Thursday, August 16, 2012

Doing God's Will

Thursday, August 16, 2012 -- 
Week of Proper 14, Year Two

Today's Readings for the Daily Office 
 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 979)
Psalms 105:1-22 (morning)       105?23-45 (evening)
Judges 14:1-19
Acts 6:15 - 7:16
John 4:27-42

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."
  (John 4:34)

Be alert and awake in the presence circumstances.  Accept their reality.  Then, do God's will. 

That's a simple expression of a classic form of spirituality and moral theology coming from the great 18th century spiritual director Jean Pierre de Caussade.  Jesus says, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."  Jesus described that work as the Kingdom of God.  Whenever we are simply doing the will of God, in that moment we are doing everything we can within our limited means to foster the coming of God's Kingdom, God's Reign.

Caussade says that we can trust our intuition to guide us, to show us what is the will of God moment by moment.  Jesus summarized the whole context of God's will with the commandment to love -- love God, neighbor and self.

So, Christian life could be briefly described as a life of attention to the call of love, moment by moment.  What is God's will?  It is to love, right here right now. 

One more little clue -- this from Caussade.  He said God's will can only be one of three things in any given moment:  (1) to do some present duty; (2) to enjoy some present enjoyment; or (3) occasionally, to suffer something for the sake of God. 

Living faithfully then is to be awake, to accept reality, to do God's will (which is some form of love) as it presents itself in the moment as a duty, an enjoyment, or occasionally something to bear.

Yesterday's and today's stories from John illustrate the principle.  A thirsty Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at midday at a well.  (Yesterday's story.)  He spoke to her generously and created a relationship with her.  That's a profound act of love in his own society, where prejudice would have taught him that if the shadow of a Samaritan were to cross his path it would render him unclean.  His society prohibited a man talking publicly with a woman outside his family.  Jesus blows through these religious and cultural taboos and engages in conversation with her as a fellow human being.  That is an intuition of love that could only come from God.  Jesus' culture would have never taught him that.

There is something liberating about Jesus' primary allegiance to God, his focused orientation toward love, and his openness to the circumstances of the present that allows him to overcome the conventional norms of his culture to see and to engage the Samaritan woman at the well.  He takes it to be God's will that he visit with her.

And what does God do with Jesus' simple act of following the will of God?  God overcomes centuries of profound division.  Today we read that many Samaritans responded graciously to the conversation between Jesus and the woman.  They ask Jesus -- a Jew, a member of their most hated rivals -- to stay with them.  In Jesus' simple act of obedience to God's will, centuries of division, hostility and ill will are overcome.  Jews and Samaritans visit together as friends.  It is a result that could not have been imagined by the common expectation of the day.

So for today -- for your day, for right now -- what is God's will for you?  Do that.  No telling what God will do with your faithful act.


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to:

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

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

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 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caussade's understanding of "doing God's will" as interpreted by Lowell is more helpful and more credible than the one many of us grew up with, where we are seemingly on the phone with (make that texting with) a Deity who gives us minute-by-minute instructions for our daily lives.

More helpful, more credible, and far less stressful. thanks be to God

Bob McMath

At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've often thought that it's interesting that the Samaritan woman left her water jug at the well. Like many who encounter Jesus, she came expecting one thing (water for her family) and left with something completely different (living water).

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Your note made me think of something.
There was an interesting article titled "How Evangelicals Hear the Voice of God" (I saw it through Slate)-- from someone who studied the Vinyard Church for a couple of years. Here's the key paragraph:

Luhrmann's provocative theory is that the church teaches those who pray to use their minds differently than they do in everyday life. They begin by holding conversations with God in their heads, modeled on the kind of chummy conversations they'd have with their best friends. As they talk to Him, tell Him about their problems, and imagine His wise counsel and loving response, they are training their thoughts, much as people use weights to train their muscles. The church encourages them to tune in to sounds, images, and feelings that are louder or more intense or more unfamiliar or more powerful — and to interpret these internal cues as the external voice of God.


and the insight that the woman at the well came looking for one thing and left with so much more -- even leaving her jug behind -- what a wonderful metaphor for many stories of transformation.



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