I am in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this weekend to participate in my 31st USBC Open tournament. I have discussed this aspect of my life in several previous posts, including “Bowling and the Church”.
Here are my thoughts for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost; the Scriptures are Isaiah 49: 8 – 16, 1 Corinthians 4: 1 – 5, and Matthew 6: 24 – 34.
I find an interesting pairing of the Gospel reading for today with the fact that it is also the Memorial Day weekend.
Memorial Day is supposed to be a day of honor and remembrance of those who have fallen in battle. Though created for the purpose of honoring the dead of the Union army during the Civil War, it has become or it is supposed to be a day to remember the dead from all the wars. But, today, many people today probably have no idea of this day’s beginning and only see it as a marker for the beginning of summer and a time for major sales. In fact, we have been bombarded with advertisements on television and radio and in print to buy things that we probably don’t need. We are even getting subtle hints from the present administration, just as they put forth following September 11, 2001, to spend our economic stimulus check on things. This is done with no apparent regard that our economy is sliding into recession and possibly depression and that single checks for $300 or $600 are not going to do much to change the direction of the economy.
And while we consider whether we are to serve God or wealth, we must also consider the lilies of the fields. As it states in the Gospel reading, we are to consider the lilies of the field and how they are to grow. Of course, what Jesus is talking about is that we should only be seeking that which is needed in order to live and survive; this is quite a contrast when we hear of CEOs earning sums of money in one year that exceed what many of their workers would earn in a lifetime.
And as we read this passage, if your church was like mine, we can see the lilies from last year’s Easter services begin to bloom (the traditional lily that we use is forced to bloom earlier in order to be ready for Easter; if you plant them, they bloom in late May or early June). But, on this Memorial Day, we pause to consider the lilies that we are planting this year.
As the war in Iraq continues on and on, the number of young men and women killed climbs. And so our military cemeteries have more and more white tombstone markers. Consider the lilies and how they grow. And what makes this climbing death toll so disturbing is that our young are being killed by guns and violence in our cities, often for the flimsiest of reasons. We are killing our youth by war, guns, violence, and indifference (see “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “The Lost Generation”).
Have we not learned that what a society who seeks to gain through the accumulation of power and wealth actually gains?
Hear the words of Isaiah as he proclaims to the nation that all will be fed and clothed. But also hear the word of the people who proclaim that God has forgotten them. God has never forgotten us but we may have forgotten God.
When we pursue economic policies that drive down the less-fortunate and reward those who have with more, we are forgetting that the Bible’s focus has always been to remember the less and the oppressed. When we pursue military policies that are more often than not seen as preserving our political and economic interests, then we are forgetting why Jesus brought the Good News to the people. When we seek to judge people for their beliefs, their economic status, their gender, their race, or their lifestyle and we do so in the name of God, we forget that we are not called to judge but to be judged by God. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we are called to be God’s servants through Christ, not his judge.
Let us also remember that John Wesley had no problems with anyone earning as much as they could. But he warned us against doing so on the backs of the labor class and the less fortunate. He also encouraged each of us to save as much as we could and to give as much as we could.
So on this day, let us consider how the lilies grow and work to make the field a field of life, not death and despair. Let us consider how the lilies grow and, as Christ spoke to us, “work for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”