Thursday, February 10, 2011

More For the Children

(In which we adult camels approach the eye of the needle)

Back in October, 2009, I posted a piece called Hackberry Tree Parable about today’s Daily Office reading from Mark (Mark 10:17-31), which was the Gospel lesson for the coming Sunday lectionary. This was a story about some sort of big bird of prey crashing down through the branches of our hackberry tree holding onto a struggling squirrel. Finally, by letting go of the squirrel, the bird was able to right itself and soar away. Seeing that little drama while thinking about the rich man who went away grieving when Jesus told him the way to inherit eternal life was for him to sell everything he had, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus, I wrote this:

Birds of prey most often succeed in hunting the weakest animals, the most vulnerable. The squirrel this one chose wasn’t as weak as it appeared evidently, and gave the bird a great deal of trouble. What’s interesting in light of the Gospel story is that it wasn’t just in letting go of something that the bird was able to fly freely again, but in letting go of the smaller, weaker creature on which it was preying. This little drama as it relates to the Gospel lesson wasn’t only about the raptor and its need to let go of a difficult weight, but about the squirrel and its desire to survive. The Gospel story isn’t only about us and our need to be detached from things that get in the way of discipleship; it’s also about those who have less power, wealth, and strength but about whom Christ cares very much. We aren’t truly free of the things that weigh us down until we join Christ in caring for and about the poor and vulnerable. It isn’t enough to go off and take a vow of poverty and simplify our lives; true discipleship involves noticing and caring for people who have to worry more about not having enough than about having too much.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading, the passage immediately before this in Mark, was about Jesus blessing the children. No matter where they live, young children are among the vulnerable because of their lack of power. Given the facts about global warming and climate change, we know we need to let go of some of our habits and comforts to make any sort of decent life for the children being born today.

I’ve often wondered about the man in today’s Gospel lesson. What happened after he recovered from the shock of what Jesus had said to him; what did he do after he went away grieving? Did he continue to live as he had, knowing at least somewhere in the back of his mind that he wasn’t living the way God called him to live, or did he indeed sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and go follow Jesus?

And, not so much out of curiosity as out of existential angst, I wonder about us. What do we do after the shock of realizing what science tells us about the future of our planet if we don’t dramatically and immediately cut back on our emissions of greenhouse gases? What do we do after grieving for the world we have known and asking God to forgive us for what we have done to God’s creation? Does our generation continue living as we have, vaguely knowing we aren’t doing what God would have us do, but unwilling or unable to let go of our privilege and comfort so that today’s children and their children might live? Or do we change our habits and public policies, gladly letting go of some of those privileges and comforts so that we can follow the example of Jesus and recognize that the decisions we make now are having an impact on children, those vulnerable ones who don’t get to make the decisions that are determining their future?

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