Living in Tension
Trying to walk a line between faith and our consumerist human nature is like trying to convince our feet that the stylish looking size 5 Prada fits on our size 7 C width foot. Not only is comfort sacrificed for the sake of looks but we run a great risk of crippling ourselves in both the short run and long run.
As humans, suffering from our frail greedy condition, we live in a self-made tension. On one hand, we want to do what is good and pleasing in the eye of God. We desire a relationship which will bring us closer to that future kin-dom. Not only does it make us feel good to think we are doing what we are supposed to do, but we also hope that our good deeds hedge the chance of living into that which comes afterward – namely, we hope like hell that this isn’t all there is.
Tension exists in our personal agendas, in our parishes, in this Church at large.
Basically…we try to serve two gods.
“You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?”
That was from yesterday’s reading from Matthew 17:14-21.
Then in today’s readings there is the passage from Numbers (11:1-23) when the people are whining to Moses – where is our meat? We remember the fish we ate in Egypt…why, oh, why did we ever leave? All we have here is this crappy old manna from heaven, a gift from God rained down upon us for our daily needs but it isn’t our needs we are concerned about…it is our greed. We want meat! Give us meat!—
Sheesh. But then, not only does Moses not tell the people to put on their big kid pull-ups and stop acting like spoiled brats, he goes and complains to God – why did you put me in charge? Why do I have to put up with all these whiny, complaining people? Why don’t you just kill me if you don’t find favor with me rather than leaving me here with all of this on my shoulders? What you have done is not enough and I know that it’s not enough because the people have told me so. –
So what does God do? God tells Moses not to worry. Not only will God make certain there is meat, there will be meat not just for a day or a week but for a whole month. In fact, there will be so much meat that it will come out of the whiny people’s noses. There will be so much meat that they will be sick on it and of it.
Does Moses get it? No…thick-headed, slow thinking Moses has the audacity to totally miss the point. Not only does he miss the point but he actually asks God just how the Holy One will find that much meat to feed the 600,000 people that are there.
God must have been thinking at that particular moment that maybe there was a design flaw in the human part of creation. At the least, God must have been shaking the God-head in wonderment at the absolute selfish stupidity not only among the 600,000 chosen people of Israel but also at this one that God had decided would lead these idjits out of Israel and into a safe place for a while.
So easy for us now to sit on our collective posteriors and think ‘What a bunch of dunces!’
How naïve and innocent were the unhappy and insatiable Israelites! So, what’s our excuse with all this history to read and digest?
Here we are however many of thousands of years later and still, we want big fast cars and fine fancy homes. We rush and run with all our innumerable chores and have-to-dos. Our children are faced with a nonstop till they drop type of existence as they are rushed to school/daycare to home to soccer/baseball practice/games to home for a quick fast food or prepackaged overprocessed meal and then to a frenzied bath and then tossed into a bed where they spend the next two hours asking for water, another story, a need to go to the bathroom…my God, how can they be expected to rush through the entire day and then when it is time, lie down and go peacefully into the innocent dreams of a child?
Our lives are so fast paced that we think Sunday is the only time that we have to spend at home to rest and recuperate from the hectic crazy week. In fact, over this past week, I have had three people tell me that they take the summer off from church.
Take the summer off from church???? Having been in the Fort Worth diocese all my Episcopal life, I can certainly understand needing to take time off from the religiosity to fill a more spiritual need but an entire summer? One maybe two Sundays and then I would be missing whatever it is in community that I cannot find outside.
We are living in a tension that is going to cripple us unless we are able to give up something. Personally I think it is the rush rush or the too small shoe that needs to be given up but it took me a long time to figure that out. That is what Morning Prayer is all about for me and for Debbie. It gives us a time to talk to God and discuss this common life we have together in relation to the Scriptures and the world around us. We are able to kick off our shoes and be still in the midst of knowing that God is with us. That doesn’t mean that we are still everyday…it just means that each day we offer ourselves that opportunity to slow down and know that God is with us…if we allow it.
Bastille Days are coming soon to St. Louis. That was the fateful day that the good Queen Marie Antoinette lost her head because she just couldn’t understand that she could not serve two gods. The poor hungry people stood outside of her opulence, crying, needy, dying. I don’t know if it is historically accurate that she said, “let them eat cake!” I am sure it is not but nonetheless it was probably a true sentiment. We have our own Queen of the Misstatement in Barbara Bush who is quoted as saying that some of the people who had suffered through the un-management of the Katrina aftermath were really making out well. Every day in Texas and other places as well, there is someone somewhere who states that if “those people” want to stay in Texas they better learn to speak the English language (referencing the many Texan Hispanics whose ancestors lived in Texas long before it was “Texas”).
“How much longer must I put up with you?” How long will we remain deliberately ignorant, ignoring all the selfish injustice that comes from our petty greed? How long until we are able to see that giving up Church is not one of the things that we need to set aside? Or to see there are far more real issues of neglect that surrounds us instead of striving for yet one more thing that we only desire rather than need?
How long before we wind up with so much “meat” to eat that it is coming out of our nostrils, choking us in our excess?