From Whom Has Our Wellbeing Come?
The words of next Sunday’s gospel will seem disconnected from our own experience of life. Despite ourselves, we are already responding to prospects of Christmas, warm fires on dark nights, Christmas gift lists, and good food.
Meanwhile, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. What is all his talk of “wars and rumors of wars … For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines” about?
How can we respond to such a picture from the comfort of our own armchairs and lives lived in relative prosperity and peace? How might we reconcile these ominous phrases of “earthquakes” and “famines” with the gingerbread houses and twinkling lights already lining our thoughts?
The words strike a discordant note, foreign and uncomfortable at best (and seemingly out of step with getting a jump on our merrymaking). But a closer examination of this text draws me to the calm confidence of Jesus as he gazes into his future. His own death is fast approaching, yet he speaks not of fear, but of keeping trust with God, of remaining focused on the truth, of hope. He reminds us that we have already been given what we need, no matter the circumstances. In fact, he elaborates by reminding us not to become distracted when matters go awry, but instead to remember the fact of God’s love and provision for us. Chaos is not the point; the generosity of God is.
Thus, our response to this gospel begins not in the paralysis of anxiety, but in the assurance that all will be well. God, says Jesus, is taking care of us and we are called to act upon it. Our freedom lies in our entrance into the divine embrace of this truth – from it emerges all gratitude for life, all thanksgiving for blessing, all generosity to others, all hospitality, and all joy.
Make time and space to consider and know from whom our wellbeing has come. It is from that place, and that place alone, that we can begin to become stewards of our faith and lives.
The Reverend Susan N. Eaves
The “Least” of Us
Scripture is very concerned about the least among us, because God is very concerned about the least among us.
Jesus directs hard words at those filled with self-importance, who say long prayers but then steal from the poor. He goes on to remind us that God is concerned about the frail among us, be it the poor, the homeless, the suffering, or anyone we would rather not notice or perhaps might be drawn to condemn. The truth is there can be no one created who is outside the love of God, and therefore there can be no one outside our own field of loving attention.
The gospel next Sunday will focus on the widow with two coins who gave all she had as an offering in the Temple treasury. Widows were the “invisibles” of biblical days – invisible because they had been disgraced by the loss of husbands and clearly had no remaining brothers-in-law to care for them, as was the custom. To be thus twice abandoned was significant for it was understood as punishment, as a curse for some unnamed deficiency.
The gospel tells us Jesus was still, that he sat down before the Temple treasury and watched what was happening. As a result, he saw things hidden to those who were busy trying to impress others. He reminds us to go about our business with care, to be watchful, thoughtful, and kind. In doing so, he is offering us the same opportunity already claimed by the poor widow – to inhabit God’s world and to be free.
As we live the coming week, we can choose to inhabit it as the scribes of whom Jesus spoke. We could strut about trying to command the respect and admiration of others, or we can pay attention to all that surrounds us, trying to see the world through the eyes of Jesus, seeing rather than being seen.
It is not an accident that those with few resources or who are of little account to the world are blessed with a clarity of spiritual sight we might well envy. We, who are often encumbered by too much “stuff” — of material, emotional, or physical nature — might do well to sit down and observe for ourselves what it is they have to share with us. They have much to teach us.
The Reverend Susan N. Eaves