Here are my thoughts for the 8th Sunday after the Epiphany, 27 February 2011. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Isaiah 49: 8 – 16, 1 Corinthians 4: 1 – 5, and Matthew 6: 24 – 34.
In the Gospel reading today Jesus challenges us to choose between God of Life and the gods of this world. As we read the rest of today’s passage, we see that Jesus doesn’t give us much of a choice – we follow the One True God or we don’t; he doesn’t really examine the options.
Now, when I first read this passage, I thought about the idea of free will. We really don’t have to follow Christ and choose God; we can do whatever we like. And you know what? We have as a society decided to follow the other gods. We would rather follow the god of war rather than the Prince of Peace. We allow the military-industrial to keep get wealthy while the poor, the homeless, the sick and outcast get nothing. We have abandoned Christ and His dedication to healing. We so want safety and security in this world we are willing to engage in wars around the world and allow our own civil liberties to be trampled. We somehow think that allowing rich people to keep their wealth will somehow make each of us wealthy as well. We have accepted the lies and machinations of the ruling class because we honestly think that when they slam the door in our faces, they are offering us an invitation to the party.
We miss the point. As long as we are concerned with the material things in this world, we aren’t to get what we seek. So we have some decisions to make.
It starts with our understanding one thing – that those who tells what they say is the truth haven’t got a clue, except that if what they say is enough to scare us, we will believe them. And we do believe them. We accept their statements without qualification. And if we don’t make some decisions real quick, we are going to find us in situations worse than anything that the people of Jesus’ time might have faced.
As Paul warns the Corinthians, we cannot imagine our leaders to be something that they aren’t. Paul repeatedly acknowledges his own failings and weaknesses, especially when it came to following Christ. He acknowledges that he is a servant of Christ and not his master. Many of the so-called experts in today’s society would have you believe that they are privy to some secret knowledge that only they have the power to understand. What Paul wants the Corinthians to do, what he wants us to do is make sure that we have all the information before we make any judgments.
That is hard to do, especially when the establishment (both political and religious) would rather we not think. Consider this, the first thing that the Egyptian government tried to do to stop the revolution was to stop the information pipeline; it didn’t work because the information was already set free. And while the Chinese government has quit censoring the Internet, they still monitor it sufficiently to keep protests from even forming. I will say/write this somewhat sarcastically but the one thing that will keep Facebook from being the vehicle of change in this country is that most people haven’t figured out what it can do; it is more for chit-chat than political revolutions. I hope I am wrong but I doubt very seriously that many of our young people, who assiduously text messages to their friends each day, have any clue what their counterparts in Egypt were doing with the same tools.
If we would stop and think (even if that has been difficult these past few years), we could see that there is hope. We live in a time much like that of Israel when Jesus began His ministry. It was a time of peace imposed by military force and status in society determined the success or failure of one’s life. Jesus did not speak of accepting the status quo as the solution or blindly accepting one’s place as the result of God’s will. But he pointed out that those who sought to gain through society’s ways were doomed to failure. We live in a time where the Word of God has been so abused that many people are not willing to listen and still others will not accept it.
There are those who call for God’s kingdom to be enacted here on earth but their call is a call for exclusion, not inclusion. We can have God’s kingdom here on earth, the one that Isaiah wrote about where no one was hungry, no one was thirsty, and there was shade from the sun and shelter from the wind. But we must make some decisions.
We must make them individually first, then collectively. We must find Christ in our lives by ourselves and not in a manner dictated by others. And we must accept that they have found Christ, even when it is different from the manner in which we found Christ. And then we must work and live in the manner that Christ worked and lived. It is a tough decision to make but it is clear that it may be the only one.
We can continue the way we are going. But it will not get us to heaven. We have some decisions to make. Which God shall we follow? What road shall we walk?