Tuesday, November 20, 2012 — Week of Proper 28, Year 2
Edmund, King of East Anglia, 870
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html 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. 993)
Psalms 97, 99,  (morning) // 94,  (evening)
James 3:13 – 4:12
Today’s Daily Office readings are like one of those chilly, overcast days when it looks like it will be cloudy all day and the rain threatens to come at any moment. I know that above the clouds the sun shines with steadfastness. I know that there will be another day with light and warmth. But on those gray days that seep into the bones, you have to set your jaw and move ahead with determination, doing what needs to be done.
The psalm we read in chapter 3 of Habakkuk perplexes scholars. Most think it is added to the book by editors wishing to resolve the earlier dilemma of injustice that the prophet raises. Others think it is the natural culmination of Habakkuk’s vision. It ends with a bleak picture — the fig and olive trees are bare, the field and flock unproductive — “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord if my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.”
Active trust in God is like that. It faces the gray day and remembers the sun with gratitude.
The wisdom of James reminds us that so much of our bitterness and wrongdoing have their origin in “envy and selfish ambition.” The heat of desire, inflamed by our self-centeredness, creates so much trouble for us. The antidote: the kind of humility that creates a pure heart, which opens us to being “peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” Many moments present us with a fairly stark alternative — shall my self-interest or thine be done?
And finally, Luke’s set of teachings for the disciples are all pretty sobering. Woe to you if you cause another to stumble. And if someone sins against you, tell them about it and accept their apology with free forgiveness. If you had only a touch of faith, Jesus tells us, you could do amazing things. Somehow, that doesn’t feel to encouraging. I rarely uproot mulberry trees and plant them in the sea with my thin faith. Then when you’ve worked like a slave, and done everything you were supposed to, just say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.”
So much of life is like that. You stick to your commitments, you do your duty. It’s expected. No big deal.
The rewards of responsible living are usually woven into their very being. For most important things, gratification is long delayed. It’s the stuff that offers instant gratification that usually is the real trouble.
Okay. Sometimes you come to the scripture and it tells you what you already know. Life is difficult. Hang in there and do your best. Resist the ever-present stuff that attracts you toward derailment. Do what you need to do. The sun is shining even when you can’t see or feel it.