Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Healing and Complications

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 -- Week of 2 Lent, Year One
Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332
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. 952)
Psalms 72 (morning)        119:73-96 (evening)
Jeremiah 3:6-18
Romans 1:28 - 2:11
John 5:1-18

I don't seem to be getting adjusted to the change to daylight savings.  Or maybe I was just tired and needed more sleep.  Didn't get up with the alarm.  So I didn't leave much time to write. 

Two things strike me about the gospel story today. 

First, Jesus' question to the man who has been lying by the pool of Bethzatha for thirty-eight years.  Jesus asks him, "Do you want to be made well?"  Good question.  He's been getting by for thirty-eight years.  Maybe it's not ideal.  He has been ill.  But obviously he's been taken care of.  His needs have been met.  His answer to Jesus' question is not an enthusiastic, "Yes!  I want to be well."  His answer is an excuse.  "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool..." 

Jesus heals him.  His life is transformed instantly.  He is also instantly involved in public controversy, because the officials want to know how it is that he is walking, and why he is carrying his mat on the sabbath, a violation of the commandment to honor the sabbath.

Tomorrow, he will wake up on Monday and everything will have changed, including his responsibilities.  He will no longer be dependent.  He will no longer be taken care of.  He'll have to go to work.  Transformation can be hard work.  Taking responsibility for your life -- including taking responsibility for your spiritual life -- is hard work.  After thirty-eight years he is co-dependent no more.

And Jesus.  He runs into trouble with the fundamentalists.  They are always around in every religion.  You know the ones.  They know the holy books.  They know the rules.  They tend to be literalists and control freaks.  They like the borders of their religion well defined.  What's wrong; what's right.  Who's in; who's out.  They have a hard time seeing the goodness in something outside their definitions. 

Jesus healed on the sabbath.  Bad!  Wrong!  Sinner!  It's in the Bible.  It's one of the Ten Commandments.  They throw the book at him.  That's what fundamentalists always do.  They throw the book at people who find creative ways to extend love, forgiveness and wholeness. 

Then Jesus makes it worse.  "My Father is still working, and I also am working."  Fundamentalists often have a small view of the potential for humanity's union with God.  They are usually into what's wrong rather than what's right with people.  The notion that we might have an intimate relationship with God, divine union even, is a scary notion to them.  Probably because the god they know is so mean, so small.  Like them, that god is into punishing and dividing, rewarding the few pure ones and damning the many impure ones.

This story is not going to turn out well.  Fundamentalists sometimes are willing to kill what they can't control.



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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
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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.

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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 10:21 AM, Blogger lila said...

I appreciate your insights!
Now about that (healing)transformation....I see must not give up!

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL "They are usually into what's wrong rather than what's right with people."

Kinda like your diatribe about "fundamentalists"? Glass houses Lowell, glass houses.


At 9:22 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Lent Thirteen

Stirring the waters -
If God is always working
What does one wait for


At 8:53 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Yep Greg. I tend to be one of those whose primary intolerance is intolerance. Trying to give that up. Not easy.

Charles Kimball is a Baptist pastor who has written about how to judge when religion becomes corrupted, or even evil. He lists five warning signs:
Absolute Truth Claims
Blind Obedience
Establishing the "Ideal" Time
The End Justifies Any Means
Declaring Holy War

Every religion has the capacity to work either for good or evil, and he contends that these five warning signs can help us recognize when religion moves toward the latter.

Whenever a religion emphasizes that it holds the absolute truth - the one path to God or the only correct way of reading a sacred text - to the exclusion of the truth claims of all other religions and cultures, that religion is becoming evil.

Other warning signs include blind obedience to religious leaders, apocalyptic belief that the end time will occur through a particular religion, the use of malevolent ends to achieve religious goals (e.g., the Crusades) and the declaration of holy war.

Kimball focuses primarily on the three major Western monotheistic religions, although his examples also include new religious movements such as the People's Temple, Aum Shinrikyo and the Branch Davidians.

Religion can resist becoming evil by practicing an inclusiveness that allows each tradition to retain its distinctiveness while it works for the common good.

One commentator on Kimball offers as an antidote, five signs of integrity and dynamism in religion:
1. Dynamic and relational truth and ongoing learning
2. Critical thinking and honest inquiry
3. Making the best of every time and leaving the determination of the end time to heaven
4. Both means and end are important and linked
5. Declaring holy peace

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You use the Crusades as the example. That is scary. We have far, far more relavent examples today don't we Lowell.

Lowell, the rest of your commentary is garbage, not even worth recycling. It is all theory with NO evidence, not a sigle lick of it. It is all the brain child of Satan. Some utopian dream that is never coming to pass (unless you kill everyone that disagrees and then all the executioners kill themselves).

"Whenever a religion emphasizes that it holds the absolute truth - the one path to God or the only correct way of reading a sacred text - to the exclusion of the truth claims of all other religions and cultures, that religion is becoming evil"???? You have heard of Paul, I mean you did name your church after him right? Or was that Paul McCartney?

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

"Evil" is Kimball's word.

I would call it something more like "Irreverent." Others might use the words "idolatry" "hubris" or "blasphemous."

When human beings claim absolute, infallible monopoly over divine things, that is a failure of reverence for the divine. Only God is absolute. Human beings, and our religions, are not. We do not have the capacity for absolute knowledge of the divine.

That's the fundamental truth that Moses declared with the revelation of the divine name -- a name that bespeaks mystery.

Paul understands mystery very well, and admits we not see only through a mirror dimly.

When religions claim to have the absolute truth of God to the exclusion of all other revelation and truth, they are acting foolishly, or worse.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul does not use the "mirror dimly" statement to question the absolute truth of Christ and the cross. There is no context with that reference to make your argument.


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