19 Aug 2019
The sons of Israel did what displeases the Lord, and served the Baals. They deserted the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from the gods of the peoples round them. They bowed down to these; they provoked the Lord; they deserted the Lord to serve Baal and Astarte. Then the Lord’s anger flamed out against Israel. He handed them over to pillagers who plundered them; he delivered them to the enemies surrounding them, and they were not able to resist them. In every warlike venture, the hand of the Lord was there to foil them, as the Lord had warned, as the Lord had sworn to them. Thus he reduced them to dire distress.
Then the Lord appointed judges for them, and rescued the men of Israel from the hands of their plunderers. But they would not listen to their judges. They prostituted themselves to other gods, and bowed down before these. Very quickly they left the path their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of the Lord; they did not follow their example. When the Lord appointed judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and rescued them from the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived, for the Lord felt pity for them as they groaned under the iron grip of their oppressors. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them, and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all.
There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
And you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.
Today’s readings are on the common theme of trust. They remind us that the trust is in the WHO, not the what. We see how the Israelites turn from God, again, and we are dumbfounded at their choice. God used Moses to free them, and with their own eyes they saw His miracles for them, the plagues, the Passover, the parting of the Sea. And then they did the unthinkable — they put their trust in something else. And we do the same.
In today’s gospel, we meet the young, rich man who is ‘good’ and follows all the commandments — he wants to follow Christ. Jesus invites him, but first he must sell all his possessions. The young man walks away, grieving. He chose not to trust God, instead he put his trust in the treasures of this world.
We trust God…mostly. We trust God…most of the time. We trust God…when we don’t have a choice. We trust God with this issue, but not so much with THIS issue. After all, it is the 21st century. We trust God with direction for this relationship, but not with this one. After all, everyone is doing it. We trust God with our future, but not with the size of our family. After all, I don’t make enough money to put X number of kids through college. And the trusting and the ‘after alls’ go on and on and on.
Our treasure is in the WHO we put our full trust in. And in the winds and tides of life on this earth. What solace, peace, contentment, tranquility, joy and eternal hope we have when we are in full knowing of the assuredness that our trust is secure; our trust will not be in vain; our trust will withstand even the gates of hell, because our trust is in THE God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen. That is a treasure. Correction, that isn’t a treasure that is, THE treasure. Trusting without fear, no matter the darkness of the skies, the depth and volatility of the oceans and the enemy who is prowling the earth is the treasure. And we would do well to remind ourselves of that every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
On Facebook last week, while I was reading the following, I assumed I knew how this little anecdote would go, ‘I have money because I value money…’ and I almost didn’t finish reading it. You see, I thought this little story was about the treasure of financial wealth. I am so glad I read it till the end.
Arlene and her husband were invited to dinner with her husband’s very wealthy boss. She was thrilled with the exclusive restaurant choice, one she and her husband would never frequent. As they were approaching the restaurant, the boss suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long silent moment, reached down and picked up a penny. He smiled and put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. HOW ABSURD! What need did this man have a single penny? A dirty penny? Why would a man of his wealth and stature even take the time to stop and pick it up?
Throughout dinner the scene nagged at her. Finally she could stand it no longer and casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.
A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached in his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before…what was the point of this?
‘Look at it.” He said, ‘Read what it says.’
She read the words – ‘United States of America’.
‘No, not that; read further.’
‘No, keep reading.’
‘In God We Trust…?’ ‘YES!’
‘And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin, I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it? God drops a message right in front of me telling me, trust Him! Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I DO trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God’s way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!’
When I was out yesterday I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, ‘in God We Trust’, and I had to laugh to myself. Yes God, I get the message.
It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful? And, God is patient…
(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)
Prayer: Father God how we praise your name, the name that we trust, the only name that we can trust in any and all circumstances. We lift our voices and sing praises to Your name and we trust in You, our treasure, for all things.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for the ‘pennies’ that you put in our path daily. Thank you for revealing to us that You are he only treasure we will ever need. We pray that we will always look to You as we journey on this earth, and we thank you for your patience for us every day.