Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Holy Cross Day

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 -- Week of Proper 19, Year One
Holy Cross Day

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

the readings for Wednesday of Proper 19 (p. 984)
Psalms 72 (morning)      19:73-96 (evening)
1 Kings 22:1-28
1 Corinthians 1:1-13
Matthew 4:18-25

OR the readings for Holy Cross Day, (p. 999)
Morning Prayer:  Psalms 66;  Numbers 21:4-9;  John 3:11-17
Evening Prayer:  Psalms 118; Genesis 3:1-15; 1 Peter 3:17-22

For Holy Cross Day

Sometimes I do my own form of anthropomorphising the story of Jesus' death.  Maybe I'm using that word wrong, but here's what I do.  I wonder how I would have interpreted what was happening, had I been Jesus, when the bottom fell out of Jesus' mission and ministry, and he had to face the time of trial.  I wonder how I would have reacted.  Would I have resisted the inclination to despair and depression?

I know I am too motivated by results.  I want things to work out for the best.  I like to see a plan start, to solve the inevitable problems, and get it to a place where it is working.  Then I like to go to the next plan.  I like to see things improve. 

At my healthiest, I can do the best I can do right here, right now, and let go of most of my attachment to results.  I can be patient as we tweak a plan, solve problems, and work now for something that is likely to come to fruition in the future.  I tend to be an optimist, to keep plugging away and hope that things will get better.  But if I get to the place where I'm having a hard time imagining that something is going to work out eventually, I tend to get stuck.

I can imagine the excitement that Jesus might have felt working with people day by day, bringing a bit of light and healing and coherence to their lives.  Sometimes I get to do that myself.  I can imagine his sense of process as he slowly puts together his team of disciples and watches them become more empowered and loving, despite the occasional quarrels and pettiness.  I can enjoy his joy in teaching and telling stories that help others bring new perspective and clarity to a greater reality.  What joy it is to connect people with God.

But when it all falls in around his ears, and his doom seems certain, how did he move through that?  When it looks like everything he had worked for would probably be destroyed, how did he face that faithfully?  How might I have moved through that?  When he had to give up all that seemed good and satisfying and hopeful in his life and work, how did he remain coherent?

I'm reminded of a quote from a letter from Thomas Merton:
Do not depend on the hope of results.  ...You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the truth of the work itself.  And there too, a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.  The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real.  In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything...

...there is no point in building our lives on ...personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.  ...You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness.  You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation.  That is not the right use of your work.  All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in obedience of faith, to be used by God's love.  Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work though you without your knowing it...

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.

 (Thomas Merton, quoted by Robert J. Wicks, Living Simply in an Anxious World, Paulist, 1988, p. 42)

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself:  Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen. 
(The Collect for Holy Cross Day, Book of Common Prayer, p. 244)


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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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

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 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too motivated by results? Really? How on God's green Earth do you reconcile that statement with the total lack of results by our government? You have this constant clash between reality and your worldview that defies logic.

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Morning Lowell,

I thought I'd read everything Merton wrote! Thanks for a great quote. Beautiful to reflect on an idea as more of a relationship. Just hits your heart.

I've found the few things that I've done with great passion, love, giving glory to God, seem to flow smoothly, and you can almost see God working through them. And the results are more than anyone could have known and not really predictable. Anytime I put myself too much in the mix, it gets hampered, too much emotion and thinking.

When I've meditated on Jesus and the steps to the cross I am sure it had to have been the darkest, deepest sadness. It seems it would be the psychological despair that would be more difficult than the physical. Perhaps that is more my perspective than anything else. Looking through the cross, as you often suggest, we can see the beauty present, even in that darkness. How is this possible? I would saw that is the pure light of grace. God completely fills that darkness.

Great stuff - keep writing!

Hope your Holy Cross Day is lovely.


At 8:15 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the exquisite comments, Janet. There is that sense of being in the flow, when we get out of the way and move with whatever God is doing in the moment. Especially in those moments of dazzling darkness. The Merton quote is so engaging.

Indeed, you hit on something yesterday. One of the things that does cripple us is when people in leadership intentionally subvert or sabotage the good things we can do as a people through our structures -- through governmental agencies and policies. You are so right -- since the mid-term elections when the Tea Party gained such influence, we've become stuck. Our government has been unable to respond creatively to the mess that was created in the previous decade.


At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lowell, I want to laugh, but all I can do is cry when I hear comments like your last one. Why is our country in the shape it is in? Polititians, from both parties. I know it lets you sleep at night being able to lump me in with Bush and Cheney, I know that makes your world ordered and content. My tears are for you ignorance.

For as long as I have been commenting here you still seem to miss the truth. My message is the same message of the Bible regarding the depravity of man and thus the best government is self government with very, very limited centralized government. This big government experiment is an utter failure, unless you are a big donor to Bush or Obama. Our tax code is rigged for their donors and for their electorate.
Its really just sad when people can't or won't see the truth. But when that truth crushes your worldview about "love" I guess that lets you sleep at night.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


You are right, and you are wrong.

Yes, Our tax code is rigged to the benefit of the rich. Both parties deserve blame for creating a Plutocracy.

But you are also wrong. You write as if you have a simplistic and cynical attitude about government. It's failed. It's all bad. Wrong.

Government can and does do great good. It can also do great bad. There is a difference between competent and moral government, and incompetent and immoral government. The Civil Rights Act, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, rural electrification, clean water, the Internet, food inspection, interstate highways, bridges and infrastructure, public education, disaster relief, etc. Good things.

I want good public servants elected who try to make these good services work at their peak potential.

I don't want know-nothing, blaming, Lollards destroying these things because they have some cynical notion that if we all just got government off our backs and were left alone to fend for ourselves, everyone would be great. That's "The Lord of the Flies."

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess what? Its lord of the flies anyway. At least with the government off my back, I could help my family and friends in need, but not now.
With all the "good" you talk about you fail to discuss the unintended consequences that come with the alleged "good".

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


So, you want to focus on all of the awful, unintended consequences of my list of good things: The Civil Rights Act, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, rural electrification, clean water, the Internet, food inspection, interstate highways, bridges and infrastructure, public education, disaster relief, etc.

You know, I can't really think of a compelling list of unintended consequences that would make me want to wish those good programs away. Maybe you can.

You imply that your tax burden is so great, that you can't help your family and friends in need. Is that what you are saying? Maybe your income isn't great enough? Maybe the cost of housing, transportation, and medical care are pretty intimidating. But I'll bet it's not your federal tax burden that is making your life difficult. The tax codes provide deductions that shelter annual income up to around $50,000 from federal income taxes. And if you've made it into an income level where you really do get hit with a big federal tax bite, then you are making plenty of money to help your family and friends. Unless you live extravagantly.

Oh, one big exception. Medical costs and medical issues. Since we don't have a single-payer system like the other developed countries, you could have pretty substantial income and be economically tanked if you or your family has serious medical needs.


At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The two biggest consequences are these, unintended or not.

1. Growing governement
2. Growing dependence on government.

Lowell, growth is unsustainable, in all life forms, in all things. Eventually it has to stop.

Civil rights - This law doesn't and can't change peoples hearts. As a Christian we are about changing hearts and this law can't do that so what happens. More people convinced that the government has to take care of them, more people with jobs based on the notion that the government can tell us who must be hired. Its futile.

SS, medicare, medicaid. Now we have the majority of the country dependant on the government for their entire retirement, not suplementing the retirement as SS was intended. And what did the polititians do, they spent it, all of it. If we go into a severe depression where is the money coming from? Sorry lowell, these have helped very, very few and made addicts of the rest, its a sick and demented set of programs.

rural electrification with few exceptions, electricity has done little to better humanity, but we can talk about that later.

clean water - wow, where do i start. the biggest problem i seee here is that what you see as clean i see as dangerous. Our water is full of many bad things and the government puts many of those bad things in it. Fluorine is going to be added to our water here in AR soon while many other places are taking it out. I have no choice, my kids will be forced to drink whatever the government deems is safe at that time (and their track record is not good here, just look at the food pyramids, safe drugs, testing on poor and black people, its not good)

Food inspection HAHA just look at all the salmonella they allowed right there in springdale, then someone dies and people are puzzled. Its all about the money lowell, its always has been and it always will be. Benevolent government is a fantasy.

Public education HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA what a joke that is, we are dumber every year because of politics, we are dumber every year because public education is about teachers unions and a failed philosophy.

Disaster relief? really? how many fema trailers are sitting rotting when those funds could have been used to actually help people. Look at the people in New Orleans and their flawed dependency on government "send us help". Yo idiots, there are too many, you have to help yourself. Your mayor blew it, hes as much of an idiot as you.

Every thing on your list has consequences and the worst of the consequences is a growing dependency on a group of people trying to keep their jobs. Lowell, our society is breaking down, period and you can't even deny it. And why? Independence is an endangered species, self-sufficiency is a dying idea in the general populace.

As far as my tax burden, yes, it does not allow my to help my family. We lost our job the week after we bought a new house. We are scraping by and the economy is NOT growing thanks to the Obama and Bush trying to be the end all entity. They have tanked the real estate market so I can't even sell my house if I wanted to, I can't go to another state and get a job because I can't sell my house without going bankrupt. I played by the rules and your beloved big government manipulated the rules. Sorry lowell, you can live in your fantasy world but I live here in the real world.


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