Let us pray
We come to you today in need of rest.
There is much in us that is restless.
There is much around us that brings anxiety and uneasiness.
Help us to receive your rest today.
Give us awareness of your presence.
Allow the truth of your love to fill our minds and hearts.
When I first read today’s epistle, I was both excited and petrified. Petrified because of the raw despair that is in it.
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
How appropriate it seems that this lament is paired with the reading from Matthew which in ends asking us to share the vison of infants and includes a simple call, “Come to me”.
Many of you have heard the anguish in Paul’s voice before. You may have heard those words in your own voice.
My upbringing was such that I cringed every time I heard this passage. Keeping track of all the times I acted contrary to God’s call was for me a full-time job. still can be. To so clearly admit our inability to “get it right” is hard medicine to swallow. Try as we might, we fall short of living the life that Christ has called us to. It is a flat-out, honest acknowledgement by Paul of his short comings. And we have them too
We have failed to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
And yet, even as I reflect on this on a personal level, I wonder if there might be something else. Was Paul also addressing social failures? Was Paul addressing the collective sins of society? Was he commenting on our failure to look after each other, on the neglect of those in need?
Was he throwing light on the attitudes that were passed on, sometime unknowingly to our children? Do these unconscious biases become part of our automatic and unthinking response? Even if we do the things we hate? Society is often described as being greater than the sum of its parts. Is Paul asking us to address these ingrained “assumptions” too and how they impact our lives and the lives of others?
The news seems to give credence to this idea.
COVID, an organism 1/6 the size of a grain of sand, has changed the world. The spread of COVID continues unabated and expanding. What the future will look like remains a mystery. Yesterday, it was reported there have been almost 3 million US cases with over 135,000 deaths. And these numbers pale compared to the world impact in places like Spain, Brazil, and India.
Our ability to understand and embrace our interdependency on each other seems to have been lost. We have not acted as our brother’s keeper. We have not followed Christ.
And even more pressing: is the light that George Floyd’s death has cast upon the unspoken failures of our society to live up to it founding creed – that all men are created equal. This standard boldly celebrated yesterday does not ring true for all. There are other injustices too which need to be addressed. To be sure, it is a gift to be an American, to live in America. Democracy has been, is and always will be is a work in progress. We all play a part. But we need to ask, why are these issues a surprise? Why have we not seen this? I think Paul’s lament is asking ‘Why have we failed to see the light of Christ in each other”
As Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
But even as we listen to Paul’s challenging and troubling words, I find the reading from Mathew to be a perfect bookend.
… Jesus says in part, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants. … Come to me
Who do you think were “the wise and intelligent”? And why were things hidden from them but shared with infants. He says, in effect – you old guys just don’t get it. In this passage, Jesus tells us how to see, how to act and how to respond so that we will follow his example and bring heaven to earth.
Jesus asks us to see the world as a child.
So, what do little one have that adults have often lost?
First - Children have open minds.
The celebrated educator Maria Montessori declared that every young child has an “absorbent mind.” I took my 2-year-old granddaughter to Martin Nature Park a few weeks ago. What would have been a 20-minute walk for me became a 2 ½ hour trip of wonder. Looking, touching and looking. They don’t “know” the answer’s and are comfortable without them
Second, Children are honest and direct, they cut to the heart of the matter. They get to the deep issue and announce it with simplicity and candor. There aren’t any bushes to hide behind.
And third, children live by trust.
Most endearing is a child’s sense of trust. I see it when my granddaughter jumps out of her chair. She trusts that I will catch her. You can see this in her clear eyes.
We cannot hope to understand God’s call to us without the clear eyes of a child.
The hope for us today is in the last part of reading from Matthew. It is laid out for the Paul’s of the world , for us.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
I often find myself ill at ease, anxious and worried.
When I discover that am not listening, I am not coming to Jesus.
If I am not experiencing the rest Jesus promised, it is not because He is no longer present, but because I am no longer coming to receive it.
I have lost the eyes of a child.
We need to see with the clear eyes of a child, we need
to be open,
to be direct
to Trust in God
~Deacon Intern Todd Olberding
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.