Friday, April 15, 2011

Messages of Hope

Friday, April 15, 2011 -- Week of 5 Lent, Year One
Damien and Marianne of Molokai, Priest and Leper, 1889; Religious, 1918
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. 956)
Psalms 95* & 22 (morning)        141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
Romans 11:13-24
John 11:1-27 or 12:1-10

Since our gospel this past Sunday was the story of the raising of Lazarus from the tomb in John 11, we are given the option today and tomorrow to read John 12, which begins with the story of Mary's anointing Jesus with costly perfume at a meal in their home in Bethany, and continues with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with shouts of acclamation and waving palm branches.

There is a theme that is common to the three readings today.  In each of these stories we have expressions of generosity and hope in the midst of conflict and challenge.

First we have a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles who have been deported from their land to be settled in the foreign land of Babylon.  Jeremiah writes to encourage them and to declare God's blessing.  "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters."  Jeremiah urges them to have normal, creative lives in their new home far from home. 

He even tells them to bless and not curse the very nation that has overthrown them and captured them.  "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."  Jeremiah knows his advice will be controversial, so he cautions the readers not to listen "to the prophets and the diviners who are among you."  Jeremiah tells the exile that after their period of absence, God will bring them back to their former homes, for God has "plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."  The prophet makes a beautiful promise in God's name:  "When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord."

In Paul's letter to the congregation in Rome, he turns to address the Gentiles among the Christian community.  There is abundant conflict -- conflict between the church and Jews who have not recognized Jesus as the Jewish messiah; conflict between the early Jewish-Christians and the later Gentile converts to the faith; and plain old conflict between Jews and Gentiles.

Paul offers an olive tree image that speaks with hope and dignity toward all parties.  The Jewish people are the holy root and trunk of the olive tree.  "If the root is holy, then the branches also are holy."  But some of these branches have been broken off, those Jews who have not acknowledged Jesus.  Their separation from the tree was an opportunity for the Gentiles -- branches from a wild olive tree -- who are now grafted onto the original cultivated tree.  If, contrary to nature, God can graft these wild branches onto the cultivated tree, "how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree," he says.  So Paul offers hope for all, and prohibits boasting by any.

Finally we have two stories of hope in a foreboding landscape.  The raising of Lazarus has been a threat to the authorities.  They have designed a plot to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.  At a dinner in the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany, Mary takes costly ointment, the kind that is used to anoint a corpse, and she spreads it upon Jesus' feet.  It is a loving and extravagant act.  Judas protests that the money for this ointment could have been given for the relief of the poor.  Jesus accepts Mary's gift of love.

Then Jesus initiates his public challenge to the authorities by entering Jerusalem in the manner expected from the messianic prophecies of the prophets.  "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord -- the King of Israel!" the crowd proclaims.  We know that many of the same people will be shouting "Crucify him!" only days later.

Seize the moment.  Proclaim hope and act with love.  If in exile, make a new home.  Grow where you are, and maintain hope for all life, including branches which for now may be separated from their roots.  Live generously and celebrate, even in the shadow of threat and death.  It may seem like a dark day, but God is always working, and we can always choose to act hopefully with generous love.

"When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord."



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


At 7:58 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Lent thirty-three

Perfume fills the air
Could they know what was to come
Feet nailed to a tree

At 4:33 AM, Blogger NaNi said...

I am sorry to say you that...
Really slow and boring post dude...


At 7:41 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

I'd have to agree with you. The reflection last Friday was a dull one.

If you are still reading, try today's. I liked it better.



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