my miscellany

Pentecost 11, 2016 — 31 Jul 16

Pentecost 11, 2016

RCL C Proper 13 Complementary
Ecclesiastes 1:2 and 12-14, and 2:18-23; Psalm 49:1-11; Colossians 3:1-11;
Saint Luke 12:13-21

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes and the truth of the Parable of the Rich Fool are annoying to contemplate. We know the wisdom and the truth are just that. The challenge is to discover how to live our lives so that they are “rich towards God.”[1]

The rich farmer in the parable attempts to increase his profits and to maximize his income by building a bigger barn. The bigger barn will allow him to avoid using his land for storage and to wait for higher prices before selling his produce. This is the wisdom of the world. You can learn it in the school of hard knocks or from an experienced farmer. But where do you learn how to be “rich toward God”?

The best answer I have for you is what you are doing right now. You are contemplating God’s revelation in the Scriptures and in the person of Jesus Christ. And that leads to adjusting toward God what in your life needs adjusting toward God. You cannot do more than that. Do that over a lifetime, and you will discover how far you have moved toward God.

For none of us, really, makes the same mistake as the Rich Fool, the mistake of devoting oneself, body and soul, to increasing income and maximizing profits.

Contemplating God’s revelation in the Scriptures and in the person of Jesus Christ aptly describes Saint Augustine’s education and preparation as theologian. And it was Saint Augustine who wrote of the rich farmer, “The fool did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns.” We have made use of those safer storerooms.

If we give ourselves body and soul to accumulate possessions, we run the danger of making those very possessions our security. We run the risk of being poor toward God, because we have put our trust in those possessions rather than in God.

When we know that Jesus is our Savior, we have become rich toward God; we have become rich beyond measurement. It is a wealth, a currency, which never fails or loses value. No one can take it from us. And no one can rob us of the communion with God given as this wealth’s most special dividend.

[1] Saint Luke 12:31.

Pentecost 10, 2016 — 24 Jul 16

Pentecost 10, 2016

RCL C Proper 12 Complementary
Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:6-19, Saint Luke 11:1-13

My reflection on today’s Gospel roots almost totally on the side of things invisible, things unearthly, and, perhaps, things spiritual. For those words come close to describing Mary’s interests not Martha’s. For today’s Gospel concerns prayer not preparing or serving food.

We have today Saint Luke’s account of Jesus giving in to his disciples’ request that he teach them how to pray, just as John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray. And Jesus’ answer is the Lord’s Prayer.

But Jesus goes on to give some visible and earthly examples of prayer. He moves from Mary’s spiritual realm to Martha’s domestic realm. He tells of a friend who asks for three loaves of bread. And he tells of a parent whose child asks for a fish or for an egg. Will any parent give a snake instead of a fish? Or will a parent give a scorpion instead of an egg?

Certainly not. Jesus teaches us a lot in these examples. He teaches us that our heavenly Father answers prayer, and those answers agree with his kingdom. Those answers agree with what we truly need. Those answers agree with the Holy Spirit.

And in our prayers we are to be persistent. We are to ask and to ask again. Remember Abraham’s persistence? He asks the Lord if he will indeed destroy the cities if fifty righteous are there. Certainly not. Will he destroy the cities if forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, and, finally, if ten righteous are there? Certainly not.

Our prayers are to be persistent. You could well say that our prayers are to be like negotiations. I think the Lord is pleased to give us what we persistently request especially when what we persistently request agrees with the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost 9, 2016 — 17 Jul 16

Pentecost 9, 2016

RCL C Proper 11 Complementary
Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-28, Saint Luke 10:38-42

The Gospel today is the familiar, charming account of Martha and Mary in Saint Luke, just five verses. We simply don’t know whether they are or aren’t the Martha and Mary of Saint John’s Gospel. You remember that one of Jesus’s greatest signs is to raise their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. This is their only appearance in Saint Luke. This Gospel tells us nothing more about them.

What is the preachment in this Gospel? What has it to say to us?

This Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to Jesus, the Teacher, the Master, the Lord. And it reminds us of the equality Jesus gives to women. We should never forget that.

You remember that Martha is “distracted by her many tasks”[1] while Mary sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to him. Again, do not forget how unusual it was in first-century Judaism for a woman to assume the man’s role of a disciple to a Teacher. Boundaries are being broken. Freedom is being enlarged and encouraged.

But it is Martha who finds fault with Mary, and Martha’s doing so reminds me of a little parable earlier in Saint Luke. Here it is: “Why do you see the speck in your [brother’s] eye, but do not see the log in your own eye?”[2]

Mary has chosen the better part, as the Lord says. Usually this statement, interpreted, means that the Lord prefers education to labor. And Mary hasn’t become the judge of her sister.

I wonder if that little parable about the speck and the log is not also part of what the Lord is teaching. You and I will do well to tend to the log in our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck in our brother’s or sister’s or neighbor’s eye.

You add that to the reminder to learn from the Lord, to hang upon every word of the Lord, and to be led by the Lord’s example of extending equality to every person, and you have a lifetime of things to make your own. As the Psalmist says today, “Whoever does these things * shall never be overthrown.”[3]

[1] Saint Luke 10:40.

[2] Saint Luke 6:41.

[3] Psalm 15:7.

%d bloggers like this: