Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Do You Know?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 -- Week of Proper 21, Year One
Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, and Margery Kempe, Mystics, 1349, 1396, c. 1440

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 984)
Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning)      119:121-144 (evening)
2 Kings 18:9-25
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Matthew 7:13-21

Last Sunday's gospel opened with Jesus asking a question of challenge to the chief priests and elders.  "Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?

I opened my sermon with that question posed in a more generalized way:  "How do we know what is from God -- what originates in divine energy -- and what is from us -- coming out of our energy and our too self-centered human motivation?"

In our three Daily Office readings today, we see conflicting and contrasting paths.  How do we know what is the will of God?  How can we give priority to God's will rather than to our self-centered motivation?

In 1st Kings we see a nation relying on its military power -- the Assyrian Rabshakeh brags to the besieged city of Jerusalem that he could give them 2000 horses if they had that many cavalry to ride them, knowing they don't.  We also hear him claim that his seige of the land is directed by the God of the Hebrews as God's punishment to them.  Jerusalem and King Hezekiah can rely only on God in the face of overwhelming threat.  The alliance with Egypt will bring no deliverance.  Israel's military power is no match for the superior Assyrians. 

In our lives, there are times when our resources seem exhausted in the face of threats we cannot overcome?  Sometimes we think we have earned the misfortune -- maybe this is God's punishment, as the Rabshakeh says.  How do we know?

The prophet Isaiah will offer spiritual direction to Hezekiah, saying, God is in charge.  Trust God.  It is God's will to deliver you.  How does Hezekiah know whether God intends to deliver or to punish Israel?

Paul speaks of our total freedom under Christ, and then urges us toward self-discipline if there is someone whose scruples or weakness or ignorance might be troubled by our liberties. 

I ask myself, when have I willingly compromised my rights so as not to bother someone who just wouldn't understand?  When have a flaunted some liberty, and caused pain to another's conscience?

And the Gospel reminds us to take the narrow gate, for the wide road and gate is one that leads to destruction.  Sometimes I'm not sure which is the narrow gate and which is the wide road.  Sometimes it seems that you can only tell which way is right way at the end of the road -- "you will know them by their fruits." (v. 20)  How can I know the right road?

How can we know what is from God and what is from us?

There is a place of moral orientation that seems like a "gold standard" to me -- a place I can trust more than my sense of  power, my sense of freedom or my sense of direction.  In Galatians Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit is the result from walking the right road, the narrow road:  "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against such things."  (Gal. 5:22)  Whenever I can act out of these motivations, I believe it is more likely that I am following God's will.  A commitment to action that is more likely to produce these fruits will be a truer direction than power, libertarianism, or popularity.


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

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 4:19 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Hi Lowell,

On Saturday I attending the "Gathering at the Labyrinth" at the Learning Fields at Fort Chaffee. The River Valley Master Gardners have created a natural place of joy, beauty, peace. They have taken a small plot of land on what used to be a military base where the tanks parked and have created a safe space of beauty and healing. What an incredible outward transformation of a small corner of this fragile earth. I like the thought of our inward transformations manifesting in the outward world in ways and places of healing and beauty. May God give us grace, energy, and ability to create these gentle places of healing and beauty.

The Learning Fields is a very secular creation, but all I could think of was this gives glory to God as I walked the Garden path (their secular name for the Labyrinth).

Everywhere Peace Flourishing!

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the note about the Learning Fields at Fort Chaffee, Janet. Reminds me of the line that Joan Chittister repeats -- "We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again."

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