Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ultimate Concern

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 -- Week of 2 Epiphany, Year One
Confession of St. Peter the Apostle
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office

the readings for Tuesday of 2 Epiphany (Prayer Book, p. 944)
Psalms 26, 28 (morning)       36, 39 (evening)
Isaiah 44:9-20
Ephesians 4:17-32
Mark 3:19b-35

the readings for the Confession of St. Peter, (p. 996)
Morning Prayer: Psalms 66, 67;  Ezekiel 3:4-11;  Acts 10:34-44
Evening Prayer:  Psalm 118;  Ezekiel 34:11-16;  John 21:15-22

I chose the readings for Tuesday of 2 Epiphany
Isaiah writes a blistering satire on idolatry, inviting us to watch the creation of an idol by the artisans.  The carpenter takes the wood.  "Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread.  Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image and bows down before it.  Half of it he burns in the fire;  ...The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, 'Save me, for you are my god!"

The satire can apply to so many of our works.  How many of us find our security, status and sense of value in the things we do or the symbols of our achievement.  These are our idols. 

Theologian Paul Tillich liked to say that our "god" is whatever is our "ultimate concern."  What is your ultimate concern?  Here is an old and challenging question:  If your thoughts, your free time and your money were a comet and you were attached to its tail, where would it take you?  That is your ultimate concern.

For many of us, our family is our ultimate concern.  Today's gospel challenges that priority.  Jesus finds that his family does not understand his teaching and mission.  Jesus widens his view of family.  "'Who are my mother and my brothers?'  And looking at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'"  Such a family can be universal.  Has there ever been a human being who did not at some time do the will of God?  And all of us have failed to do God's will as well.

Today is the Confession of St. Peter, when we remember one of Peter's better moments, when he acted on his insight and intuition to declare Jesus to be the Messiah.  That confession is also paired with one of his misunderstandings, when he resisted Jesus' path of suffering, preferring the more idolatrous path of success.  Peter is one of those who does God's will and does not do God's will.  But he is willing to start over every time he fails.  That is the "rock" on which Jesus can found the church.

Paul Westerhoff has said that to live the Christian life is to make promises, and to break promises, and to make promises again, and to break promises, and to make promises again...  The important dynamic being the willingness to reassert our promises even after we have failed to keep them -- to renew our faith, our hope, our intention to love. 

Jesus invites us to walk in the way that looks to God as our ultimate concern, and to make promises to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as our selves.  Whenever we fail to love, we start over again, renewing the promises.  Our life is grounded not in our own performance -- whether we've successfully loved -- but in God who is Love, and whose love overcomes all.


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...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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