Friday, November 11, 2016

Of Great Value

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. - Psalm 119:14

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. - Matthew 13:45-46

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 123; 1 Kings 7:1-33; John 13:31-38

I was in a clergy group recently where we were talking about Matthew's gospel, and specifically Matthew chapter 13, which contains a number of parables about "the kingdom of heaven," which we might also state as "the reign of God," God's way of life in the world. With parable after parable, Jesus is trying to get people to see the different aspects of God's reign, so that they see the value of life with God and live wholeheartedly in it. It's in living this way of life, and letting go of other allegiances and attachments, that our lives bear fruit for God.

Today's verses both make this point. To live God's way is more life-giving and satisfying than all riches. Whatever we could do with the money and stuff we've accumulated in life is nothing compared to what we can do as part of the reign of God.

There's an interesting connection with the John 13 reading, where Jesus teaches a different lesson about life with God. In his conversation with his disciples just before his arrest, he gives them a new commandment: "Love one another, as I have loved you." This, he says, will be the mark by which the world will know they are his disciples. Jesus gave up his life for them. They are called to give up their lives for others. We who are disciples of Jesus through their witness are called to give up our lives for still others who need to know him. In this chain reaction of love, we are part of the greatest good news the world has ever known. This is worth giving up everything else.

I'm still not done processing and healing from this week's election results - and the news about some of the extreme actions both pro- and anti-Trump are making it difficult for any of us to heal. The scripture I resonate most with, at a personal level, today is in Psalm 123. "We have had more than enough of contempt, of the scorn of those who are at ease." But what do we do? Not lash out in hatred. Instead, lift up our eyes to God, like servants watching the hand of the one we serve. The Lord says love. And so, we love.

I'm working to figure out what it means to love, as our federal government reorients itself around the changes of this week. In some ways, nothing has changed. I can go on loving my neighbors in the same way I always have. But after campaign threats made to people of great value, love also takes on a new dimension of watchfulness and witness and work for justice. Love doesn't mean soft-hearted or soft-headed unquestioning acceptance. It means working for the best interest of the other. Sometimes that means noticing, challenging, setting expectations. For Christians, it means knowing that our best relationships will always develop when we're mutually working toward living consistently with the reign of God. Love means encouraging that all around. Even at the cost of our lives.

I will keep working on figuring out what this means in the long run. I will pray, for our president-elect, for all outgoing and incoming leaders, for all who are affected by the policy changes to come. I will strive to love, to treat every person as a person of great value. And I will try to set aside my own self-centered views and interests for the sake of others. I will try to witness to the one who teaches us the way to love, the greatest value of all.

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