Monday, August 26, 2013

Descending into the Heart of God


Sermon for Year C, Proper 14  (On Isaiah 58:9b-14 & Luke 13:10-17)                               

Today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings both share a theme of Sabbath—the practice of intentionality, rest, and reflection, that we, as Christians, inherit from our Jewish forbearers. But they seemingly take two conflicting views. The passage from Isaiah tells us that if we refrain from trampling on the Sabbath, from pursuing our own interests on God’s holy day, then we will learn to take delight in the Lord and our lives will be like a watered garden, whose springs never fail. But in the Gospel passage, Jesus’ actions cause us to wonder whether or not he supports keeping Sabbath laws.

Unsurprisingly, today’s Christians seem collectively stumped by the confusion surrounding this gift we’ve inherited. And as such, we’ve allowed it to fall into disrepair. Like weeds in an overgrown garden, pressures for productivity and busyness have crept in, leaving our lives overcrowded and unmanageable. Today, we will look at these seemingly conflicting perspectives to try and understand just what it is that Jesus is communicating to us today. But first, I think it’d be helpful if we took a deeper look at the discipline of Sabbath.   
Not long ago I heard the story of a woman named Sylvia Earle. Now 78 years old, Sylvia spent most of her career working as an oceanographer, studying the mysteries that lie hidden beneath the veil we call sea level. During a time when much attention was turned skywards for the Moon landing, Sylvia plumbed the depths of inner-space to discover a jungle of life right beneath our noses.

Slyvia’s peers know her as “Her Deepness,” a title she earned by leading the first team of women aquanauts on a dive to over 1,200 feet below sea level. There, with the aid of a small submarine trailing behind her and a now antiquated diving suit, she walked with her own two feet on the ocean floor. Her exploration lasted for over two and a half hours—about the same amount of time that Buzz Aldren spent on the Moon—but few noticed.


In that vast subterranean wilderness, Sylvia found herself surrounded by tall plants in the dark currents that shimmered with bio-lumenesant light. There were crabs and fish of all shapes, colors, and sizes. She saw creatures barely describable as creatures and patches of sand that glowed when touched. After some time, she ordered the submarine to turn off its lights, so she could be fully immersed in the wonders that surrounded her.

In many ways Sabbath can be likened to her journey, for it teaches us the importance of exploring those hidden, rarely visited corners of life—of listening for the still, small Voice. With all the noise of today’s continuous stimulation (from radios, TVs, bills, and trying to stay on top of email), rare is the person who feels they can take time away for renewal. But our spiritual… and even physical health… demands this. And like Sylvia turning off the submarine lights, taking such time gives us a chance to pause and bask in God’s goodness—a time to grow still, love those we cherish, and nurture a quiet awareness of God’s presence.


When Sylvia reflects back on her life, she’s quick to point out how much has changed. Creatures never before fathomed have been brought to light. The earth’s resources have been used in new and exciting ways, transforming life as we know it. But what began with perhaps limitless optimism, has given way to a myriad of unanticipated problems.  

Now, when people ask Sylvia where she would go diving, if she could go anywhere in the world, she answers, “Oh… just about any place… 50 years ago.” She says this because of all the damage that’s recently happened to underwater ecosystems. Many species of ocean creatures have been reduced to five or ten percent of what they once were… and some have been fully eradicated. Apparently, for instance, Galveston used to have Monk Seals, a species that once stretched from here to Florida. But the last Gulf Coast Seal was seen in 1952.


This highlights another facet of Sabbath—the need to exercise restraint. Failure to set limits, by allowing time for rest and replenishment, reliably precedes burnout. God modeled rest for us on the seventh day of creation and Israel received the Sabbath as a gift, after being freed from slavery—hard things to argue against.

So why then does Jesus wind up squaring off with the synagogue leader today? Was Jesus really opposed to Sabbath? Well, if we revisit the story, we notice that the woman who was bent over didn't come to Jesus. She didn’t interrupt his teaching. She lurked quietly within the crowd and had Jesus not called out to her, she would have left unnoticed. But that’s not what happens—because Jesus had a point to make.

Now, the voice opposing Jesus was correct in saying that he could have waited until the next day to heal the woman. After all, she’d already been waiting for eighteen years. But, by moving to heal her anyway, Jesus makes a theological point about Sabbath’s purpose. In the Message translation, Jesus responds, “You frauds. Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall. You lead it out for water and think nothing of it. Why then would it be wrong for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has kept her bound?”


You see, Sabbath is about more than rest and renewal… it’s also about freedom from bondage—about grace and healing. Its rules and commandments ought to be subordinate to the greater purpose they serve—that of freeing us to walk in a fuller awareness of God’s presence and provision. Or as Jesus says in Mark, “Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.”

So God’s chief concern, made known by Jesus today, is the full and unhindered flourishing of all life. But, as Sylvia and others point out, the need for Sabbath extends beyond humanity to the whole of God’s creation. Soil needs rest for the replenishment of nutrients. Groundwater needs time to recover. And when resources are overtaxed, they wither and dry up. But we do likewise.


And, in this way, we mirror today’s ecological predicament. Today’s endless chase for outward economic gain comes at a cost. We find ourselves held captive by a society that expects ever longer working hours—where families are strained and relationships sacrificed. A contagious hunger to prosper or have the greatest, most respected credentials has left us scattered and depleted. Even our self-images have fallen prey, for we never feel free to simply rest. There’s always more that can be done.  

In seminary, I had the opportunity to take a class on Judaism from a local rabbi. I was surprised to learn of all the forethought it takes to keep Sabbath—to live intentionally with no work for one day. Consider eating, for example, when no cooking is allowed and neither is shopping for groceries or commerce of any kind. Such rest requires planning.

What would happen if we approached our lives with that same intentionality? If Sabbath is meant for our blessing, or as Isaiah puts it, “to make us ride upon the heights of the earth,” then surely we clear some space to listen for that still, small Voice.


Let us then cherish the gifts we’ve been given and, like Sylvia’s dazzling walk at the bottom of the sea, allow Sabbath to open up new horizons of wonderment. But we must be willing to dive deep—to clear space with intentionality. Because like tithing and loving our enemies, Sabbath requires discipline. But as Jesus reminds us, our reward can be walking in the perfect freedom God wills for us, with an ever-increasing awareness of God’s presence in all things!  

When was the last time you paused to reflect on your deepest longings? Remember, God gave your heart its passions, so whatever emerges, it’s sure to bring God glory! For Sylvia, she’s turned much of her attention to raising awareness about the environment, thus joining her work to God’s desire for a thriving creation. But, this calling will look different for each of us.
For some it may mean more time with family. For others it may be turning off the radio on the way to work. And for those in intractably busy seasons of life, it may mean cultivating a sense of God’s presence, throughout the busy workday. How is God calling you to listen more closely?  

Jesus promises that God’s grace and care are waiting to heal and set things right, if only we will step forward when called.
 
Let us not be like those, during the landing of the Moon, who were so ready to focus outwards, that they neglected the mesmerizing world within…  

 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Doubt as a Beatitude





I’ve recently taken to listening to a podcast called Skeptoid. And for those of you who don’t know, podcasts are like downloadable radio shows or lectures. This one is produced by a scientist who goes around investigated urban legends and myths to debunk them or discuss their credibility. Things like the Loch Ness monster, the Bermuda Triangle, or the Marfa lights. The show’s entire premise hinges on a healthy use of skepticism and doubt to unlock some of the world’s most intriguing mysteries.

The show taps in to some of our most primordial impulses for survival—those of curiosity and disbelief. Our eyes still alert to movement because somewhere in our deep past we needed to watch for predators. “Did I just see a saber-toothed tiger in those bushes? I don’t know… so my eyes are going to linger there until I know whether it’s safe or not.”   

At the core of today’s Gospel we encounter one of these natural instincts—doubt. It’s one of our most basic impulses for self-preservation and it’s vital for human reasoning. We could define “doubt” as a state of mind “suspended between two contradictory propositions.” Its opposite is certitude.

In today’s reading we heard the familiar story of the apostle Thomas, whose name, whether fairly or not, has forever become linked with the descriptor “doubting.” Jesus comes to those locked in the room while Thomas was away, and when Thomas later hears their report he infamously remarks that, “Unless he sees the marks of the nails in Jesus’ hands and the wound in his side… and places his finger in them, he will never believe." He craves certitude.

An often overlooked detail of the story is that Thomas, we are told, was a twin. I find this significant because twins are accustomed to being misidentified. I once knew a twin whose identical sister worked at one of my favorite coffee shops. Every time I went in there, I’d see her and try to get her attention to say hello, but her eyes would pass over mine as those of a stranger. Then I’d remember she was a twin. Once I went in and saw her pacing between her tables, but this time I was wise to my mistake. Only then, I noticed that the tattoos on her arms kept switching places. I was perplexed until I realized that now both twins were working there. Eventually, my friend saw me and said hi.

Thomas surely would have been familiar with such mix-ups and he, more than most, would have known to look for identifying marks. Maybe his demand to see Christ’s wounds came from such experience. But there are other possibilities. Perhaps his doubt was defensive. He feared being made to look like a fool. “I mean, come on, resurrection? You mean to tell me the man we all watched die days ago…lives?”

As a notoriously gullible person, I know this feeling. If you were to ask my wife Meredith, she could tell you story after story of me falling for someone else’s con. One time, a guy showed up at my doorstep, on foot, with no lawn mower, and I paid him, in advance, to mow my lawn… and then was completely shocked when he took off with the money! I’ve since learned to defer all such decisions to Meredith.

 Thomas had had one too many of those moments. Or maybe he simply wanted to enjoy the same audience with Jesus that others had. After all, why had Jesus come while he was away? Had he done something wrong? Was there something he lacked?

I imagine that week between Jesus’ two appearances was a long one for him, perhaps full of much soul searching. Maybe his doubt turned inwards and he questioned whether or not he was worthy of Christ’s blessing. I’m sure that, like many of us, he knew of those sins that he hadn’t quite mastered—those parts he still held back from God. Could he truly be counted amongst Christ’s own while still bearing such shortcomings?

We can liken doubt to sand in that, with the right amount and in the right place, like a few grains inside a clam, it can serve as an irritant, producing pearls of great beauty. It can provoke growth and discovery. But doubt can also overwhelm us, and more like a pit of quicksand, it can keep us mired in place, unable to reach for that which God has for us. It can cause us to question ourselves or put up walls of protection. But these walls can hold us back. And if we’re not mindful of our self-protective instincts, we can become fearful and imprisoned by them.

But that’s not the life Jesus has for us. It’s no mistake that each time Jesus appears, his greeting calls us to lay down our worries. “Peace be with you.” The great news for Thomas, and I think all of us, is that Jesus returns… He doesn’t leave Thomas to mire in despair. Jesus finds him and reassures him that something in this world, or someone, is trustworthy—that he is included in God’s blessing despite his shortcomings. And Thomas responds with great joy.  

All of this is very moving, but where does it leave us? Because, as Jesus acknowledges, those who come after Thomas will not be so lucky—to see Christ face-to-face. And, as if a two-thousand-year time gap weren’t enough, our world can be a confusing swirl of competing narratives. We live in an age of scientific achievement, religious plurality, and a whole slew of economic and social ideas.  

Perhaps this accounts for all our friends and neighbors who describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” It’s as if so many are propelled by some vague sense of hope in something transcendent, hungry for something truly life-giving, but we find ourselves lost in the forest of today’s complexity. Maybe, like Thomas, we are too afraid of committing ourselves to the wrong thing. We question our ability to see and recognize truth, unable to grasp anything with certainty.

But what do we sacrifice when we hold such questions at arm’s length? What is lost when we allow doubt and uncertainty to keep us from committing ourselves to that which could most free us? And for those of us who have committed ourselves to discipleship—here today—what doubts are we afraid to tangle with? What questions dare we not disturb?   

Jesus comes to us promising peace, but can we trust him?  Maybe you’ll be surprised to hear this, but once, in one of my seminary classes, a professor asked us how many of us had been warned by someone—a friend or relative—before coming to seminary, not to lose our faith. It might sound like a funny question, but I think many of us are hesitant to learn new things. We become comfortable and fear things might unravel if we tamper with them.

I envision this mindset as not unlike that old party game “Jinga” we used to see TV ads for. Remember, Jinga was that game where you would stack long, wooden blocks into the shape of a tower, and then everyone takes a turn removing one block at a time, until, for some unlucky player it all comes crashing down…

Sadly, after the professor asked her question, many of us did raise our hands because we had received such warnings. But thankfully, things don’t have to be this way! We needn’t live in fear, for God is big enough to withstand all our questions—all our doubts. We can’t break God, unsettle God, or catch God in an embarrassing philosophical gaff!

If we hold that scripture reveals God’s character, then today’s lesson reveals our God’s dependable and trustworthy nature. Just as with Thomas, God will not leave us to languish. Jesus goes to him, and raises him from despair. He doesn’t condemn him for his struggles, but commissions him to spread the good news.

Christ’s resurrection laid the foundation for our resurrection—new lives free from fears of unworthiness and doubt. And that same Spirit that Jesus breathed upon his disciples still washes over us today. Jesus explicitly blesses us, as those who will not see Christ physically on this side of the veil… and by the very merit of our baptism, we are empowered to follow him, welcomed into a newfound fullness of life in Christ. Jesus didn’t come to take away all questions or rid us of all doubt, but he did bless us to move forward into mystery.

Aristotle used to teach his students about mastering the “art of doubting well.” Likewise, in Christ, we are challenged to pair our natural, protective instincts with an unshakable faith in God’s goodness. Can we learn to embrace them as vehicles carrying us closer into God’s arms? Can we welcome the peace Jesus brings, laying down our fears and accepting his gift of new life? Can we take hold of His grace, which is our certitude? These are no small challenges, but as Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee.” The coast is clear… it’s safe, so go ahead and rest. Rest in the One who is perfect Peace. Peace be with you.    

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Communion, Not Competition


Epiphany 4, Year C – 1 Corinthians 13

A sermon by Jeremiah Griffin




Have you ever noticed how violent animal documentary shows are? Not the silly kind popular these days, with people wrestling giant catfish or chasing sasquatch… But the ones like on PBS, where one minute you’re watching a gazelle grazing peacefully on the plains and in the next scene it’s being snatched up and devoured. Or maybe a school of salmon come swimming along in a stream, only to be ripped from the water suddenly by a grizzly bear?

Have you ever thought about the message we send ourselves, by choosing to zero in on these moments of violent struggle, rather than showing the probably years of playful mornings, restful mid-days, and peaceful afternoons preceding these brutal turns? I wonder what our tendency to focus on these moments says about us, as a society… and our view of the world. There are many ways to tell a story…

Now, not to read too much into this, but I see evidence of this competitive framing of things extending far beyond our vision of the animal kingdom. Nightly newscasts are rife with words like “opponent” and “adversary,” or even “predatory lending” or “vulture capitalism.” Or think of the whole “Fiscal Cliff” fiasco, with all its standoffs and posturing. Or even of today’s debate on gun violence.

It’s as if somewhere along the way we fell, irretrievably, into a pit of dog-eat-dog thinking. But in the wake of all the recent violence… and given today’s divisive tone, our need for change is perhaps clearer than ever. And as Christians, our faith gives us hope of escaping this hole we find ourselves in.   

This worldview of self-concerned competition was also used by the Church at Corinth… and in today’s Epistle we hear Paul’s familiar, if not poetic response. Although often read as a hymn singing the virtues of “love,” Paul’s intentions, here, are to rebuke Corinth for a mindset he sees as contrary to the Gospel.

But this is easy to miss, when read in fragments.  The context of Paul’s words come in a reply to an ongoing argument over whether the spiritual gifts of some were more important than those of others. Some in this community had conveniently begun to see themselves and their giftings as more worthy of honor—their agendas as more deserving of priority. Paul’s words smack down these self-inflated ideas, but not solely for their arrogance… He’s more concerned by their self-serving mindset—their rather tenuous grasp on what it means to be a part of God’s Family.  

Remember, Paul sees the Church as Christ’s body, with each member possessing unique and needed gifts. As we heard last week, some serve, some teach, some heal, and some prophesy… and this list isn’t exhaustive! We all embody essential facets of Christ’s identity.

In the first part of today’s reading, Paul compares those who enjoy spilling over with words of insight to the clanging of cymbals if done without love. He goes on to say that all wisdom and generosity amount to nothing if done without love. He makes plain God’s priorities. In other words, any aim we have to grow in wisdom or goodness, is worthless if not channeled towards serving others. Really, Paul’s words here just echo Jesus’ two greatest commands—to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.

I recently heard a podcast with two priests discussing the parable of the Good Samaritan. They likened the Samaritan to anyone they deemed as different from themselves to make a point about how Christians should engage the world. One of them relayed an embarrassing story about a time during seminary when he was running late and rushing to his internship at a local parish (which I know nothing about!). Over the night there had been a heavy snowfall (something I truly know nothing about!). The snow delayed him further, forcing him to shovel his driveway before leaving. And just as he finished, his neighbor, an elderly woman, whom he knew was not Christian, called out to him. She was stranded and needed help shoveling her driveway. But, in a mindless hurry, he shouted over his shoulder while pulling away, “Sorry, I can’t. I have to get to church!”

His story stuck with me because I could so easily see myself doing that. Not the snow part, obviously, but a Texas equivalent… like clearing tumbleweed. But while our day-to-day actions are surely important, I have a feeling Paul intends to take us deeper…

In the second part of today’s passage, after establishing love and its communal dimensions as God’s priority, Paul brings things home by getting specific. The Message translation of his words reads like this:

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first,” Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, and keeps going to the end.”                          

Each time I hear these words (most often at weddings), I’m left feeling both inspired to try harder, but also discouraged by my failures. I begin to wonder, as maybe all of us do, if we are even capable of these aims. A quick glance at any newspaper suggests the answer is “no,” but Paul seems hopeful.

In the last part of today’s reading, he tells us that our hope lies not within our efforts, but in our common future, united with Christ. Christ… who is love eternal. We are reminded that, from here—this earthly vantage—we see only through a glass darkly. But in Christ, as members of His mystical body, we become caught up in something greater. Like stones in a river, God’s presence pours over us… and reshapes us. And one day, Paul tells us, we will know this Love fully, as if face to face. 

But for this to occur and our world be transformed, we must be in the river, we must be in Christ! We must steep ourselves in His scriptures, swirl in the eddies of His community, and cast off in the current of His Will… At every turn, we must embrace God’s vision for us, while working to release our fears, delusions of scarcity, and the instinct to arm ourselves with evermore power, money, or control.  

But this runs contrary to worldly wisdom. Its ethos, as we glimpse in the themes underpinning those animal documentaries or in the arguments of partisan pundits, pit us against our neighbors. Like Corinth, we too wrestle with cravings for position… and the sense security that we think comes with control………………….
But Jesus offers us another way. 

In this season of Epiphany, we celebrate the in-breaking of a new story. Christ calls us together and teaches us that we cannot go it alone. And this is truly good news for such a cut-throat, me-first world. Paul’s love hymn gives us glimpses of that which we are becoming—agents of God’s redemptive love. And we are to carry this healing outwards into places where competition and self-preservation reign with unquestioned tenure—into our neighbor’s driveways, our business dealings, and an infinite number of other places, unique to each one of us. A worthwhile exercise would be meditating on this passage, even committing it to memory, and letting it function for us as a guiding compass, that points us ever closer towards oneness with Christ.

Along the way, and even now, we are being transformed… for in Christ, we discover One willing to step down from power, who enters into our struggle, and saves us from having to fend solely for ourselves… In Christ, the world gains a new vision for how things can be. Our calling then, as Christ’s own, is to join with Him, by welcoming others into this new way—this new story—so that all our stories might become joined to His! And it’s fromthis place—this new vantage—that we, and the whole of creation, will come to see that another world is possible…  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Between Scarcity and Revolution


Sermon on Widow’s Mite – Proper 27, Year B                

When the Church preaches about giving over our whole selves to Christ… all that the rest of the world hears is “we want your money.” But really, it’s about so much more.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard today’s passage about the widow’s mite presented in ways praising her for her selfless generosity. The moral is always that we need to be more like her, offering our whole selves to God. But when we try to figure out what this means, things get confusing.  

To make sense of this and what we are called to, we should first revisit the circumstances of this story. It comes at the end of Jesus’ public ministry, after he had spent much time caring for the poor and ostracized. He arrives in the Temple, only days before Passover. 

I imagine his eyes narrowed as they caught sight of the money changers and those selling pigeons. Maybe he saw some laughing as they bantered back and forth, while a long line of ragged, threadbare people stretched out before them. Then, in an instant, before they could realize or resist, their tables had been whipped over and a burst of pigeons flooded the sky.

The moneychangers? Sure. They charged interest which was forbidden by Jewish law. But why the pigeons? Because they were the sacrifice offered by the poor—those who barely enough to feed themselves. People like today’s widow…    

Next, Jesus confronts the Scribes and Pharisees, right there, on their turf. He rails against their conceit and corruption. And then, just before predicting the destruction of the entire Temple system, he says what we heard in today’s reading. He points out the hypocrisy of some scribes, accusing them of “devouring widows’ homes.”

We’re offered no explanation, but some historians believe scribes were the ones who decided what amounts pilgrims paid to worship. Next, Jesus calls our attention to this widow’s gift, saying her two coins far exceeded the value of the many larger contributions being made.

We are told she had nothing else to live off of—no other money to feed herself. So Jesus lifts her up as yet another example of the Temple’s excess. Like those who could hardly afford pigeons, he commends her sacrificial giving, yes, but also he condemns the wrongness of her plight… Remember, Hebrew scripture carries a strong tradition of urging care for the poor and vulnerable…

But, if the Temple was corrupt, who was to blame? Surely, we can’t peg everything on the Scribes. After all, they too were seeking God in the only system they’d even known—the one they inherited. Earlier in Mark we find Jesus having earnest, heartfelt exchanges with some of them, so we know Jesus isn’t making a blanket or two-dimensional indictment. Things aren’t black or white, good or bad. Like all of us, the scribes and this widow had virtues and flaws.

So who or what was at fault? Maybe it was “the System,” right? It’s always “the System!” Or maybe… Jesus is pointing towards an inescapable tension that we as humans inevitably face.  That pull between the need to take care of ourselves and our desire to help others...That line between the duties of our chosen profession and our ethical convictions—between our desire for stability and safety… and our wish to grow in the likeness of God’s generous nature……

These are tensions we all face. They surface when we try to balance our home and work life, but also when we are approached on the street by someone in need… Things get even more complicated when we consider money. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” but do we consider how Jesus is made manifest by our spending habits? Are you willing to spend extra money (or abstain from buying things!) to only purchase ethically produced goods… And how is your answer linked to your faith? And what we do here…?

Those aren’t easy questions, but I believe that Jesus provides us with a way forward. Following today’s passage, we see Jesus and his disciples leaving the Temple. One of them marvels aloud at the splendor of its grandiose stonework, to which Jesus replies, “Not one stone will be left atop another. Soon, they will all be thrown to the ground.” Later, when Jesus surrenders and is being interrogated he says he will destroy the Temple and raise up a new one not made by hands. In effect, he is pronouncing the end of an atonement system that had become a conveyor for materialistic gain… but not without opening a new way…  

As Christians, we hold that Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all sufficient—freeing us from our dependence on the Temple. Maybe you’re thinking, “Great, but how is that related to the tension between preserving our security and living generously?” Well, maybe you, like me, sometimes feel like the scribe, trapped in a system that broken and corrupt… Or maybe, like the widow, you feel compelled to give all you have to a broken, messed up world, doubting it will ever matter, but truly wanting to help… 

If that’s you, be of good cheer. . . because as followers of Christ, we are blessed with many ways of dancing with these tensions. In baptism, we are made members of the true and living body of Christ. And every week, as we gather together to commune, over God’s word and sacraments, we are reminded of a different reality where our lives are seen as gifts from God. 

We hear this in the words of the liturgy when we proclaim God to be “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” In fact, think about the very name of this gathering we’re taking part in—Holy Eucharist. Which means “thanksgiving!” In other words, we’re combating the myth of scarcity right now, by giving thanks for God’s abundant provision…

This… is a protest of the world’s lies—that we must compete and struggle against each other. We do this by remembering that all good things flow from God… and therefore belong to Him. “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” This is what we pray… and this is how our faith teaches us to us to see the world through new eyes.

I know it’s early for a Christmas story, but think back to Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Remember how, before that night with the three ghosts, he lived a miserly and lonesome life? He saw relationships, even with family members, as potential threats and drains on his control and security.
But after being shown his life through others’ eyes and glimpsing the hellish future towards which he was processing, Scrooge does a 180. He comes to see his need for others. He realizes what a gift life is and that the only joy in having, comes from gratitude and sharing. But such a shift can take time, which is why we ground our lives in the rhythm of Eucharist. What does Eucharist mean, again? Thanksgiving!

I’ll leave you with this… A while back I read about a Christian couple who were unable to have children. They happened to meet a woman who was six months pregnant and homeless, so they invited her into their home. It proved to be such a beautiful experience that they decided to continue living together to help raise the new baby girl while the mother pursued her dream of going back to nursing school. 

Years later, they are now like a family, the baby is a teenager and the mother a nurse. A heart-wrenching twist in this story is that the wife of the married couple became very ill with multiple sclerosis, but now she has a nurse living in her home who could care for her, just as she had cared for the nurse.

This is the divine gift of mystical providence made possible by living radically generous lives. But, this must spring forth from a place of deep gratitude… and not all of us can expect such immediate returns. So, is freedom from the scribe’s chains, wedding him to the system, or from the widow’s destitute plight possible? Yes! But tasting such glory requires giving our whole selves over to Christ! So… shall we?