Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Humility

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 -- Week of Proper 18, Year One
Elie Naud, Hugenot Witness to the Faith, 1722

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 982)
Psalms 119:49-72 (morning)      49, [53] (evening)
1 Kings 17:1-24
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 2:1-12

It seems so odd that some expressions of Christianity are as hostile as they are toward other religions and toward science.  In today's Daily Office readings we have stories that offer to us another spirit.

We begin our sequential reading of Matthew today starting in the second chapter.  Wise men from the east come to the manger of the infant Jesus.  At the manger, they are welcome. 

Who are these wise men?  They are not Jewish.  They are people who practice another faith.  In some way, they are first century scientists.  They observe the movements of the planets and stars.  At the manger of Jesus, their knowledge is welcome. 

How small is your God?  How small is your Jesus?  At our best, we proclaim a God in Christ who is perfect truth, the fullness of all that is is in God.  So, wherever truth is discovered, it is a manifestation of the truth of God.  And wherever faith becomes real it is the manifestation of the Word of God whom we speak of as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Whenever scientists discover new truth by observation or by experimentation, whatever they discover is consistent with the God of truth, because God is truth.  There is no inconsistency between the truth of evolutionary theory and the Biblical truth that God created the heavens and the earth. 

Whenever someone following a different faith tradition connects with the depths of spiritual reality and lives with faith, love and compassion, that person experiences the Word of God manifest. 

We return to the wise men.  Following science and the practice of their own faith, they come to the manger.  They find welcome.  They are not opposed as followers of another religion.  Their gifts are not refused because they are the fruits of a scientific or foreign religion process.  Their faith and their knowledge are welcome at the manger, because all faith and all knowledge are grounded essentially in God.

In our first reading, Elijah finds refuge in the home of a foreign woman, the widow of Zarephath, a town in Sidon.  Presumably she follows the faith of her people, worshipping Baal or one of the fertility cults that was common among the non-Jewish neighbors of Israel.  She and Elijah live in peace and mutual accord during the drought.  She welcomes him, a foreign prophet.  He raises her son from the dead.  She doesn't become Jewish.  The son isn't circumcised.  But goodness, truth and life comes from their relationship as they treat one another with deference and honor.

Which bring us to the reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians.  "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."  In an "honor culture" where people see themselves as competing against one another to gain honor as a limited commodity, this is startling language.  Paul suggests that it is in emptying ourselves that Jesus is exalted.  The path of humility and servanthood is the path that reveals Jesus.  There is nothing coercive or prideful about this way.  But this is the way that will ultimately reveal the glory of Christ, who because of his self-emptying, "God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

So the path Paul offers for glorifying Christ is to "regard others as better than yourselves," looking to their interests rather than your own."  That is a context of peace, love and respect within which we can be in relationship with those of other faiths and other knowledge. 

We can trust that all faith and all knowledge leads to God.  We don't have to challenge or compete for God to be true.  We need only be humble, faithful and charitable -- like the holy family at the manger, and like Elijah in Zarephath.  No need for arrogant attacks at science or threats of hell to Buddhists.  That is all very un-Christlike.

Lowell

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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 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 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am certainly glad that you have said "no need for arrogant attacks at science". Well said. Mostly because science is not a person so attacking "science" would be identical to attacking literature. What we need to do is attack the UN-humble scientists who interpret the observations the their good friend "science" makes. All truth indeed leads to God (the true God), but not all interpretation is true and thus not all interpretation leads to God.

 
At 7:29 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Actually, there is an attack on science going on right now. Maybe two.

1. Certain religious people are attacking science itself in defense of what they call "Intelligent Design." They intend to discredit science in order to impose their mythological or theological point of view. They intend to substitute myth, theology, or belief for the scientific method and their intent is to sabotage the evidence from science. They are doomed to failure because they follow an essentially false line of thinking.

The same occasionally happens in attacks on literature. We had a local attempt (coordinated with a national campaign) to ban literature from our school libraries because the literature conflicted with a certain religious perspective. 84 books like Huckleberry Finn were among the offenders. It amounted to an attack on literature itself, and those who defended our system from the attacks were successful because they defended the vitality and integrity of literature itself and our freedoms of speech and thought.

2. For some who oppose the scientific consensus about global climate change and the rising levels of carbon, their primary strategy is an attack on science itself. These seem to be the same religious types who take offense at evolution. For some of them, climate change is just another excuse to bash science.

For most others, their opposition is financial or political.

There are a few who debate with the scientific consensus about climate change from within the scientific method. Their numbers are decreasing, however, as more evidence accumulates. Their work is very welcome.

Lowell

 

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