Thursday, January 17, 2013


Thursday, January 17, 2013 -- Week of 2 Epiphany (Year One)
Antony, Abbot in Egypt, 356

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

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 942)
Psalms  18:1-20 (morning)     //     18:21-50 (evening)
Isaiah 41:17-29
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 2:1-12

Only God can forgive sins.  Everybody knows that.  The Hebrew scripture teaches it.  Thousands of years of tradition clearly outline the necessary procedures for human beings to take in order that God might forgive their sin.  But only God can forgive sins.

No wonder traditional religious people opposed Jesus and got upset with him.  "But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins" -- Jesus said to the paralytic -- "Get up, take your mat, and go home." (Mark 2:10, CEB)  The title the "Human One" or the "Son of Man" is ambiguous.  In some places in scripture, it clearly means "mortal."  In other places it implies superhuman qualities.  In Matthew's version of this story the people leave praising God "who had given such authority to human beings."  Teachings such as this provoked religious traditionalists to charge Jesus with blasphemy.  After all, only God can forgive sins.  Everybody knows that.

Maybe they underestimated just how radical Jesus was.  In Ephesians we read the effect of Jesus's ministry.  Those who were once regarded as sinners and outsiders are now welcomed as equals.  This lyrical passage in Ephesians 2 has inspired not only uncircumcised Gentiles, but also slaves, women, people of color, and gay Christians.  "But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who were once so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  Christ is our peace.  He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group.  With his body he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.  He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace.  He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God." (13-16)

This is such rich material that it is worth looking at some of the alternate translations.  Another way to  translate the description of this reconciliation is to say that Jesus' work will "reconcile both of us in one body for God" by destroying the hostility "in himself."

This great proclamation of inclusion speaks of breaking down "the dividing wall."  Many scholars believe that this references the barriers which separated the court of the Gentiles from the worship places open only to Jews.  In the ancient Christian shrine to St. Cuthbert in Durham, England, there is a black marble line across the floor.  It was placed in 1100 when the Norman cathedral was built.  It was a protective barrier, to keep the altar and St. Cuthbert's holy shrine pure and free from the corrupting presence of women.  I remember "Whites Only" signs in waiting rooms and on restroom doors and water fountains. 

The people who created those dividing walls believed they were doing God's will and protecting the holy from the profane.  But Jesus came and "announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near.  We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit." (17-18)  The apostle says to us Gentiles and to all others who have stood behind those dividing walls, "So now you are no longer strangers and aliens.  Rather, you are fellow citizens with God's people, and you belong to God's household."  Hallelujah!


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 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite evangelical bloggers posted this yesterday, and I thought of you:

-- lesley k


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