The Daily Office

November 21, 2006

Daily OfficeToday’s Epistle reading is James 3:1-12.

My son told his other dad this weekend that he was upset with himself because he had made a mistake the other day at school and got in trouble.  His other dad told him that it was ok because everybody makes mistakes.

My son protested, “No– not me- I don’t.  Just this one day I did.”

I guess we have some work to do.

Funny, isn’t it, how this scripture reading tells us point blank that none of us can be perfect, and then goes on to tell us about how important it is to try– about the dangers of not being perfect when we are teaching.

That’s really the human condition, though isn’t it?  Knowing what it is that we need to do and not being able to do it.  Knowing that only in God can we be fully realized, only through grace.

And right here we are warned about chiding others, about using words to tear down instead of to build up.

How many of us would rather complain instead of praise?  Even when we know that something needs to be changed, there is a way to do it without being critical.  People are smart, they can get the point without judgemental language.

But in the brokenness of this world, that need to judge is cyclical.  If we are judged as children, we judge as adults.  My son obviously feels the need to be perfect as a child– I’ve got to work with him to help him understand that the messiness of life is what makes life worth living– not only the orderliness of life but the disorderliness; the mistakes as well as the successess.

Someone once told me that they hoped that heaven was not a place free of sin.  Because if it was, there wouldn’t be an opportunity to learn– to grow, to evolve in our understanding and push ourselves as seekers of God.  A heaven without wrongdoing, without free-will, means a static place instead of a dynamic place.

That was an interesting thought to me.

So have a Happy Thanksgiving.  I’ll be thankful not only for what I have this year, but all of what I have been given that has made me who I am and formed me in Christ– all of my experiences; all of the messiness and the orderliness; all of the joy and the sorrow; all of the people and the long lonely places– everything.

j

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12 Responses to “The Daily Office”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    I think the “someone” you referred to here has a skewed vision of God.

    Don’t know about you, but there are ways of learning and loving in this life and the next without having to hurt people and offend God.

    Why “someone” thinks that God would tolerate sin and wrongdoing in Heaven is beyond me.

    And why your linkage between free will and sin? The angels and saints live in the immediate presence of God in accord of their free will and without sin.

    Hopefully at some point in your studies you’ll read St. Thomas Aquinas and get a better idea of how God avoids being static (boring?) while at the same time being immutable.

    And a Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  2. Jeff Says:

    I don’t think she had a skewed vision of God.
    I think it provoked me to think in a new way about the messiness and brokenness of this world.
    I know, Fr Michael, that you are very set in your theology, but the Roman Catholic view of the world just doesn’t work for all of us. Some of us aren’t satisfied with the Roman Catholic answers.
    That doesn’t mean that your view is wrong; it just means that we are in different places.
    j

  3. D Hamilton Says:

    Mistake – an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.

    Sin – transgression of divine law.

    A Heaven with mistakes is intriguing – much like God (George Burns) and the avocado pit. However, a Heaven with sin is neither intriguing nor Heaven.

    D

  4. Jeff Says:

    D –

    I think you are right to point out the semantic issues; that is helpful.

    Would you say that all sin is also a mistake, but mistakes are not necessarily sin?

    I don’t differentiate between sin and mistakes in quite the same way you do.

    I think that we sin because we make poor decisions. For example, I may lose my patience when dealing with my children and treat them poorly. That is a mistake caused by my carelessness, and it is also a sin, breaking my duty to love my children fully.

    It is also an opportunity to learn. I can reflect on the experience and see how I can change my behavior in the future.

    When I pray extemporaneously (sp?) for forgiveness, I always ask God to use my transgressions to teach me to be a better servant in the future.

    I’m not sure I can differentiate in the same way you have.

    j

  5. D Hamilton Says:

    Jeff …..

    If I serve one of our elderly parishioners caffeinated coffee in the rush of fellowship time after services – forgetting to ask whether she wants leaded or unleaded and she doesn’t remember to ask either – and her heart goes into an irregular beat and she dies, have I sinned against her and God? A mistake was made and the consequences very severe, but was it a transgression against divine law? Was it a sin?

    To me, sin is rarely a mistake. I choose to commit sin – I haven’t made a mistake – I have made a choice generated from that nature that separates me of from God and that nature for which Christ did sacrificed in payment for my sins.

    Mistakes and sin – for me there is a gulf filled with intention that separates them.

    In prayer I ask for forgiveness of my sins, release from my sinful nature, and thanks for the Savior and His sacrifice.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Interesting.

    Do you have anything to learn from your sins, in your theology then?

    j

  7. D Hamilton Says:

    Jeff –

    Typically, I learn how horribly I underestimated the pain to others and how I gain nothing from committing sin.

    The knowledge reinforces the motivation to refrain from repeating … though, of course, not always successfully.

    D

  8. Jeff Says:

    D –

    I think that I was saying exactly the same thing.

    Does that leave us with a semantic issue?

    Note that I have never said that I agreed with the woman’s position on heaven, only that it posed an interesting question. I have, in fact, never stated my position on heaven at all in this forum.

    j

  9. FrMichael Says:

    Jeff,

    The idea that there is no sin in Heaven isn’t simply Roman Catholic theology, it’s pretty much universal among all Christian denominations AFAIK. I’ve never actually heard of a notable theologian or denomination who has postulated otherwise. The idea of sin in Heaven is contrary to the idea of God’s overwhelming holiness and His hatred of sin.

    Mistakes vs. sins is not simply a matter of semantics. You should know as a student that you can make a mistake on a test and it not be a sin. Whereas sins always affect our relationship with God to the ill, be they minor or major.

  10. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael-

    God’s peace to you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

    The allusion I made to boxing yourself into Roman Catholicism is evident in your post. You seem to want to draw a heavy, thick, line between a mistake and a sin– certainly there are some examples we could draw where the deliniation might be obvious. I would argue that there can be no sin without a mistake, as every sin is based in a wrong choice. If I make a mistake on a test, I have also made a wrong choice. The difference you may be trying to deliniate is based on intent, but the point I am trying to make is that we learn how to streamline and correct our intent from drawing upon our past mistakes.

    I just can’t find a world– a world created from God– that is as cut and dry as you would have it. More power to you if you are comfortable with a cut and dry world– but it doesn’t work for me. Why do you judge me for not being happy with the system that works for me just because it isn’t the same as your theology? I don’t judge you for being happy with your system? Neither of us can know for sure which is “correct”, if there is such a thing. They are valid ways of interpreting the revelation of God based on our experience of God through Scripture, Tradition, and Reason– I have no idea what your experience is, nor you mine. How can you be so sure that my experience is invalid?

    j

  11. FrMichael Says:

    Dear Jeff:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you.

    The idea of sin as a type of mistaken (but intentional) choice– one that negatively affects our relationship with God– I’m gathering is common to us both. My beef with the original comment from your acquaitance is the idea that there might be sin in Heaven. It may work for you, but it is contrary to what we know of God’s holiness. To say that humans offending God and each other is going to be needed to spice Heaven up is bizarre. Those who had brief visions of Heaven– Paul and John– didn’t list static boredom as one of its qualities.

  12. Jeff Says:

    Fr. Michael-

    Thanks for the clarification. I’ll point out again that I’ve never discussed my theology of heaven here, nor did I point out any agreement or not with the lady’s idea about heaven– only that I found it thought provoking. I don’t have any idea whether it is “right” or “wrong”– I personally don’t know that I find value in solving such an unanswerable question.

    As with many things, to me it is not in the answer itself but in the process of seeking it that we find God.

    j


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