by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Readings for Sunday, June 29, 2014:
First Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9
First Reading (Semi-cont.): Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm: Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 13
Second Reading: Romans 6:12-23
Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42
This week's Gospel reading has the flavor of the theme that Jesus develops more thoroughly in the 25th chapter of Matthew--that reading where Jesus reminds us that as we treat the least of our fellow humans, that is how we treat Jesus. This tiny Gospel reading reminds us of some of the themes Jesus returns to again and again: stay alert and watchful. Treat everyone as if they're God in disguise. Keep our Christian priorities always in the front of our vision, so that we know what's important.
If I wrote a modern paraphrase, I might say something like this: Why do you swoon over supermodels and superathletes? What good do they bring into the troubled world? Why are you not searching out the words of the wise ones among you? Why do you neglect your duties to the next generation?
When I was younger and not surrounded by multiple types of media, it seemed easier to ignore the siren calls of the larger world. I remember a world before cable TV: we had four channels, and when we lived in Montgomery, Alabama, we could sometimes see a snowy version of one of Ted Turner's superchannels out of Atlanta. Little did we know that we were seeing what would become one of the cornerstones of the cable world. Even in the early days of cable, one's viewing options only expanded to 10-40 channels, and then, as now, half of those were just dreadful creations formed to take advantage of cheap airwaves.
At graduation a few years ago, I listened in shock as our graduation speaker told the graduates that there was no Internet 15 years ago. Of course there was. But there wasn't a widespread World Wide Web, so the medium was text based and not as user friendly. Unless we were at a university dedicated to the technology, it was slow and clunky. Therefore, we weren't as prone to let it suck away our lives.
Now we're surrounded by electronic information, media, and gadgets. Of course, in some ways, it's invaluable. It's much easier to research any subject from the comfort of my computer--unlike the old days, when I'd have to go to a library. It's easier to keep in touch and communicate, at least for those of us plugged in. I've often wondered if Christian communities online can be as valuable--even more valuable--in terms of keeping each other centered, grounded and on track. Are we headed towards virtual communion? Is that possible? What would it look like?
But of course, I wouldn't be the first to point out all the ways the technology can lead us astray. We spend our days dealing with e-mail instead of doing real work. In our quest to be connected, we often let our connections in the real, human world slide.
The Gospel for today reminds us that there are rewards for righteous living. Traditionally, Christian communities (at least in the last 300 years) have translated those rewards as coming in the afterlife. But we shouldn't overlook that righteous, connected living has rewards for us in our lives right here and now. We will be able to recognize the prophets and disciples that Jesus promises to send. We will be able to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit. We will not neglect our duties to the young and disadvantaged. We will drink from the streams of living water and be able to know what nourishes us and what saps our strength.