The Government of God
James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1885
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. 991)
Psalms 40, 54 (morning) 51 (evening)
Ecclesiasticus* 34:1-8, 18-22
* found in the Apocrypha; also known as the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." That's Jesus' conclusion to a beautiful teaching telling his followers not to be anxious. "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear." God feeds the ravens and clothes the fields with flowers. If God loves these, how much more does God love us.
Surrounding his encouragement Jesus presents contrasting ways of being in the world. "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed," he says. Then Jesus tells the story of one who has saved up an ample nest egg for secure retirement, and dies upon reaching his financial goal. That's the first way of being in the world. Jesus says it is a false path.
The other way that Jesus commends is this: "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." But note. This phrase comes just after Jesus' promise that the Father will give the kingdom to his little flock.
The Kingdom of God is Jesus' primary metaphor. He says it is his mission to bring the kingdom. In his ministry the kingdom draws near. Everything about the kingdom is about how life is to be on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom is how it would be if God ruled, instead of Caesar and Herod and Pilate. It is a very material, earthy metaphor.
Since we are unfamiliar with kings and kingdoms, for us it might be better rendered the government of God or the politics of God. The government of God is one that is not founded on greed and increased wealth. In the government of God we can be unanxious and secure because everyone will be fed, everyone will be clothed. Possessions will be less important than generosity. The government of God searches for the lost lamb and the widow's penny, and rejoices when they are found.
Whenever Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, his hearers knew he was speaking political words. He was killed by Rome as an enemy of the state.
In that tradition, John the Divine offers another metaphor. He uses code language to speak of Empire, first as a dragon. John uses traditional language, first describing the dragon as a beast from the sea, the ancient sea monster leviathan. He borrows details from Daniel's beasts (Dan. 7). In verse three, John says that one of the heads of the multi-headed beasts received a death-blow, but was healed. Most commentators say John is probably speaking of Julius Caesar who was assassinated, but the beast of the empire continued. Julius was the first of the emperors to claim he was divine. Successive emperors claimed to be sons of the divine. These are the blasphemous words the beast utters.
Again John declares that the period of evil is limited -- forty-two months, a symbolic number meaning broken and incomplete -- half of seven, the number of wholeness.
John advises the community not to try either escape or armed resistance, but rather perseverance (vs. 10). "Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints."
So it is for us. Beware of greed and of the blasphemy of government. Political parties are always arrogant and idolatrous. When evil politics prevail, do not flee or use violence -- persevere. The period of evil is limited.
Align yourself with the government of God, the politics of God. Let your allegiance be with generosity and compassion, especially for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. Seek the kind of equity Jesus preaches about so radically in his parable of the workers in the field who all received their daily wage. Support the economy of the Lord's Prayer, where everyone has their daily bread and debts are forgiven. Let your treasure be your persevering loyalty to the politics of God, an unfailing treasure where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Persevere. Love, compassion, economic justice, and generosity are the treasures of the unanxious kingdom. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
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 missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
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 -- Click for Divine Hours
Discussion Blog: To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, 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 www.stpaulsfay.org
Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church