Thursday, March 21st
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 21st: Psalm 63:1-8; Daniel 3:19-30; and Revelation 2:8-11. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
A lot about Lent is about choices. Lent has the audacity to ask us to place Jesus at the top of our to-do list. Jesus as a priority is a choice. It is hoped that Lenten choices are not only seasonal, but transformational. It is hoped that people actually change after living their Lenten choices.
We sometimes speak of these Lenten choices as sacrifices, but we need to keep this in context. Sacrifice may imply that we are giving up something better. So let’s talk a bit about context.
In today’s reading from the Book of Revelation we hear of the church of Smyrna. This was one of the principal cities of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor. It was a port city. There was a great deal of commerce taking place within its boundaries. Money was to be made. It is to the Christians in this prosperous community that Revelation writes: "'I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich.’” The biblical author is not distracted by the wealth of Smyrna. He sees through these trappings and sees instead affliction and poverty.
It is expected at this point to speak about the Christian obligation to care for the less fortunate especially when there are people of wealth who can make a difference. However, I think Revelation is pointing in another direction. The material wealthy are the ones who are afflicted and impoverished.
This is not meant to be a generalization, but I have been confronted and affronted by the lifestyle choices made public in the news and in the courts about some people of massive wealth and corporate power. If their behaviour is in any way indicative of the effects of massive wealth, then Jesus’ warning is true: “‘You cannot serve God and wealth.’” For all of the show and luxury of massive wealth, I think the words of Revelation still ring true: “I know your affliction and your poverty.”
This is the context of Lenten choices. We can choose the priorities of the world, but they seem counterfeit. Or we can “sacrifice” them and make Jesus our choice, our priority. Then we can read and meditate upon and celebrate today’s Psalm, which is characterized by the beautiful phrase: “My soul clings to you, [O God].” Lent may ask us to sacrifice, but in the long run Lent offers us greater gifts.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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