Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Proper 3 (Year A)

Proper 3 (Year A)

Isaiah 49:8-16a; Psalm 131; I Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6: 24-34
(Revised Common Lectionary)

Isaiah offers two responses in a time of testing or even crisis: God has abandoned me/us or God will act again, as in the past, therefore stay busy with the daily, routine acts of comfort and justice.

The psalmist personally expresses the necessity to sometimes wait for the Lord. Sometimes faith is not bold nor dramatic, just routine.

Paul reminds these early Christians in Corinth of their identity: "servants of God" and "stewards of the mysteries of God." He then appeals to them to fulfill this status not judging how other Christians might interpret this same status or even judging themselves too closely. Judging can distract from action to fulfill your God-given status. Leave the judging to God. Then yours, and everybody else's results will be judged accordingly.

In this excerpt from Matthew's version, Jesus raises the question of priorities. What is the driving force in one's life? Does it overwhelm other necessities, including doing God's work in the world? And the corollary: What is the leading cause of anxiety in one's life? Does it overwhelm one's capacity to live one day at a time?

Coming at or near the beginning of Ordinary Time or the "teaching season" of the church's calendar, these readings provide a timely transition from the great, broad foundational claims of the faith to daily implications. After all the fundamental claims made about the birth, life, death, resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the question could emerge: Now what?

Michel de Certeau, (1925-1986) the Jesuit priest who engaged his secular postmodern contemporaries, asserts that "belief" is not a matter of one's consenting to dogma but a personal wager or an "investment." He writes: "...I define 'belief' not as the object of believing (a dogma, a program, etc.) but as the subject of one's investment in a proposition, the act of saying it and considering it as 'true'..." ( The Practice of Everyday Life, p. 178) He then moves to a related observation about contemporary life: "There are now too many things to believe and not enough credibility to go around. ( p. 179)

The actuality is that we choose what we believe and that choice influences all the other choices we make in life. Today there are many choices that seem urgent, plausible and worthwhile. So, choose carefully. And it's not a one-time decision nor are we consistent. The fundamental choice is actually re-enforced or undercut by all the smaller, daily choices we make. Over a lifetime, that choice becomes stonger or fades. Paul urges action. He prefers action over constant second-guessing of others and ourselves, especially when it might serve as an excuse for not living out our status as "stewards of the mysteries of God." Rather than spending precious time fretting over conceptual orthodoxy, just get busy with what we already know and all should agree are the basic, easy to understand and routine necessities of faith-- some specific acts of comfort and justice done by you in the next twenty-four hours of your life!