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A Terrifying Offering

A Terrifying Offering

Friday, May 2, 2014 – 2 Easter, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 16, 17 (morning) // 134, 135 (evening)

Exodus 16:22-36

1 Peter 3:13-4:6

John 16:1-15

Although the Bible’s prophetic words were written centuries or millennia ago, they have the remarkable power of speaking directly to our present circumstances. The words of Jesus in today’s gospel give me a chill of recognition: “an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” My first instinct is to hear these words as a description of ideological justifications for acts of terrorism.

Mark Juergensmeyer’s book “Terror in the Mind of God” reveals the cultures of religious violence within all major world religions and how they support the belief that killing others can honor God. Of course, it isn’t only rogue terrorists who holds this belief. The recent comment by Sarah Palin that “Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists” also exposes how tightly and perversely we sometimes connect torturous violence toward our enemies with the ritual and sacramental acts that express our worship.

Jesus warned us about this. Religion has dangerous and deadly implications if it makes us confident that we know how to please God or that we can classify others as worthy of death. Jesus warned us that human beings are at risk of this fatal error: believing that by killing others we are offering worship to God. But we do have one possible safeguard against this evil logic.

The gospel today goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit’s role in our universe is to call into question everything we think we know about good and evil, justice and injustice, crime and punishment. As Jesus says, when the Advocate comes, “he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment . . . because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”

We human beings may not know much about the ways of God, but one thing we should keep in mind: we are generally poor judges of what pleases God. The ancient prophets and the teachings of Jesus constantly undermine our assumptions about what kind of worship God desires from us. Let us work and pray today for the world’s deliverance from thinking that the death of anyone offers worship to God.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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