I will be preaching Sunday evening and I was looking over the lectionary for the day. It is Proper 20 Year C following the Revised Common Lectionary. While I will likely preach on the Epistle (not because I am avoiding the very difficult Gospel passage of Luke 16:1-13, what is up with that?!) the Collect for the day and the Old Testament reading caught my eye today.
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I think we usually consider “earthly things” to be “stuff:” money, gadgets, prestige, and the like. The Gospel speaks of these worldly powers and riches while the Epistle (1 Timothy 2:1-7) speaks of the importance of praying for everyone “in high positions,” the epitome of earthly power. “Earthly” too is what we are, “all come from dust and to dust all return.” I will mourn the passing of our son the rest of my life, but I am so keenly aware that he is not alone. We learned yesterday that another friend’s teenage son died, apparently taking his own life. Human violence continually takes the lives of innocents while natural forces like cancer and weather fell all who are in their way. This is “earthly,” our lives here, our bodies and breath, should we not be anxious about them?
Yesterday I also attended a celebration of the life of a wonderful women, a veritable pillar in stature and character. I was reminded again by the readings and the pastor that while what we do here on earth has deep, powerful meaning and importance it is not the end nor should it be the only focus of our of lives. Lives that are not only corporeal and earthly, but spiritual and eternal.
Earth is not outside heaven; it is heaven’s workshop, heaven’s womb.
– Peter Kreeft1
I am not sure how to find that balance, how to love and cherish and fight for the life and joy of this world while still knowing and being content with the knowledge that there is the resurrection and the world to come. It is a choice we have to make. If we are to endure we must “hold fast to the things that endure.”
My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:
“Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?”)
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?
O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!