Monday, September 13, 2010

What we leave behind . . .

It's Monday morning, and after an busy but good weekend it is back to the comfort of the daily lectionary and some thoughts about today's readings.  As always, the lectionary readings can be found here: http://gamc.pcusa.org/devotion/daily/2010/9/13/
I actually had to read over today's passages a couple of times before I knew what I wanted to talk about and comment on.  There is a lot of interesting stuff in there today, and for a while I thought I was going to talk about the model Paul and Barnabas give us for handling disagreement, but then I realized that as Christians today we don't need any help in that area . . . oh, wait.  But anyway, I think that is a discussion for a different day.  (but just a side note, since you brought it up, notice neither Paul or Barnabas had anything negative to say about the other and each went on doing the work of God in the world . . . food for thought)
Okay, what I wanted to talk about a little bit is the last Psalm reading for today.  It is Psalm 112, and the part I found particularly interesting deals with what the Psalmist says are the results of being faithful to God:
1Praise the LORD!
Happy are those who fear the LORD,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
2Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
So, having read that, my first thought is either:
A.) The Psalmist must not know what he is talking about - being faithful to God's call on one's life is simply no guarantee for anything except that it will at least sometimes (if not often) put you at odds with your culture, society or even family/friends.  So, I certainly don't think one's faithfulness to God can be seen as a asset to pass on to one's family or offspring giving them some sort of wealth or protection.
B.) There must be something more to these words than the simple, obvious understanding. 
You may be surprised by this, but I am going to go with B here.  And the main reason for that, other than not wanting to -you know, go against the Bible - is that this isn't some isolated claim.  Throughout the Psalms and in fact the entirety of Scripture there are promises of good things for those who trust in/ fear/ follow/ obey the Lord.  These promises often come, like this one from Psalm 112, with attachments for the the descendants of the faithful ones. 
But if the promises are not about wealth, power and influence in the most literal or obvious sense, then what are we talking about?
I think there are two points to be made about the language here at what it 'really' means.  First, there is a bit of the language here that is not metaphorical or anything but simply true - and that is that those that are 'upright' - faithful in following God and God's call/commandments - are and will be blessed.  And this leads to the key here.  The blessings (a wealth of them or rich blessings) are most definitely the result and the promised outcome of faithfulness to God.  
Sometimes there maybe obvious earthly possessions and material gifts that come as part of the blessing of God - but all those that follow God, all those that respond to God's call on their lives and all those that fear the Lord are richly blessed and wealthy in the blessing of God.  And by definition a blessing from God is an eternal blessing.  material wealth is meaningless except for the few years out of eternity that we are present on this earth, but God's rich blessings are never-ending, eternal and overflowing.  
And this leads me to the second point.  A point that is particularly pertinent to me right now, as today is Charlie's first day of kindergarten and thoughts of how we have prepared him, guided him and equipped him have been on my mind constantly for the last week.  
In this culture we focus constantly on material wealth, amassing possessions and being able to 'provide for' those we love and care about.  Simply put there is nothing better, more important or longer lasting that we can 'leave for' our families than faithfulness to God.
As countless stories from the Bible, our own lives and the lives of others tell us earthly possessions and material wealth is fleeting (hello recession), but a life lived in faithfulness to God, in service of others in God's name and in relationship with Jesus Christ is a witness to our children, families and friends that is eternal and priceless.  
Money can and does eventually run out (no matter how much we start with), possessions fade and wear out and need replaced.  But a live lived in dependence of God, in faithfulness to God and in service to God never fades, never fails and never disappoints.  

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