Thursday, December 15, 2011

Walk the Walk

Thursday, December 15, 2011 -- Week of 3 Advent , Year Two
John Horden, Bishop and Missionary in Canada, 1893
Robert McDonald, Priest, 1913

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 939)
Psalms 50 (morning)        [59, 60] or 33 (evening)
Zechariah 4:1-14
Revelation 4:9 - 5:5
Matthew 25:1-13

Psalm 50 is a great challenge to us when we talk the talk, but aren't necessarily walking the walk.  When we keep up appearances, but fail in the weightier things.  It is a psalm that is especially critical of those who are regular and attentive to their religious practice, but fail to practice compassion and integrity.  So, if you are conscientious enough to be reading this Morning Reflection, you may be one of those the the psalmist addresses, like me.  It's okay to have religious discipline and to practice your piety -- "Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me," the psalmist speaks in God's name -- but live with integrity.  Don't just talk the talk; walk the walk.

The parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids may be making the same point.  The wise have enough oil for the long wait in the darkness before the bridegroom comes.  The foolish have run out of oil when the announcement happens.  They run to re-stock, and miss their window of opportunity.

This parable occurs only in Matthew.  Matthew loves to take Jesus' parables and turn them into allegories.  We probably can't know what the original form of this story was, though it makes for interesting papers for scholars to debate and speculate about that.  If we read this parable through Matthew's editing, it is likely that he uses oil as an allegory for righteous action and good deeds.  (That's a theme of his that appears in other allegorized parables.)  He makes a point:  You can't really share right action.  The wise will act rightly, consistently, and thus build up a reservoir of habit and practice that sustains them through the lean times of waiting.  The foolish delay, and miss their opportunity.

This sort of wisdom is the kind of thing our parents and our early teachers tried to instill in us.  Good habits.  Honesty and integrity.  Kindness and compassion toward your siblings and neighbors.  Seems simple, doesn't it?  But it's so tempting to take the shortcuts.  To get by on appearances.  To delay doing the things we know we ought to do. 

But life is always a little bit like the old commercial about taking care of your car's maintenance.  You can get by without changing the oil for a long time.  But eventually, you'll run out, and that's a problem.  "Pay me now, or pay me later," says the auto mechanic with the oil can.


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


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