Saturday, August 04, 2007

Proper 13C: Random Reflections

I’m preparing for tomorrow’s sermon. For the past two weeks, something has come to me early on Saturday, something I posted here and here; and in both cases these reflections ended up, basically, as my sermons. Tonight I’m on my more common schedule: my sermon will come together in my head, by God’s grace, in the shower.

However, tonight I do have some random reflections.

The Gospel is the story of the successful farmer, who plans to tend to the results of a bountiful harvest by replacing his old barns with new ones, and then to rest easy for the rest of his life. When his “soul is required,” Christ speaks of being “rich toward God,” rather than rich in possessions.

What this brought to mind was the story of Laurence, Deacon of Rome, whose feast day will fall this Friday. When Pope Sixtus II was taken and executed in persecution under Valerian, Laurence as the bishop’s treasurer was spared on the condition that he turn the treasure of the Church over to the Prefect. When he said it would take three days, he was granted the time. As reported, he spent the three days disbursing the finances of the Church, putting it safely out of the Prefect’s reach. He then gathered the poor, the widows, and orphans in the Church, and presented them to the Prefect. “These,” he said, “are the treasure of the Church.” (This, reportedly, resulted in a particularly painful execution.) Perhaps this says something about what it means to be “rich toward God.” Perhaps, too, this bears some reflection in light of the statement in Colossians that “your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” Surely, Laurence saw Christ hidden in those served by the Church.

For whom are we working? The Preacher in Ecclesiastes seems to suggest there is little or not point, and certainly no joy, in all our work. Now, I’ve had days like that; but the Preacher surely needs some Prozac!

But, Jesus raises the same question about the wealthy farmer. For whom is he working? He speaks of his bounty as something that will free him from want. He does not speak of family and children, and how they will benefit. He does not speak his community and the good he might do. For whom is he working? Clearly, he is working for himself; but he does not have the future he dreams of to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

For whom do we work? To some extent, we do work for ourselves. Many of us are aware of working for others – for our families and children, for the good of the community, to make our contributions to a project or a team that is important to us. What would it mean instead for us to work for Christ, or at least to be “rich toward Christ?” I can’t help but think it must have something to do with working to build up the treasure of the Church – the treasure that Laurence saw. I can’t help but think it means looking for Christ hidden in them, as their lives, like ours, are hidden in Him. I can’t help but think it means looking for Christ in all regardless, recognizing that “there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” To be rich toward Christ must, I think, with building up and caring for the Church’s real treasures, whoever, and wherever they may be. Which certainly focuses the question: for whom do we work?

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