You would think that after six months, we would have the technology figured out. I apologize for the video glitch in the beginning (thank you, Jean, for alerting me to the issue). A virtual offering plate is located in the menu above.
Matthew 12: 1-5
Jesus then addressed the crowds and his disciples in these words: “The scribes and the Pharisees occupy Moses’ seat; so be careful to do whatever they tell you. But do not follow their practices; for they say one thing and do another. They make up heavy loads for others and pile them on the shoulders of others, but will not themselves lift a finger to ease the burden. Whatever they do is done for show…”
We head into an election week with a passage that reminds us that power and corruption are a long standing problem. Each one of us is weaving a different story around this passage based on our own past experiences and beliefs. It’s easy, really easy to become divisive and look outside of ourselves for the problem. Remember that Jesus uses this as an example: don’t become like this yourself. There’s much, much more to this passage, but let’s just take it as it is.
“They make heavy loads for others and pile them on the shoulders of other, but will not ease their burden.”
How do we make our lives more difficult and heavy?
How do we make others’ lives more difficult and heavy?
We feel the tumult and turmoil of election week. Every single one of us. I think it’s the Dalai Lama who says the one thing we can do to connect is to first remember our commonality. When in company, he expresses that he is not the Dalai Lama, but a human being first. Just. Like. Every. Other. Person. On. Earth. Instant connection versus instant disconnect.
He has had his share of terrible struggles and challenges. But he doesn’t use them to step away from his fellow human man, he uses this to bring him together with his fellow man. Even his enemies. Hmm…these are sounding like themes we’ve heard before. He uses his struggles to express the commonality of being human. Often, being human means to go through painful experiences. We all go through pain. I think it’s one of the beautiful things about the Cross, it’s a reminder that we all go through painful and terrible experiences. The cross asks us how do we react to pain? Do we cultivate more suffering from it? Do we create more heavy loads out of already heavy loads? To ourselves? To others? It gives us clues as to how we could react, perhaps by using our pain to connect and to cultivate Goodness.
I must admit, my mind is in a bit of a whirl this weekend. I had intended to come in today and talk about chocolate. Yup. Chocolate. Post Halloween stomach aches anyone? Post Halloween sugar rushes, anyone? This weekend being a time of change from light to darkness. Summer to winter. All Hallow’s Eve to All Saints Day. From dark to light and scary to good. Accepting the darkness to come with the Saints to support us and guide us on the journey into the dark.
What’s this got to do with chocolate? It’s said that the tradition of candy on Halloween is that because halloween is the gateway to the darkest months and we need a bit of sweetness. Isn’t it chocolate that cures a Dementor’s kiss? That’s for the kids (and the kid in all of us).
All Souls Day. All Saints Day to attend fears and honor the ancestors. The teachers.
Maybe we need a little more sweetness this coming week.
Let’s face it, the historical Jesus was definitely in a political entanglement. We can’t deny that he was crucified for resisting those in power. Little did they know who they were messing with.
We’ve got a messy political tangle. It doesn’t matter what your stance is, we’re all in a mess. On all sides. I will argue that there aren’t two sides…that too would be easy. You’re this. I’m that. We can’t align. We can’t be friends. We can’t talk. We can’t be together. We might as well divide the country up into two halves. You go there and you go there and maybe we can go to war and plunder each other.
But…hmmm….how does that spread love and peace.
I got distracted from the scripture I was reading for today and somewhere else, I read a couple of things. First, I read all about the messiness and chaos that “are the birth pangs of the new age.” (Matthew 24:8). There is always messiness before change. Before we learn to come together to be “all people”.
I also got distracted by Milton. John Milton of Paradise Lost. I studied Milton in college so as I was skimming a book I’m looking forward to reading on Scripture in the modern day, I noted his name. Milton was very political. So political that he got kicked out of politics…that’s interesting in itself. He was exiled and devoted himself to writing poetry (thank goodness for us). He said that poetry took scripture and put it words that speak to the soul in each of us. He said that yes, we had to have faith, but we have an obligation to also do Good Work, he called it God’s Work (Paradise Lost was his God’s Work). We have an obligation to do the work in the world. To be an influence in the world. Whether you know it or not, Milton probably influences your beliefs about God, Sin, the Devil, Adam and Eve… He had a big impact. We have an obligation to have an impact. To do Good Work in the world.
What does that mean?
I’m pretty sure it means something different to each of us. My Good Work isn’t your Good Work. And your Good Work isn’t someone else’s Good Work. I think that’s the point. We do good work and collectively, it becomes great work. It’s probably the reason why, though sometimes we might think it, it’s not a good idea to separate ourselves from those who think differently than us. So, no, we don’t get to separate into our different countries. It won’t work anyway, we’ll just divide again. And again. And again. We have work to do.
Think about all the people we’ve talked about over the years. Jesus, the apostles, Augustine, Saint Francis, Saint Teresa of Avila…these big people with big stories and Big Good Work. Little Clare, Mary, Saint Theresa, Dorcas. Some of these people had big impactful missions in the world. Some had very small missions that grew with the help of others. We do good work and collectively, it becomes great work.
Maybe this is our place and time to practice Courage. Real courage. The courage that allows us to stand by our truth and walk with Grace to the Cross.
Courage to see with clarity, ourselves, others, and the world around us. Courage to point out when we see injustice, so that others may see, or begin to see it too. Courage to be honest with ourselves and the world around us. Courage to be patient and kind. The courage to trust. The courage to listen and try to understand one another. Commonality: we’re all human. Fallible. Pain filled. Embodied humans.
We are support structures for one another through the messiness and chaos. To love one another. Starting by a simple step: stop by and check in on one another.
To not be corrupted by the power and influence that makes us put on a show or make heavy loads for one another, ourselves included. To act in accordance with our words. These “small” deeds and words of kindness and kind truth takes courage. Jesus didn’t back away from the Good Work he had to do. He didn’t cave to fear. He followed through with grace. Speaking up when he saw injustice. Being courageously truthful. He started small and then it spread. We all know how hard it is to be heard. It’s a lot easier to take up the sword. Jesus used his words. But he persevered with truth and deep courage and collectively, it becomes great work.
As we break bread together at the table, there is a place for every one of us, with our unique and differing viewpoints. Each of us has a gift to offer. Each of us is a shoulder for one another. That is where love happens and ripples out.