Dearest Dad, I am coming home to get married soon, so get your checkbook out. As you know, I am in Australia...and he lives in Scotland. We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook and had long chats on Whatsapp. He proposed to me on Skype. My beloved Dad, I need your blessing, good wishes, and a big wedding. Lots of love and thanks. Your favorite daughter, Lilly.
And here's dad's response. My Dear Lilly, Wow! Really? I suggest you get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, buy your kids on Amazon, and pay for it all through PayPal. And when you get fed up with this husband, sell him on eBay. Love, Dad. As I said, I simply can't keep up with these technology applications.
Many of you have read or seen T.S. Eliot’s play “Murder in the Cathedral.” The play dramatizes the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, the 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket challenged King Henry II’s unfair policies. The King shouts, “Will not someone rid me of this troublesome priest.” Four knights descend upon the cathedral to kill Becket. Three priests pull Becket back into the cathedral to save him. They bar the cathedral door but Becket shouts out: Unbar the door. Throw open the door.
Like Becket, Jesus demands that we open the doors of our hearts to God and to our fellow human beings. Yes, open our hearts to God in prayer and open our hearts to one another. How? By being generous, by forgiving those who have wronged us, by caring for family, neighbors and colleagues. Isn't that why we gather here today: to open our hearts.
The word of God takes us back in our imaginations to the 6th century before Jesus. Ancient Babylonia conquered Israel, leveled Jerusalem to the ground and deported many. And yet in the midst of this catastrophe Zechariah speaks about the future, about a messianic king who will usher in a new era of peace, justice and prosperity.
Zechariah challenges us to always hope in God.
A modern French philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, argues that hope is a fundamental characteristic of human life. Think about it. Right now you may be hoping I stop talking so that you can get on with your chores.
Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Rome speaks about the Spirit of God dwelling within us. We are living temples of God. The Spirit within us empowers us to live a life of honesty, responsibility, integrity, courage, compassion and faith in God.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus begins with a prayer of praise. Yes, Jesus is uniquely one with his heavenly Father. And then Jesus invites us to enter into this life: “Come to me, all you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you.” Yes, when we begin to think that our lives are empty or burdensome, Jesus is there to fill our emptiness, to lighten our burdens: whether they are broken relationships or illness or the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, or whatever.
Today, I would like to reflect on Jesus as “our true wisdom who guides us, brings us good news and provides for us” in light of his invitation “Come to me, all you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you.”
“Lawrence of Arabia” was one of the most successful films of all time. Much of the film is drawn from T.E. Lawrence’s account. He was a British archaeological scholar, military strategist (colonel by age thirty), known for his activities in the middle east in World War I. Lawrence’s memoir, written in 1926, is titled “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” I would guess Lawrence had in mind the Book of Proverbs (9:1) in the wisdom literature of ancient Israel, “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up her seven columns.” In scripture, the number seven is often used to represent completion or perfection.
Jesus is our true wisdom, the image of the God we cannot see, our guide, our good news and our provider.
First, Jesus as our wisdom gives all the guidance we need. Why? Because we have the Spirit dwelling within us. We are “led by the Spirit of God.” (Rom 8:14). And God has bestowed the gifts of the Spirit upon us: wisdom (to recognize what truly matters in life), intelligence (to discern what's true), courage (to stand up for what's right), empathy or compassion (for the needy), good judgment (to do the right thing), and wonder and awe (to worship the great God of this universe). Yes, Jesus will provide all the guidance we need.
Second, in a world that desperately needs good news, Jesus has provided us with that. The word “gospel” means “good news.” The good news is about Jesus, his death and resurrection. (Acts 17, v.18). All we need is in Jesus.
Words can be powerful and life-changing. The good news of Jesus is dynamically relevant to all generations, cultures and situations. People’s needs are always the same. The message of the gospel is always the same. Study the good news. Set aside regular time to meditate on the scriptures, the privileged expression of our faith.
Lastly, Jesus taught us to pray. “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11) Look to Jesus. He will provide us with all we need.
One of my favorite biblical narratives is the story of Elijah. The New Testament tells us that Elijah was a human being “like us.” And yet, “he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth produced its fruits.” (James 5:17-18)
Elijah trusted in God's providence, God's care for us. When the brook that provided water for Elijah dried up, God sent Elijah to a widow for food. The point is: when one door closes, God is about to open another door in our life. Elijah asks for food. The widow replies that she and her son were about to eat their last meal and die. But Elijah promises that if she is generous, God will provide for her needs. He says, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth. (1 Kgs 17:14).
The widow did exactly as Elijah asked. And it turned out exactly so. This woman of great faith was prepared to give all she had. And God supplied her needs. The point is: if we give generously, we will discover that we cannot out-give God. God will do amazing things for and through us. This doesn't mean life will be easy. The widow's son died; and yet amazingly Elijah was able to pick the boy up, and give him back to his mother saying, “See, your son is alive!” (I Kgs 17:24).
Yes, Jesus is indeed our wisdom who guides us, brings us good news and provides for us so that we can become our better selves: images of God.