Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blessings, Woes, and Footprints

The All Saints Day Gospel reading this year is Luke 6:20-31, the Sermon on the Plain. In contrast to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount that names groups of people who are “blessed” (makarios -- happy or fortunate), Luke’s parallel passage names both categories of people who are blessed and categories of people who are not so blessed, the ones who hear Jesus saying “Woe to you”. The striking thing about Luke's passage, of course, is that the people we would normally consider to be afflicted with some sort of hardship end up being the ones Jesus labels as blessed, and the ones we would normally consider to have advantages in life are the ones Jesus labels as afflicted. Things are not always what they seem to be on the surface!

Yesterday’s Daily Office reading from Luke (Luke 12:13-21) was the parable about the rich man who planned to build bigger barns to hold all his stuff, but who neglected the important things so that he was “not rich toward God”. Jesus told this parable as a warning against greed. The man in the parable thought he had it all, but discovered instead that he had completely missed the most important things in life. Perhaps he was the sort of person Jesus had in mind when he said, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation”

Becoming more intentional about creation care can help us shift our focus away from the accumulation of more and more stuff and towards the sort of life that brings us true blessings.

When we learn about environmental degradation and its effect on the most vulnerable people (and other living things) on the planet, we bring ourselves to a place where we can open our hearts to selflessness instead of selfishness, to giving instead of greed. Learning to make the connection between our own accumulation of things and the effect of those things -- including their transportation and packaging, and their eventual disposal -- on the environment helps us to put the acquisition of more things in perspective.

Calculating an individual ecological footprint can help make us aware of the resources we use and where we might make changes to reduce our footprint. One of many footprint calculators can be found here from The Footprint Network.

Creation care keeps us in touch with the beauty and wonder that are ours for the noticing. Rediscovering the natural world can help us open our hearts as we respond in gratitude to God’s gift of creation. We find that the beauty of the sky, the plants, the waters, the animals, and the rocks and earth itself is more beautiful than anything money can buy. Experiencing the beauty and wonder of creation helps us strengthen our relationship with God, the Creator.

When the pursuit of riches, the accumulation of more stuff, is no longer a priority for us, we are blessed. When we rejoice in the beauty and wonder of creation, we discover that we are already makarios, already happy and fortunate, and that the happiness we’ve found is deeper and more lasting than our excitement over the acquisition of another shiny thing. Today’s Daily Office lesson (Luke 12: 32-48) teaches us to “make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no moth destroys and no thief comes near”. In what on the surface looks like a sort of spiritual paradox, when we are good stewards of what we have on earth, we end up letting go of our attachment to the things that don’t last. 

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