Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Living in the New Community

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 -- Week of 2 Lent
William W. Mayo, Charles F. Menninger, and Their Sons, Pioneers in Medicine, 1911, 1953

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)
Psalms 61, 62 (morning)        68:1-20(21-23)24-36 (evening)
Genesis 42:1-17
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Mark 3:19b-35

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today we have Paul at his strictest, apparently least compassionate moment as far as we know from his writings.  A member of the congregation has been living in a sexual relationship with his stepmother, a violation of both the scripture and Roman Law.  Paul does not hesitate.  Remove this man from among you; "hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved; ...clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch." 

It is important to know that Paul sees the Church as a new creation, a liberated community entirely different and separate from the reality of the world of sin and death.  But we don't see him advising a sectarian separation out of the world.  In fact, he is rather nonchalant about the outside world of things.  He tells his congregation -- Eat meat sacrificed to idols from the public market, unless it will hurt the conscience of your weaker brother.  Don't divorce your unbelieving spouse unless the other wishes you to.  Pay your taxes.  Don't withdraw from society.  In tomorrow's reading he will express no problem with associating with immoral persons who are outside the church.  But, within the church, he expects more.

Paul is dogged in his defense of the community of the church.  The church is a new quality of existence, and he insists on keeping the quality of that life pure within the community.  The new community lives in a new way, and the qualities of the outside world are not to enter into the relationships of the church.   If someone fails to live into that quality, "restore him in a spirit of gentleness"  (Gal. 6:1) through correction and teaching.  But, as in this extreme case, if that doesn't work, do not allow what exists in the world to enter into the church.  The church is not prohibited from entering the world; the world is prohibited from entering the church, says Paul.

Paul believes that Christians live in a new community.  It is better, truer, more authentic life than that of the outside culture of sin and death.  He will go to great lengths to maintain that new reality. 

Part of that reality is that there is no elitism within the community.  Your life in Christ is a sheer gift.  No one can earn it.  Therefore our only ground for boasting is in the love God has given to us.  Paul also rejects any judgment of people outside.  He'll say that in tomorrow's reading.  That's important.  We're not elitists toward the world either.

Paul asks us to walk a fine line between two unacceptable extremes.  One line is a clear distinction between Christian reality and the worldly reality -- we are not to live within the Church as people do outside the Church.  The other line is a strict prohibition -- the Church is not to create a Christian elitism or a sectarian separation from the world.

For those of us in more progressive, mainline traditions, we tend to fall into the error of blurring the distinction between the quality of life within the church and the values of the outside world.  For those of us in more evangelical or fundamentalists traditions, we tend to exhibit the opposite error of Christian elitism or even imperialism. 

There is a new reality that Paul calls us to, a new community in Christ.  God's forgiveness and acceptance is the creative act that frees us from the inauthentic life of trying to be accepted or to struggling to survive in the world of law and performance.  In Christ, we are free to be ourselves, our true selves without compulsion.  We are free to act for others, to live for others, because we have been given everything.  Living in this new community is our inheritance, and Paul expects us to protect it.

Lowell

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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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

3 Comments:

At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is wrong with a little step-mother love. He was probably born that way. We all know there is NO slippery slope when dealing with sexual desire. Its ALL about how we are born.

 
At 7:05 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Greg -- is yesterday's post from you?

How unfair. What a false witness. You've read my stuff long enough (and hopefully paid attention to others who recognize the grace in committed same-gender relationships) to know that your caricature is just false.

I'll repeat. Here are the values that the Episcopal Church expects: "fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection, respect, careful honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God. ...We denounce promiscuity, exploitation, and abusiveness in the relationships of any of our members."

Lowell

 
At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How judgmental of you then.

Fidelity? Really? We evolved to pass on our genes. So we should do what our genes tell us to.

Monogamy? If 3 people are born with an attraction for each other, who are you to say that they can't express that "special" brand of love?

Sorry, you don't get to decide what respect, mutual affection, honest communication and holy love look like.

Get off your high horse and quit judging.
G

 

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