Around the world as here at home, the flow of goods, means, monies, and resources, is stopped up and held in stagnant pools. And, while there are exceptions that prove the rule, the church has largely left this process unquestioned and unchecked, benefiting and profiting from it as we have over the millennia. We have ignored the very teachings of Jesus which envisions and hopes for a world where resources and money are not accumulated but distributed. Where the flow of health and wealth isn’t directed at the followers of Jesus and the church that purports to follow in his name, but rather passes through us and out to a world desperately in need of healing and hope.
The costs of following Jesus include all we possess, and all we hold dear. But like a mother concerned for her children, Jesus seems to believe that the old ways, the ways of neighbor love and welcoming the stranger, the ways of treating everything as gift instead of possession, the ways of grace and peace, are ways worth passing along, worth giving our lives over to. Choose these ways, he is saying. Choose life.
When I was 12 I lit a beach on fire. I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating. I was bored and without playmates and I found myself for one reason or another at the small lagoon near our home, meandering along the beach when the dry grass at the shores edge caught my eye. I had some matches in my pocket and without wondering whether or not I should, or why, I was soon engaged in the ever so risky practice of lighting small fires among the grass, watching with curiosity as it spread slowly outward from a single match.
There came a point, some time back in the pandemic, staring out at an empty room, at yet another live streamed service, when I was certain I could not remember what it was like to have the nave full of beaming faces, and I could not imagine when it would be like that again. Yet, here you are – neither a memory nor imagined, but alive, here, in the flesh! Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Yesterday, some of us were a part of a Lenten Retreat given by Saint Johns for our Older Wiser Laity, our OWLs, wherein several members made presentations in art, and song, and poetry on the Seven Last Words of Christ. One of those presentations we were privileged to hear, by our own Dr. Paula Cooey, drew from her decades of experience teaching an ethics course at Macalester College, called “Love and Death.”
I was reminded recently of an Ash Wednesday, during my time in seminary working at Trinity Wall Street. Between services, volunteers of the church, lay and ordained, would stand for hours in the nave, administering ashes to any as wanted to receive.
I’ve been thinking about my garden a lot lately, sitting out on the edge of my front yard and on the boulevard near the curb, the ground still and frozen, resting under a blanket of snow. Lent, as Barbara reminded us last Sunday, shares its meaning with the natural season of Spring, drawing as it does from the same root for “length” – as the daylight lengthens and the earth slowly tilts on its axis in the northern hemisphere toward the warmth of a distant sun.
Love your enemies…Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Perhaps no other command in scripture is more important than these for upending the damaging ways of the world and initiating the realm of God we so desperately need and even occasionally desire. I would hazard that these commands, given today by Jesus in the context of his great Sermon on the Plain, are even more important than the Great Commandments: to love God and love neighbor as yourself.
Our hands were numb from the coal black waters and the repeated stings of the small clear jellyfish shredded in the net’s thin monofilament lines. We were well into the cold fall day, pulling nets at the mouth of the Klawock river, seining the late run of sockeye salmon that the local natives depended upon as a source of tradition and food.