Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Today's Lectio Divina

Reading. John 5:1-15

The words and concepts which stand out for me in today's reading are: obedience, healing, and Law versus love. This last is hard for modern readers to understand. Why were "the Jews" so upset by the man picking up his pallet?

Most Christians are familiar with the Ten Commandments, and are vaguely familiar with the fourth commandment: keep the Sabbath day holy; the text in Exodus amplifies this to say that we are not to labor on this day,
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.
(1928 Book of Common Prayer)
Most of us consider that we have fulfilled that Commandment by not going to our regular day job on Sunday. But the Pharisees, and many today as well, take that injunction to do no labor very literally and very seriously. In the time of Jesus, it was even "illegal" to drive an animal-drawn cart on this day — to do so would have caused the animals to labor. A handful today will not even drive a car to church, but will walk instead.

About the only persistence of this understanding of the holiness of Sunday in modern America are in certain "blue" laws. For example, here in Oklahoma it is illegal to sell hard liquor on Sunday. Once upon a time, all businesses were closed; today, it's only liquor stores and bars (even bars within restaurants). Originally, this was an application of the injunction against labor on Sunday. Today, I suppose, it preserves the "holiness" of the day by preventing people from easily getting intoxicated.

My interpretation of today's story is that Jesus considered the healing of one person to be more important than the Law or the traditional application of the Law. So, our challenge today is to ask how we may have allowed our application of Biblical Law to get in the way of healing. Are we prepared to drop our understanding of a given Biblical Law in order to be healed? Do we bar others from our faith communities because those others do not observe Biblical Law? Do we shun the stranger because s/he does not adhere to social norms?

Blessed Jesus, Divine Lover,
open my eyes
to see you in the heart
of each person I meet.
Blessed Jesus, Perfect Teacher,
open my ears
to hear your Spirit
moving through the world.
Blessed Jesus,
touch my hands and my feet
to feel you in the rose petal
to feel you in the sandy beach.
Blessed Jesus, open my nostrils,
let them discern the you and not-you
among the oleaginous smells of the city.
Blessed Jesus, open my mouth
and I sing forth your praise;
may I taste you in my morning coffee
as much as in the wafer & wine.
Blessed Jesus, Divine Healer,
   open my third eye
   open my inner ear
   open my secret heart
that I may perceive you in the soft place
where the light & the darkness divide
where the trees meet the sky,
clapping their hands,
where the horizon of this world
meets the infinite reaches of your eternity.

Contemplate. When have I made the Law, or tradition, more important than love and healing?
oleaginous (o-lee-AJ-uh-nuhs) adjective
1. Containing or producing oil; relating to oil.
2. Marked by excessive and false earnestness; ingratiating.
[From Middle English, from French oleagineux, from Latin oleaginus (of the olive tree), from olea (the olive tree).]
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