Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Day After

Thursday, February 14, 2013 -- Week of Last Epiphany (Year One)
Cyril and Methodius, Monk and Bishop, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885

[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. 950)
Psalms       37:1-18 (morning)     //       37:19-42 (evening)
Deuteronomy 7:6-11
Titus 1:1-16
John 1:29-34

It's not too hard to weave together a "second-day-of-lent" homily out of today's readings. 

Deuteronomy reminds us that God chose us out of God's own munificence.  It is not because we're bigger or better or smarter than others.  God chose us because God wanted to.  And the Gospel confirms this surprising grace of God with John the Baptist's wondrous insight -- I didn't know who he was, but God's Spirit showed me that this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  God's face is turned toward us with amazing love.

Therefore, get your house in order, advises the Epistle to Titus.  The elder gives some common-sense advice to about being organized, moderate and studied.  And the psalm addresses one of those distractions that plague us all -- don't worry about other people, especially the ones that bother you so much.  Trust God and things will work out.  Put your heart in God and wait patiently.

I remember an old Ash Wednesday sermon when I asked the congregation to give up three things for Lent -- three things that get in the way of a healthy life:  fear, anger and guilt.  Seems like that homily connects with some themes of today's readings.

When we trust God, when we deeply know that God has chosen us and surprises us with love, we can relax our fears.  It's one of scripture's major themes.  In one form or another, the Bible says "Fear not; do not be afraid" 365 times.  It's like the Spirit knew we would need reminding every day, even in leap years.  It's always what the angels say, "Be not afraid!"  Like they know something they want us to know.

Anger is the appropriate emotion whenever anything we love is threatened.  It's a motivator.  But once we've been motivated to act to protect or care for whatever is threatened, anger needs a short shelf life.  Leave rage alone.  Don't let the sun set on your anger.  Anger spoils quickly, decomposing into resentment or bitterness.  Let anger motivate you to act to protect something you love, but then let it go quickly.  Psalm 37 starts that way -- "Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong."  God's working to straighten things out.

And guilt.  Part of Ash Wednesday's litany of penitence is intended to give us a good mouthful of guilt so that we can spit it out instantly, be forgiven, and chase that bad taste away with the heavenly food of communion.  Guilt is a good thing.  It's our conscience telling us we've crossed our ideals.  But once it has done its sentinel job, spit it out.  "God, I'm sorry."  "Bless you my child; you are forgiven."  It's over.  The guilt is gone.  You are clean.  Start again with confidence.

Give up fear, anger and guilt for Lent.  Better than chocolate.


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 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful Lenten reflections these past few days. And I had a small piece of chocolate for breakfast on that last note, no guilt either!

Happy Valentine's Day my friend!

Peace and Blessings,

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Barry Chitwood said...

Lowell, I went back and read your comments on yesterday's readings and I was blessed. I was fired from a job yesterday and my hurt produced anger. I am letting go of that anger now. Thank you for ministering to me through your blog.

At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

these reflections give me comfort but how do you marry the "do not be afraid" part with "fear of God ... that some of my freinds so easily quote. i guess knowing that there are 365 "do not be afraid" areas in scripture is a good starting point.
Also, an even bigger problem for myself is that its easy to get angry with all the injustices that are more easily seen with my age and the internet. how do you not let you anger turn cynical and bitter? reading your blog is a good starting point for me which you distill from the morning office and your years of training and experience. but any other particulars?

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for all of the good comments. Letting go of anger quickly tends to move forward the slower, more organic process of forgiving. Ultimately, we forgive in order to stop carrying the conflictive emotions about the other so we can be free to have a full life.

A couple of thoughts about the "fear God" question and the righteous anger that rises in the face of injustice.

I think the Biblical passages enjoining us to "fear God" are better rendered "reverence God -- be in awe of God -- deeply respect and honor the Holy, Infinite Mystery of God." Mere cowering is not enough (or appropriate), in the face of infinite Love.

And there is a form of anger that is a characteristic of God -- the righteous anger that comes whenever anything we love is threatened. Such anger motivates us to action. Our action needs to be energetic, courageous, and persevering, BUT, insofar as we can, we have to back away from cynicism and bitterness. I think that's why Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and bless them. They need liberation from the oppression that they inflict. Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us about that.



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