Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Golden Rule

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 -- Week of Proper 21, Year One
Vincent de Paul, Religious, and Prophetic Witness, 1660
Thomas Traherne, Priest, 1674


Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 984)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning)      94, [95] (evening)
2 Chronicles 29:1-3; 30:1(2-3)10-27
1 Corinthians 7:32-40
Matthew 7:1-12

We hear the teaching of Jesus through the scholarship of Matthew today speaking within the great tradition of Jewish Rabbinical teaching.  He tells us:  Do not judge others.  Take care for your own failings first.  Do not force the teaching on unwilling ears.  God is benevolent and wishes to give good gifts -- ask, seek, knock. 

Verse twelve is Jesus' version of the Golden Rule:  "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."  This ethic of reciprocity is found in virtually all religions.

In 1893 the first Parliament of the World's Religions gathered to create an international dialogue on faiths.  The President Charles Bonney said the Parliament hoped "to unite all religion against all irreligion and to make the Golden Rule the basis of that union."  The centennial celebration of the Parliament in 1993 published a "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" which is worthy of study as a starting point for claiming a universal ethic.  (The Introduction to the text is the first two pages of the full text found here.)

The great Rabbi Hillel who died during Jesus' childhood offered the same principle of reciprocity in the negative:  "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.  That is the Law and the Prophets; the rest is commentary, go and learn." 

There are many parallels between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Hillel.  Jesus attached himself to the village of Capernaum whose synagogue was influenced by Hillel.  Hillel was a moderate interpreter of the Jewish Law.  His teaching was challenged by the stricter interpretations of Rabbi Shammai, who lived during Jesus' life.  Until 70 CE, the House of Shammai tended to predominate among Jewish synagogues; after 70 the influence of the House of Hillel prevailed, and became the tradition from which modern reform Judaism traces its roots. 

It appears to me that many of the conflicts we read of between Jesus and the Pharisees, colored by the early church's conflicts with the synagogues, are better interpreted as conflicts with the teachings and disciples of Shammai.  Jesus' own teaching has many consistencies with the teaching of Hillel.  One famous conflict that we have in our gospels regards the sabbath.  Shammai taught that "humanity was made for the Sabbath," but Jesus and Hillel both taught that the "Sabbath was made for humanity," a more moderate view that allowed provision for response to certain human needs in spite of the Sabbath observance.  For Hillel and for Jesus, love of one's neighbor was the central ethic for all people.

How ironic and tragic that Christianity and Judaism fell into such dark historic conflict.  The heart of our origins is so similar.  How many injustices and how much violence might have been avoided had Christians been faithful to our Rabbi and his teaching:  "Do not judge...  How can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye?  ...In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."

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

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 5:17 PM, Anonymous Chris Lynch said...

I realize that I sometimes do not think globally about the word "neighbor." Figure if I keep practicing, maybe I'll get it right. Thank you for the morning briefings -- I certainly enjoy reflecting on them.

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the kind words, Chris. Jesus gave us that great story about "Who is my neighbor?" ...the story of the Good Samaritan. The neighbor is anyone in need, including the stranger and foreigner. Challenging stuff.

Lowell

 

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