Monday, February 07, 2011

Paul Concludes

Monday, February 7, 2011 -- Week of 5 Epiphany, Year One
Cornelius the Centurion
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. 946)
Psalms 80 (morning)       77, [79] (evening)
Isaiah 58:1-12
Galatians 6:11-18
Mark 9:30-41

We conclude Paul's letter to the Galatians today.  For the final ending, Paul stops dictating to his scribe and writes with his own hand.  He summarizes what he has already said.  The conflict about circumcision is a vehicle for Paul's core teaching.  "May I never boast of anything, except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!"

For Paul, the cross is the crucifixion of the world.  In the cross, God exposed the violence and injustice of domination systems like the Roman Empire, their misuse of power and their violence.  They wrongly crucified the innocent One of God.  Their wisdom is foolishness; their power is corrupt and illusory.  The worldly path of pride and power is deadly.

For Paul, his embrace of the cross of Christ was a reordering of his own life, his own participation in death and resurrection.  Formerly he tried to achieve his own place in the world and his own state of honor before God.  That effort only left him frustrated, self-absorbed and anxious.  When he died to that old life, he rose to a new life in Christ.  He experienced a transformation so complete, that he felt himself to be a new creation.

For Paul, that new creation was an outflowing of the love that God revealed to us in Christ through the cross and resurrection.  God's love was so great that God poured out the divine life into our life, and even into our death, so that we might live anew.  In Christ, all that formerly separated us from God and from each other was overcome and reordered.

So now, to talk about silly things like circumcision and uncircumcision is nothing.  Or to quarrel about status or wealth or power is nothing.  We are to live as a new people who share the passion of Christ, characterized by love and compassion.

Today's other readings pick up on some of Paul's themes. 

In the Gospel, Mark offers the second of three predictions of the cross.  Then he illustrates one of the cross' meanings in the misunderstanding of the disciples.  The first misunderstanding is about status and power.  They argue about who would be greatest.  Jesus places a child before them and calls them to the greatness of servanthood, humility and generosity.  The second misunderstanding is about insiders and outsiders.  The disciples want to stop someone who is casting out demons in Jesus' name but who is not following them.  Jesus offers a broad invitation to friendship and reconciliation:  "Whoever is not against us is for us."

Our reading from Isaiah was also our first eucharistic reading yesterday at church.  Isaiah criticizes the nation that maintains public displays of piety and honor, but fails in its responsibility for the care of others, especially the poor and vulnerable.  In God's name, Isaiah demands justice, and describes justice as liberating the oppressed, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, covering the naked, and paying attention to the need of neighbors.  God will ignore the prayers and reject the religious words and observances of those who fail to practice corporate compassion.  God calls a nation to righteousness -- justice. 

"If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday."  Isaiah says God will bless the nation that exercises justice and compassion on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.

That's our calling.  A new life.  Crucifying the appeal to power, wealth, and status; raising up the life of compassion and service; living as one with all, for Christ has died for all.

It's a new week.  A moment to renew our identity and call.  It's all about love -- Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.  


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


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