Hidden masterpieces are worthless
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Friday, March 20th: 1 Samuel 15:22-31; Psalm 23; and Ephesians 5:1-9. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
30 years and two days ago the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed. 13 pieces of art were stolen that have never been recovered. Three decades later this remains the largest-value art theft in history, worth a combined $500 million. The case remains unsolved.
This required a great deal of planning and expertise. Someone somewhere must really love art to go to this extent to obtain it. The pieces stolen, however, are so famous that they cannot be shown. Whoever arranged for this robbery, whoever it is that loves art this much, cannot share it with anyone else, and that person has deprived everyone else of the chance to enjoy them. Their empty frames on the wall are constant reminders of what has been lost.
A $10 million reward has been offered for information leading to the return of these masterpieces. This kind of money can turn even the most trusted friend into a possible liability. The stolen artwork cannot be enjoyed or shared. It must be hidden.
God has given us priceless gifts. Even the most ordinary of them are now seen as extraordinary in these un-ordinary times of pandemic. And there are also the gifts beyond the ordinary. Paul writes famously in 1 Corinthians 13 that there are faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.
Faith is received from God and given back to God. No matter the trials and uncertainties of this world, our faith is always in God. This should not fluctuate based on current events. Faith gives us continuity and stability no matter how scarce these are right now.
Hope is another virtue shared from above. Regardless of how dire it may be at any given time, we are never bereft of hope. Hope lets us see things differently and hope gives us the assurance of life after life. Not even a pandemic can defy hope.
And love is what connects us with each other and with God. Social distancing can’t separate the connections born of love. 1John says it so purely: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”
These are God’s masterpieces. They are meant to be shared. They diminish if like the masterpieces stolen 30 years and two days ago, they must sit locked away, hidden, unappreciated and unable to inspire.
In times of isolation and darkness, today’s New Testament reading is especially meaningful. We are called to be “imitators of God.” What does this mean? How about if we “Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” These gifts given from God are not meant to be hoarded. They must be lived. In all that “is good and right and true,” we live in imitation of God. The world needs these gifts to be shared as openly and widely as possible. Let us live as Christians – especially now.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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