Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simple

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 -- Week of 3 Lent, Year One
John Keble, Priest, 1866
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:
http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com/category/holy-women-holy-men/

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 954)
Psalms 78:1-39 (morning)        78:40-72 (evening)
Jeremiah 7:21-34
Romans 4:13-25
John 7:37-52

Jeremiah declares that God has rejected the worship of the people.  He condemns them for two things.  First, he condemns them for their lack of justice.  They are dishonest.  They are violent.  They abuse power and fail to uphold the welfare of the vulnerable -- the poor, the widow and orphan, the alien and foreigner.  Second, Jeremiah tells them that they have added things to their worship that God did not demand, including most horribly, the sacrifice of children.  By now, it seems that Jeremiah has lost hope that Israel can be restored.  There will be a terrible price to pay for these failures.

Paul picks up a similar theme.  He too says that the worship of God's people has been rejected.  Paul focuses on the story of Abraham as an illustration of the centrality of trust.  Abraham trusted God, therefore God declared him righteous.  God made him the father of many nations.  Paul sees Abraham as the father of all people who trust the divine, "for he is the father of all of us," he writes to a gentile audience.  Unwavering trust is the fundamental characteristic of Abraham.  Therefore anyone who trusts God is a descendent of Abraham and an inheritor of the Abrahamic blessing. 

Paul declares that the problem has come when this action of simple trust in God became complicated by the observance of religious laws which made it seem like our relationship with God was determined by our religious performance.  Paul says such legalistic religion leaves us anxious ("am I doing okay?") and self-centered ("am I doing okay?").  Simple trust is enough.  And simple trust is something that is accessible to all people, every human being, regardless of nation or religious upbringing.  For Paul, the central message of Jesus is the revelation that God loves and accepts us.  Active trust, or faith, is simple acceptance of the gift of God's loving regard.  God loves you.  God is trustworthy.  Trust God, who is love.  It's that simple.  Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Don't complicate it with a lot of rules and laws.  Simply trust God, and love one another.

In our story today from John's gospel, Jesus speaks out of a similar tradition.  He invites all who are thirsty to come and drink, and they will receive the Spirit like living water from the heart.  Earlier Jesus has given this living water to the most marginalized of people, a Samaritan woman.  She then shared the gift with her community, a community that formerly were regarded as enemies and heretics.  Jesus offers God's Spirit as a gift to all.  Simply accept the gift.  Trust.  You will be given the living water of the Spirit.  It's that simple. 

But the arguments begin.  They are arguments about the interpretation of scripture.  Jesus is from Galilee.  Jesus cannot be either a prophet or the Messiah.  He comes from the wrong place.  Look it up.  You'll see.  They throw the book at him. 

But listen to him, urge the police.  "Never has anyone spoken like this!"  The loving content does not move the religious people.  They have their notions, grounded in scripture.  They will not be moved by love or Spirit, by grace or good news.  If it does not fit the theological straitjacket they have constructed out of their complicated study of the Bible, they will not accept the simple message of God's loving compassion.

How many artificial boundaries and barriers do we place in the way of God's work and revelation by our complicating prejudices, laws, and theology?  How do we fail to recognize love and to act with compassion?  How do we promote injustice, sometimes in the name of our religion?

At the heart of our tradition is an invitation to trust God in a simple, universalistic way.  Whenever we see another who lives a life of trust, evidenced by the presence of love, justice and active compassion, we are seeing another descendant of Abraham, another person who is drinking the living water of the Spirit.  That person does not have to have the right pedigree, but might even come from Galilee or Tibet or Mecca.  For the God of Abrahamic trust "is the father of us all."  The God of prophetic justice is the God of all who uphold justice.  And the God of Jesus Christ offers living water to all who are thirsty.  May those who are thirsty for justice and righteousness be bearers of that water to one another.

Lowell
__________________

Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
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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

2 Comments:

At 8:43 PM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Hi Lowell,

It is very nice to have you back reflecting...

Lent Eighteen

A minnow of light
Splashing in infinite pools
And fountains of Grace

Peace,
Janet

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks Janet,
Good to be back. It seems I brought Seattle weather with me.
Lowell

 

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