Thursday, August 8, 2013

Weekly Gospel Meditation

The readings for Sunday, August 11, 2013 (Lectionary 19)

Complementary Series

Genesis 15:1–6
Psalm 33:12–22 (22)
Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16
Luke 12:32–40

Semicontinuous Series
Isaiah 1:1, 10–20
Psalm 50:1–8, 22–23 (23)
Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16
Luke 12:32–40

In past years, I’d have written about the part of the Gospel where Jesus tells us to sell all our possessions. I’d have written about how important it is to keep our eyes on what is important.

I’d have written something like this: “Again and again Jesus warns us not to trust in earthly treasure. He's clear: earthly treasure will always, ALWAYS, fail us. That's not the message the world wants us to hear. The world wants us to rush and hurry, to buy more stuff, to build more barns for our stuff, to accumulate and hoard and lie awake at night worrying that we won't have enough. The world wants us to pay attention to our bank accounts. Jesus wants us to be on the lookout for God.”

This year, however, I’m a woman who has just bought a house. Instead of selling what I own, the one house, now I have two. Have I ignored all of what I believe to be true when buying a new home? Should I have sold the old house and given the money to the poor?

I return to the Gospel, to see what pieces I’ve overlooked. My guilt about being able to buy a new house when so much of the rest of the nation can’t afford the houses that they have—that guilt may have blinded me.

I return to that first line, the one about having no fear. Oh, how I need to hear those words, again and again. I am so very fearful.

The rest of the Gospel reminds me that although I’ve got some treasures on earth, I can’t rely on them. The Gospel reminds me to rely on God, who wants to give me all sorts of good things.

The Gospel reminds me that God is the purse that can’t wear out. Over the past few years, it’s the rare person who hasn’t seen how earthly institutions can fail us again and again. We put our trust in our retirement accounts, only to see them dwindle. We pour our efforts into a house, only to see its worth drain away. We place our bets on the sure job, only to realize that our industries have shifted away right out from under us.

I write these things, and I wonder if I’ve made a dreadful mistake, buying a house in this economic climate. But honestly, the past half decade has only made painfully clear what wise ones amongst us have always known. If our treasures are only earthly, we’re bound to be betrayed.

How can I make the indestructible purse, the unfailing treasure? It’s time to return, again, to the practices that the wise ones have told us are important. We can keep watch for God. Our traditions remind us that God will often appear where we don’t expect to find the Divine.

Does that mean that because I’ve moved to a better neighborhood, I won’t find God there? I’ll keep watch, for one never knows.

I’ll continue to share what I have. My cash flow will be tighter, at least until we sell the old house. But I will continue to give alms—most immediately, all of my possessions that don’t fit into the new house will go to a ministry that runs a thrift store to fund other ministries.

But the spiritual discipline that calls most clearly to me right now is the one that demands that I put away the world’s anxieties. That’s the spiritual discipline that’s hardest for me. I worry about bills, I worry about what happens if I lose my job, I worry about health crises that haven’t even happened yet.

Again and again, Jesus reminds us that God has already provided for us everything that we need. Again and again, Jesus calls us to put away our fears.

Again and again, I resolve to do that. It’s easier for me to share my money than it is for me to rest assured in God’s abundance. Again and again, I will try.

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