I don’t always listen well. Ever since I got to Pennsylvania – almost nine months ago – I’ve been going around in circles about my vocation. I make declarations, and then I double back on them. My identity and security have been wrapped up in serving as a local church pastor. Who am I without that? Lesbian Stepford Wife, Writer, Director of RevGalBlogPals – some of these sound better than others. I’m called to all of them, maybe without the Stepford part. But scratch the surface of the circling, and you’ll find one concern: who am I if I don’t have a regular paycheck?
This is where the UCC employment listings become like crack.
Thankfully, the lectionary steps in to kick my – ahem.
It’s that great story of Lazarus (not the brother of Mary and Martha) and the rich man who ignored him even as the dogs licked his sores, bleh. Lazarus gets his reward in heaven, rocked in the bosom of Abraham. Even in hell, looking across the great chasm between them, the rich man expects the poor man to serve him, to pop back to earth and warn his brothers to behave better and avoid hell.
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:29-31, NRSV)
Mmm-hmmm. People are stubborn, and let the signs go by, and even the sense of rightness, because they have their eyes on the wrong things. I indict myself. If I don’t learn anything else from this gospel lesson it should be this: God’s priorities do not equate to the world’s priorities.
My story with its circular details –
both health and sense of call lead me away from parish ministry, other opportunities feel rich with possibility, I panic over LP’s tuition, I smoke UCC job listings crack, repeat ad infinitum
– yes, those – may not be universal in its details, but I suspect its common in its circular themes. A person feels led by the Spirit to do something meaningful, then backs off in favor of a more practical decision. Where is God in the middle of the practical concerns?
Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria. Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away. (Amos 6:1a, 4-7, NRSV)
The revelry of the loungers shall pass away. Amen.
I have a well-documented fear of being a lounger, with or without the revelry. It’s doubtful anyone who observed my activity on the average day would accuse me of lounging, and in fact I probably don’t rest enough for a person with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I work hard at whatever I do to shake off the memory of being enervated by depression and to prove to my small f father who is in heaven that his then-true statement, “Martha has never really applied herself to anything,” is no longer remotely true. I don’t want to spend my spouse’s money on a new book even if she says it’s ours. (Well, I want to, because I want the book, but I don’t, generally.)
Money. You know what’s coming if you’ve read all the lectionary passages.
The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal. But as for you, (wo)man of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. (1 Tim 6:10-11, CEB)
It’s not that I love money. It’s just that I worry I won’t be loved if I can’t provide it when other people need it.
Yesterday, a friend and colleague called to talk about her own life, and in the midst of the conversation about some serious financial strains, she said, “There are many times it looked like things would not be okay. But God has been faithful. God has been faithful.” She may even have said something about money dropping into her lap, but I am not confident enough to hold onto that one too tightly. “You can’t put the money first,” she said, and if we had been face-to-face rather than on the phone, she would have seen me nodding.
“You called for my support,” I told her, “but you are saying things I needed to hear today.”
So thank you, God, for messengers who are alive. I’ll try to listen more closely to the one who rose from the dead.