51 AM, Blogger Bob said...


Your reflections this morning prompts two comments.

I'm delighted that the Episcopalians have the good sense to recognize Lottie Moon. Those who say that Southern Baptists don't have saints don't know the impact of Lottie Moon's story (hagiography?)on generations of Baptists. Things may have changed now (it's been awhile since I kept up with such), but when I was growing up Baptist she was revered.

The story of the Annunciation from Luke and a comment you made in your class Sunday about treating the sacraments and elements of the creed as mysteries rather than facts to be accepted or rejected converged for me this morning while listening to Chanticleer sing a favorite Advent/Christmas piece, "O magnum Mysterium." Together these strands of thought help me to embrace phrases like "Blessed Virgin" without getting my knickers in a twist. Here's the text in English:

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that beasts should see the newborn Lord,lying in a manger.
O Blessed Virgin, in whose unblemished womb was carried the Lord Jesus Christ.


At 7:39 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Marc Borg talks about something that rings true for me. He speaks of a "second naivety" that comes to us.

When we are young, we read the Christmas story, and we can imagine it happening, just like that. When we get older, many of us (not all) find that we just don't believe that story literally any more. Their details bother us. We read; we study; we pray. We find new rivers of wisdom in the metaphors and symbols and narrative of the stories. (some say this is to demythologize the stories)

Then later in life, we find we are so much at peace with these stories, that they regain their magic. We can hear them and delight with them with a childlike second naivety.

That's true for me now.

BTW -- Which version of "O magnum Mysterium" were you listening to? The piece by Vitoria has some warm memories for me. In college I was in a group that sang that on a tour of Europe. I particularly love it.



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