Saturday, April 13, 2013

Meditation on This Sunday's Narrative Lectionary

The Narrative Lectionary Reading for Sunday, April 14, 2013:

Acts 6:1-7:2a, 44-60

It probably says something about the tough week I've had that my first response to the readings for this week is to see the negative.  I've had a week of lots of meetings at work, some of them full of discord and discomfort. 

I look at the first part of the reading for this week, and I despair.  Even in the earliest incarnations of the Church, the days when I would expect people to be least likely to forget the mission given them by Christ, we see this infighting:  "I shouldn't have to do this work.  I shouldn't have to mingle with those people."

Those of us who have had to work with humans in groups, whether at church or at the office, will not be surprised.  It's such a small task, it seems to me, the serving of tables.  In the time they spend discussing it, the task could be done, if they'd all just pitch in.  But no, we see this quibbling.

It's good to remember that good can come from disagreement.  We see a decision reached and more disciples made because of it.  There's a foreshadowing of monasticism here:  it's decided that it is important to set aside some people who will pray for the rest.

It reminds me of one of my favorite Kathleen Norris quotes:  "Deep down, people seem glad to know that monks are praying, that poets are writing poems. This is what others want and expect of us, because if we do our job right, we will express things that others may feel or know, but can't or won't say" (The Cloister Walk, page 145).

And yet, even this early agreement leads to more discord.  One of the evangelists, Stephen, does his job too successfully, and he becomes the first Christian martyr.  Sigh.

Stephen's speech also strikes a chord in me.  It's not just been a week of discordant moments at work, but also bad news at church:  a roofing job that was supposed to cost $4000 and taken a few days to complete has now mushroomed into something much bigger.

And so I nod, when Stephen says, "Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands" (Acts 7:48a).  I have a vision of Jesus looking at our rotting roof boards and reminding me, "I didn't come to earth so that you would have a building to shepherd for future generations.  I sent people out into the world two by two."

I try to look at the building as a marvelous community resource.  I try to remember the other groups that meet in our church.  I try not to think about how many hungry people we could feed with the amount it will ultimately take to repair the roof. 

I'll try to keep remembering how many groups of humans will be nourished in other ways by having a meeting space.  As president of the Church Council, I'll try to keep us focused on the task.  I'll pray that we not divide into discordant factions.  I will trust in a God that has resources greater than ours, a God that shares, a God of abundance.

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