Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is not a prayer for the Material Girl!
There is risk in this prayer. It reinforces the false impression that God is not interested in the material world or in things that pass away. God made the material world quite marvelously, and spirituality is integral to it, not removed from it. The Eucharist itself is pointedly material and poignantly ordinary: wine, bread, water, and blessing.
What endures is their connection to things holy.
I like the lofty rhetoric of this collect, but wonder whether Jesus does. Sometimes he urges me to cut to the chase, the way friends do. “Why all this ‘for ever and ever ….. and ever and ever and ever….? Whew. Is that the way you talk to your friends? Am I not your best friend? Don’t use this high-flown rhetoric to keep me at a distance: take the responsibility of being my friend: talk to me like one.”
Do not the Israelites have reason enough to complain? They are hungry. They have left the relative comfort of slavery, where they had at least enough to eat and a place to sleep, and are trudging through a wilderness. They trusted Moses and his inner circle, and now wonder whether they will starve.
Suppose Moses had been less anxious. Suppose Moses had said, “We are in trouble, but only so that we can reaffirm the God of plenty. Let us together fill this space with prayer, and I am sure that God will answer.”
And suppose God had said, “I was hoping you would ask. I am lonely and rejoice to work together with you. You have no need to bicker and demand that someone else fill your needs: come to me directly.
“Check out the dew in the morning and the quail I will send you at night. Tip: the quail is delicious when broiled or roasted with garlic. Serve it on toast with yak butter and a mango sauce. And the manna is more like a dumpling than a hard roll. Don’t hoard it. It will rot if you don’t eat it. It will disintegrate to a bitter powder if you try to freeze-dry it.
“All of these good things I have provided you one day at time, so that you will keep in relationship with me every day. The same is true of your portions of my spirit: they are sufficient to the day, but only for the day. You cannot hoard me. I am dependable if you keep returning.”
It is important to slough off the authoritarian culture in which the texts arrive, lest we think the authoritarianism and the patriarchy are the message rather than its shell.
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
The Psalmist gets it right, and says
No bickering here. No complaints against Moses and Aaron.
Writing in a different time and for a more comfortable people, the Psalmist shifts what he hears in the ancient story, just as I have, just as every reader is invited to do. What of the story endures and should be preserved? The essence is not lost if we treat the patriarchy like dross.
My friend Tina Machida, sometimes president of GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) told a women’s gathering at the 8th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1998 that her parents, as devout Christians, were distressed when she told them she is a lesbian. The parents hired a straight man to rape their daughter, convinced that she would prefer heterosexuality if she could just experience it.
When the man had done the deed, Tina, in much pain, made her way to the door into a central hall in the family’s small dwelling. She saw her parents hovering near her door. They had prayerfully listened to the entire assault.
What would you write to Tina?
What would you write to Nigerian gay Davis MacIyalla, threatened with prison and at times even with death? Both Tina and Davis suffer because of their public witness that Jesus loves absolutely everybody.
Saint said, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain”? Is that true for you? Have you suffered for your faith?
Are you not one with others who suffer for the faith? How do we bear one another’s burdens?
The Christians at Philippi know that Saint has suffered, and because of their faith, they are now suffering too.
Saint advises: “God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well -- since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Might we say that to Tina and to Davis?
From the Quean Lutibelle version:
Jesus said, "The Queandom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire straight laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the straight laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw some bisexuals standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, `You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same, first with a group of gay men at noon, and with a group of the transgendered at three o‘clock. And about five o'clock he went out and found lesbians standing around; and he said to them, `Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You also go into the vineyard.'
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When the lesbians hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the heterosexuals came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."