Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
I wonder what the Family Values crowd makes of this Jesus, who in this week's Gospel warns us that he'll be turning family members against each other. This is not the meek, do-goody Jesus who reads us a nice bedtime story and tucks us into bed.
No, this is one of the texts where Jesus warns us what we'll be sacrificing when we follow him. Or seen alternately, this is one of those texts where Jesus reminds us that God wants to be the central focus of our lives. Teaching after teaching, Jesus shows that God knows what competes. In this text, it's our family that competes with God for central focus. In other texts, it's money.
As we look at the teachings of Christ, a central theme emerges. Fear is at the root of all that keeps us from God.
Again and again, Jesus yokes his teachings of what will be required with the admonition to have no fear. Here, Jesus tells us that God knows about the least little sparrow--and we're worth more than sparrows. The wisdom of the Holy Spirit invites us to new life, not to paralyzing fear. Jesus tells us that even sparrows are nurtured in God's economy. Our religious texts remind us over and over again to be careful of where we store our treasures.
I love this vision of God who knows me from the individual hairs of my head to the rough soles of my feet. I like this vision of God who helps me travel through the dangerous parts of the world. I want to believe that I am worth more than sparrows, and I want to believe that in God's economy, sparrows are worth more than two pennies.
But again, Jesus warns us that we can't stop with that vision. This is a God who keeps watch so that we can do the transformational work that must be done. It is work that is likely to take us to threatening places where we may have to oppose the dominant power structure. We may find ourselves crucified, in every sense of that word.
As I write this meditation, I'm thinking back to the events of Freedom Summer, that crucible moment in history which changed the progress of the Civil Rights workers forever. I'm thinking of the youthful exuberance of those college students who headed south to register voters and to teach kids to read.
I'm thinking of how so many of them paid for those acts with bruises and broken bones. I'm thinking of the ones who died terrible deaths. I'm saying a prayer of thanks for the transformations that they brought.
Again and again, Jesus asks if we're willing to pay the price. Again and again, Jesus offers the promise that we find at the end of this Sunday's Gospel: if we quit our obsessive clinging to those elements that we think give us life, we may indeed find true life.
We will find God.