After taking a “mental health break” last week from writing lectionary reflections, I’m back in the saddle again this morning. I did miss writing the reflection, but I was so fried I had no idea what I wanted to write. I did find myself going back to the scriptures, not once, but several times, just to let them soak into me. I know that this was good. And this week, I’m reading the scriptures for Sunday, letting them sing for me, and reflecting on what I hear.
What sang for me the loudest, on reading this week’s lections, was not a passage from one of the scripture readings but from the Collect.
Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure.
It sounds fairly typical for a Sunday Collect, doesn’t it? It did to me at first, too, all but that one word – running. Do we usually run to obtain God’s promises? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably no. When things get tough, sure, we turn to God and ask for help. But most of the time, when we’re coasting along? Nah. We rarely remember to thank God when things are going well. We’re terrible “fair-weather friends,” and God knows it, and inexplicably, God still loves us perfectly and completely.
There is only one bible story I remember that talks about running, and that is the parable of the prodigal son. In this story, the son demands his share of his inheritance (“Dad, you’re dead to me. Give me my money so I can get the heck outta here.”) and then leaves home and squanders it. When he hits rock bottom and realizes how desperately poor and hungry he is, he decides to return home and ask his father to give him a job, so that he can work for a daily wage. But when he gets to the end of the driveway, his father runs out to meet him. The father runs to him, embraces his son, kisses his son, and orders a party and a feast. Of course, in this parable, the father represents God, and we are the son who leaves home and squanders his blessings. But when we come back to God, asking to earn the blessings that God yearns to lavish on us freely, God runs out to greet us, to sweep us up into God’s arms, to cover our faces with God’s kisses.
As we follow the Israelites through the desert, we get another week of complaints. Last Sunday it was food; this Sunday it’s water. The complaint is still the same, Why couldn’t God let us die in Egypt? There we had cozy houses and hot food and all the water we could drink. Now we’re going to die in this barren, empty, sandy, rocky waste of a desert! Thanks a lot, GOD! They run to Moses with their complaints, and Moses ran to God saying, “Lord, I know what you mean! These are a stiff-necked people! Could you maybe give them a little water, so they will shut up and leave me alone?” I can definitely sympathize with the Israelites; they’re in a situation that continues to look hopeless, and they feel isolated and helpless and afraid. I wouldn’t exactly want to be called out of my house to go tramp in the wilderness for days, much less decades. Of course, when God gives them quails and manna, when God gives them water, they don’t exactly go running to God to give praise and thanksgiving. No, God runs to meet their needs, and the Israelites accept it, grumbling because they had to wait so long.
So we will pray this Sunday for God’s grace to fill us completely, so that we run to obtain God’s promises, and take part in the treasures of heaven. Of course, the treasures of heaven aren’t fat bank accounts, a driveway holding a Lexus and a Hummer, a 3,000 square foot house on an acre of land, and that perfect cabinet refrigerator to hold the beer for drinking while watching football games on the six-foot wide plasma television.
No, the treasures of heaven aren’t things we can touch with our hands, but they are definitely things we can see and feel. Things like peace. Perfect peace and tranquility. Full knowledge, not just of ourselves, but of all of God’s Creation. Forgiveness, both of ourselves, and from ourselves to others. Love – yes, a heart full of love, but also a mind and a body full of perfect, holy love. Living water to drink, living bread to eat – not the plastic-tasting fish-food wafer that is called the Bread of Heaven during the Eucharist. The complete presence of God, all the time, without the feelings of separation, loneliness, and absence that we encounter from time to time here on earth. These are God’s promises for us, the treasures that heaven holds for us.
Wouldn’t anyone run for these treasures? They sound wonderful! These are real things, gifts that last forever. These gifts don’t rust and break down, like cars, or get lost in a stock market crash, or be turned to rubble in a hurricane or tornado. But we don’t recognize these gifts when we see them; we have a hard time perceiving how amazing and wonderful they are. The Lexus is so shiny, and the house is so luxurious, and the Hummer makes us feel so tall. Is God’s love shiny? Does peace feel luxurious? Will forgiveness make us feel tall? Well, no. So we succumb to the siren song, and we find our treasures here, rather than running for the promises of God.
This is why we’re praying this Collect on Sunday. There comes a time when we look around, and we see all the things around us, and we realize that they don’t feed the hunger, don’t quench the thirst. We’re far from the Israelites in the desert wilderness, and yet we still recite the same complaints. God gives us everything we need, and God promises us so much more, such tremendous, awesome, wonderful treasure in heaven. But like the Israelites in the desert, we fail to recognize this. So we have to ask God to help us, to fill us with grace, to help us run for those promises, for those awesome treasures.
My prayer for us this week is
that God bless us with discomfort with the luxuries we possess,
that God bless us with clear vision to see the abundance around us,
that God bless us with a hunger for God’s promises,
that God bless us with a thirst for the treasures of heaven,
that God bless us with a sense of need for God’s loving help,
and that God bless us with a foretaste of the perfect peace, love, and forgiveness
that await us all in God’s kingdom.