Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Conflicting Readings

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; 2 Kings 9:17-37; 1 Corinthians 7:1-9; Matthew 6:7-15

Reading all three of today's readings brings some confusion with them. In 2 Kings we have the end of the Ahab - Jezebel saga begun weeks ago in 1 Kings. We have death and destruction to many. Jezebel dies today, rather gruesomely, having been thrown from her towering room to the stones of the palace, spattering her blood on the walls, the horses trampling her and the dogs eating her, leaving only the palms of her hands, her skull and her feet as witness to her life. Gruesome.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul continues in his exclusionary, unforgiving nature. His own prejudices, his own self-righteousness continues, when today, he deigns to give his followers the right to respond to their God-given passions. He does demand monogamy, which is not a bad thing at all, and probably the only redeeming part of today's passage.

Then we have Jesus teaching his disciples to pray. Jesus is quite clear - and we understand that clarity as we say The Lord's Prayer in all of our Daily Offices and at the end of all our Eucharistic Prayers. Jesus says to: praise God in heaven; ask for the Kingdom to come; acknowledge God's will in our lives; ask for our daily bread; ask for forgiveness from God for our debts/sins; acknowledge that we must forgive those who are our debtors/who have sinned against us; and ask God to keep us from evil and temptation. Jesus ends these instructions with a dire warning: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Forgiveness needs to be a center of our existence. This ties into Jesus' focus on love. Now, I do not profess a fondness for Jezebel and her treachery, nor do I espouse sexual impropriety that Paul rails against. But our Hebrew Testament and Epistle readings seem to be in sharp contrast and disagreement with Jesus' direction to be centered in forgiveness and I struggle with trying to reconcile them.

I am unsure if they are reconcilable, like so much in the Bible. Perhaps we are meant to wrestle with the inconsistencies and find a way through....Some fall on the side of Paul....I prefer listening to Jesus and fall in that direction. So much in our world, in our church, in our personal interactions with friends and families, would be better if more people listened to Jesus.

Copyright 2009, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

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