Monday, March 4, 2013 — Week of Lent 3 (Year One)
Paul Cuffee, Witness to the Faith among the Shinnecock, 1812[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. 954)
Psalms 80 (morning) // 77,  (evening)
Temples and circumcision.
Where do we place our trust?
And what consequences follow.
Jeremiah scolds the people today for putting their trust in their Temple as the sign of God’s presence and protection. They have effectively boxed up God inside the building and its institutions. That’s where God is. As long as the Temple stands, we are well.
No! says Jeremiah. This Temple is as vulnerable as the ancient dwelling of God at Shiloh which the Philistines destroyed.
Jeremiah is especially angered by their complacency. While they have been focusing on the Temple they have ignored and even oppressed the weaker members of their society. When a nation does such things, it is sowing the seeds of its own destruction, says Jeremiah.
Put your trust in the living God who brought you out of bondage, and then seek to be a people who lives in God’s spirit. “Do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood.” Taking care of the outcast and weak is the true sign of the covenant people, not tower and temple.
Jesus speaks the same message in the Temple, where he confronts those who accuse him of violating the commandments by healing on the Sabbath. The Temple institution will circumcise when a child’s eighth day falls on the Sabbath because Moses instructed them to circumcise on the eighth day. But Moses also instructed their compassion, and should that be ignored on the Sabbath? Living in a relationship with the living God, Jesus spontaneously reaches out with healing compassion for others, even on the Sabbath. Is your trust in your laws, or is your trust in the compassionate God?
And Paul cites Abraham as the father of faith. Abraham simply trusted God. That was enough. Before he had done anything, before he was circumcised, he was justified. How did that happen? God showed Abraham he was beloved (that’s grace in Paul’s language), and Abraham accepted God’s love (that’s faith in Paul’s language). Everything else that happens comes as a consequence of trusting a loving God.
Institutions and rituals; laws and works — all are secondary. What is primary is the sheer gift of God’s infinite acceptance, grace and love. From that should flow freely spontaneous acts of compassion toward the weak as well as living institutions and rituals to celebrate and explore the blessedness of God’s prevenient and ever-present love. We are loved, so we can love.
Justice is the face of love in the wider society.
When we trust the living God of infinite love, then we can relax. We can be who we are, the beloved of God. Then we can respond freely to the world with the same Spirit of confident love. Everything else is secondary.