Sirach 38: 27 – 32
Psalm 107: 1 – 9
Matthew 6: 19 – 24
I have never been much of an artist. I can’t draw very well, and in fact I describe myself as one who draws stick people badly. At least, that is the story I have told myself for most of my life, not only as an excuse, but also as a defense. If I had to draw something, I would use that as the explanation of why I didn’t put the time or effort into it.
But then something happened. I visited the sister of another member of the community one afternoon and saw on her walls framed cross-stitch samplers that she had done. In an instant I knew that I had to learn how to do that, so by the end of the afternoon she had equipped me with a needle point hoop, floss, needle, fabric and pattern and after a brief lesson, I went home. Little did I know, that that afternoon’s cross stitch lesson would be a life changing event for me. I am not being overly dramatic when I say that my life has never been the same since.
If you could have one treasure in this world that would be a source of unending joy and happiness, what would it be and what means would you expend in order to obtain it? Now if you received an e-mail from someone who said they could procure this treasure and it was yours at no expense as long as you travelled to pick it up, would you be suspicious? Or would you drop everything and go out of your way to pick it up trusting the word of the proprietor? Our gospel lesson this evening is a very small portion from what is commonly known as the ‘sermon on the mount.’ (1) Matthew says that Jesus’ fame was spreading throughout the region and that people were seeking him out as far away as ‘Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.’ People were suffering in body, mind, and spirit and Jesus’ words and actions were giving the hope and healing that were so desperately needed. Due to the growing demands of his ministry it was necessary for Jesus and his disciples to withdraw from the crowds for moments of respite where they could enjoy fellowship and process all that they had experienced.
Rogation Day II
This Thursday is Ascension Day: forty days after Easter, always on a Thursday. On Ascension Day the Church remembers the culmination of Christ’s resurrection appearances and ponders the mystery of his ascending into heaven. The mystery of Christ being all and in all, sustaining all things by his mighty word, filling all things with his own fullness, grace upon grace.
But today is a Rogation Day. The three days before Ascension started out as a kind of mini-Lent with fasting and praying and processions. Prayers were offered especially for good weather and bountiful crops. Over the centuries things have evolved a bit. In our 1979 Book of Common Prayer the three Rogation Days are devoted to prayers for fruitful seasons on Monday, for commerce and industry on Tuesday, and for the stewardship of creation on Wednesday. Today is Tuesday, so it’s commerce and industry day.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
I remember as a young lad being given a wonderful gift by my parents: a telescope on a tripod. I was maybe 12 years old, and for several years I had been fascinated by searching the sky at night to recognize stars and constellations. I knew where to look for the Big Dipper; I could spy out the North Star and Orion; I could whisk with my eyes through the night and find the Milky Way. The stars probably told stories about life, I thought, and I had a childlike sense, like with the Psalmist, that the heavens declared God’s glory and splendor.1 I loved what I saw at night, lying on my back on the grass of our front lawn, peering into the night sky with my hands cupped behind my head. And so the gift of a telescope was so exciting. It was also a huge disappointment.
Over the past few days I have been re-reading Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change.1 McLaren tells us that, for the past several decades, he has been wrestling with two important questions:
The first question is, “What are the biggest problems in the world?” by which he means, [What are the] “problems that cause the most suffering in the present, that pose the greatest threat to our future, …[and] that lie at the root of what’s wrong with the world.” (p.11) He speaks, among other things, of the challenges of global poverty, environmental destruction, and the increasing level of, and potential for, violence in today’s world.
The second question he asks is, “What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?” As a “follower of God in the way of Jesus,” McLaren insists that Jesus’ words and actions have much to teach us about how we should live in a world facing such enormous problems as these.