Meditation on This Week's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The lectionary readings for Sunday, March 11, 2012:
The commandment of the LORD gives light to the eyes. (Ps. 19:8)
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Pastor will be preaching on:
Pastor’s Gospel and the lectionary Gospel intersect in interesting ways. This week's lectionary Gospel lesson has the familiar story of Jesus throwing the moneychangers out of the temple. Mark 14: 1-11 shows the woman anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive oil. The man who has just thrown moneychangers out of the temple, in part for exploiting the poor, rebukes his disciples when they argue that the better use of the ointment would have been to sell it and use the money to help the poor.
What would Jesus have us to do with our money?
For many of us, that is one of the essential questions of the Gospel. In fact, much of the Bible gives us economics lessons. We like to think that the Bible is a book with a moral code to impart, and that’s true—although the moral code in one part of the Bible is contradicted by the moral code in a different part. It’s by no means as cut and dried as some national figures would have us believe.
Likewise, Jesus gives us many lessons about our money, and some of them are contradictory. Am I to sell everything I own to follow Jesus? Am I to give my money to the poor and the widows? Should I give 10% to the Church? More than that?
What’s a believer to do?
As we listen to these Gospels, we might ask ourselves what Jesus wants from us. Are we to sell our buildings, our properties, to divest in order that we might have more money to give to charity? We'd transform ourselves back to the first century church--small bands of people who met in living rooms and shared meals together (not a metaphorical Eucharistic meal, but a real one, with a whole loaf of bread and bottle of wine and other foods). Some groups of Christians are experimenting with this calling--many of them see themselves as the Emergent Church, and their movement may indeed be the next reformation. Soon on my reading list is Diana Butler Bass’ latest book, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening; will she be talking about church buildings or the institution or any group of people who calls themselves a church?
Do these Gospels tell us to get rid of our stewardship drives and our money raising adventures? Do they tell us that we shouldn't buy or sell things on church property? What does this mean? No more rummage sales? My grandmother would have said that’s what it means. No support of our local Scout groups, our local schools? Would Christ have said that?
Christ calls us to consciousness. Being part of a religion that has become a societal institution has inherent danger: temple tax, indulgences, stewardship campaigns--these are tools that religion has used to hurt people, and in worse case scenarios to exclude the poor and extort money from everyone else (money used not to help advance the cause of the Kingdom, but to support a lifestyle of a privileged few).
Christ calls us again and again to consider who we serve. Is money a tool or is it our master? Are we storing up treasures for ourselves on earth or in heaven? How can we use money to glorify God? How can we use money to help creation become all that God envisions for it? These are questions not just for the institutional church, but also important ones for us to consider as individuals.