Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What a Mess

Tuesday, February 14, 2012  -- Week of 6 Epiphany, Year Two
Cyril and Methodius, Monk and Bishop, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 949)
Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning)        94, 95 (evening)
Genesis 31:1-24
1 John 2:1-11
John 9:18-41

We are pretty messed up.  Today's readings are reminders of how we bring conflict, division, jealousy, and sin into nearly everything we touch.  Today we've got examples from work, religious fellowship, and even trying to do good.

The Jacob vs. Laban saga is a story of nasty, cut-throat business competition with an edge.  Jacob has lots of qualities of a hard working entrepreneur; but his shrewd tactics are hard to justify.  He sows some bitter seeds.  Resentment and conflict are inevitable byproducts of this bitter relationship between two relatives who are dishonest with one another.  This is one of those stories where there are no good guys.  Yet underneath it all is the reminder that God is working even through these compromised means to bring about blessing for humanity.

 In 1st John we face the reality that even among those who have embraced the ethic and community of Jesus, there is animosity and bitterness, disobedience and failure.  But, "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining." (1 John 2:8b)

The gospel lesson is so sad and frustrating.  It is a metaphor for our many blindnesses.  Jesus heals a man who was born blind.  The conventional wisdom (and theological orthodoxy) said that when a child is born blind it is God's judgment for sin.  There was an argument whether it was for the sin of the parents or the child.  But, the curse of being born blind is obvious enough, so there must be a cause, they reasoned.  Nevertheless, Jesus heals him.  But... he did so on the sabbath, an obvious violation of one the Ten Commandments.

So, the religious authorities are in a bind.  The Pharisees are good people.  They are the ones charged with the responsibility of teaching and promoting religious life and principles.  Giving sight to the blind seems like a good thing, but no one following God through the revealed law of the scriptures would do such work during the holy rest of the sabbath!  Scandal.  Yet, it is a wonderful miracle.  They are in a quandary.  They investigate.  As they consider the situation, it seems to them that this man born blind ("You were born entirely in sins!") tries to lecture them.  Their cultural conditioning prevails, and they lash out in contempt.  Their religious scruples have blinded them to the goodness in front of them.  The irony is pretty obvious -- the blind man sees; the supposedly enlightened are blind.

What a mess!  How about us?  Where does jealousy and competition stain our work?  In what ways do we fail to live up to the ideals we have embraced?  How do we get stuck and fail to see the good because it comes outside our theologies? 

Yes, we're pretty messed up.  But God works even through Jacob and Laban, through blindnesses of all kinds, and "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining."  (1 John 2:8b)


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 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


At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Obama,

Thou shalt not covet.

Mr. Lowell,

Thou shalt not covet.

But that is exactly where we are.


At 8:18 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Good to hear from you again, Greg. I've missed you.

I would characterize my own interpretation not as covetousness, but as a passion for justice and for compassion. A little like the prophets who challenged the covetousness of the powerful and asked them to look at the plight of the poor and vulnerable.

I don't covet the 14-15% tax rate of Mr. Romney or Mr. Buffet, I say that it is the result of an unjust tax system that has been crafted by the covetousness of the rich and powerful.


At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, and don't forget the 0% tax rate paid by so many. I guess coveting their votes is fine.

If Romney and Buffet paid income tax, instead of cap gains, they would pay much more. Maybe Obama should have fixed that when he had the power.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


All of us get the same federal income deductions and benefits on that first $50,000.

All workers pay SSI and Medicare -- taken from their pay check off the top before they are paid; all pay the same sales tax whether rich or poor (which means a larger percentage of the poor's income goes to sales taxes).

Romney and Buffet have tax shelters for their earned income, and they live on their capital gains, taxed at 15%. That's how a multi-millionaire like Mr. Romney pays a smaller percentage of his income tax than I do, or most middle class workers, and many lower-middle class workers.

Greg -- what's your tax rate? Check your filing this year. HOPE that it will be more than 15% -- because unless you are a mult-millionaire, you'll be living pretty close to the poverty line otherwise.

For 30 years the tax policy has been tweaked to favor the rich and powerful.

Republicans have blocked every possibility of tax reform during the Obama administration. They did so as a minority party by filibustering every bill -- requiring a super-majority of 60% for a record number of pieces of legislation. That's unprecedented as an everyday tactic.

Many in Congress have taken Grover Norquist's irrational "no taxes promise". Thanks to things like that, there was no appropriation passed to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good. The government deserves NONE of our taxes, they have been irresponsible with it and until they prove they are going to be responsible, I support the "no taxes promise".
And don't forget, Obama chose to pass the unconstitutinal Obamacare when he could have changed the tax code if it was SO unfair. Obama Owned the senate until Scott Brown came in and then still had 59 so that is just a lie.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

NONE of our taxes? Come on, Greg.

You'll eat breakfast this morning knowing its safe -- inspected by government employees who make sure our food is safe. You'll ride on streets built by government, and know yourself to be secure, defended by our military. I could go on...

Government, like any organization, including churches and businesses, is ambiguous. It is good and does good; it screws up and it fails. Same for individuals.

What does government do better than individuals or better than businesses? That's always the question. We have a good federal interstate highway system because that's the best way to do that.

One of the main questions for this generation is how best to assure medical care? Private? Public? Or a combination?

I think the evidence is compelling that our private system has not been working for a long time. It is overly expensive, wasteful, and has poorer results overall than virtually all developed countries. It's a good system for the wealthy. Not so good for the whole.

Medicare works well for the over-65 bunch. (As does Social Security. The elderly have been least disrupted by the recent economic depression.) Those are government programs, and they are good. They aren't perfect. They can be improved. But because we have them, growing older is not the threat it was prior to 1965. That's government doing good.

I'm not too pleased with Obamacare either. We should have just extended Medicare to everyone. But Obamacare is a great improvement and addresses some of the most egregious problems of access and efficiency.

We still have a way to go to catch up with other countries who have successful medical programs.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WE ARE BROKE. And our kids will pay the price. Live with that.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is how Obama (and all big government leaders) treats the POOR in America. He deflates our dollar making food and
gas prices wipe out everyone but his rich donors. And THEN they lie and tell us that food and energy don't count in inflation, well they are LIARS. Just sad that you continue to support big government when all we get with big government is MORE POOR. And you say you are for the poor, well you are not if you support this inflationary monetary policy, you are encouraging more and you need to repent. Maybe you think the poor are so dumb they believe this, but I hope someone will read this post and realize the truth. BIG GOVERNMENT IS YOUR ENEMY.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Lowell said...


Where do you get your economic perspective? There has been virtually no inflation for several years -- throughout the recent downturn and the current emergence from recession. I've refinanced my house because interest rates are so low. (NOTE: The conservative Heritage Foundation has been screaming fears of inflation -- and their predictions have been wrong, wrong, wrong) Throughout the Obama administration there has been virtually no inflation.

Second: We are not broke. Here's a helpful piece on the difference between government debt and household debt. (the author is a Nobel prize winner in economics). Stop letting the crazies make you so afraid and angry.



At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big fat lie. Food prices are way up lowell. THAT IS INFLATION.

Gas prices are way up, THAT IS INFLATION. even if you and Obama lie to us,its inflation.

Do you really tell your poor church members that the pain they feel while buying food and gas are fake? Really?

And Krugman is a political hack and the worse kind of "economist".

We ARE broke. The only way our government can continue is more debt and printing money. period.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. congrats on refinaning your debt at the FEDs new and very beneficial (to the president) interest rates. Maybe our poor in America can refinance their food bills and gas bill so your side can keep lying to them about "no inflation".

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Lowell said...


You'd blame an outbreak of acne on Obama.

Food prices are going up around the world. The cause is weather -- climate change. Crop failures and lower yields. Not monetary policy or government policies, except the non-responsiveness of our nation and government to the signs of climate change that have been around since I took Biology 101 in 1969.

Gas has been low for most last year. It has begun to rise again recently, primarily because of instability in the Middle East -- what will Iran do? Read the CNBC article you refer to -- "tensions in the Middle East" are the reason gas prices are up. Blame Iran -- it's not Obama.

Krugman is a Nobel Prize winning economist -- a professor at Princeton. And -- he's been right over and over again about the economy. He predicted the downturn when the Heritage Foundation hacks were thrilled with the financial boom (bubble). He's been downright prophetic about nearly everything that's happened in the past five years. Look back at his columns. Then look at the history. He's got a nearly perfect batting average. Facts trump ideology. Krugman has been right consistently. Pay attention to him.


P.S. Did you see the report that the one sector of the population that has been least damaged by the recession is the elderly? The reason -- government programs that you hate so much -- Social Security and Medicare.


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