October 19, 2008

The Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

When Jesus said to the good religious folk "Give... to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's," I wonder if they heard in the background the words of Psalm 24: "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it." I wonder if some of their fury with him was his skill in putting them in their place, a place where they had to remember that there is no hierarchy, no division, no us and them, just the world, God's good earth, a treasure on loan to all of us. And when we pay our taxes, aren't we sharing that treasure with others -- paying for schools and health care, for groceries and roads and public transportation, for police and firefighters and trash collectors? Jesus reminds us, the good religious folk of our time, that what we have is meant to be given to God. And what would this precious world look like if we really lived that way?

October 4, 2008

Stress Fractures

"A stress fracture ... occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack called a stress fracture. Stress fractures often are the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly. They also can be caused by the impact of an unfamiliar surface; improper equipment; and increased physical stress."

Of course, this definition from the orthopedics association focuses on what happens to the body. But I think there are stress fractures of the soul, too. There are times when the pain of the world is too much and the soul is unable to absorb any more. We live in the midst of madly increasing activity, constant availability, and daily pressures that seem never to relent. One's soul can be battered by the unfamiliar, lacking the equipment to withstand the impact.

The treatment for a stress fracture is rest. As Jesus once told his disciples: "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." (Mark 6:31) It is hard for many of us to find a deserted place without going to a lot of effort and often expense. But even so, obeying this commandment is essential for wholeness and healing.

So I rest today. I give thanks for cool fall air and bright warm sunshine. I cook and get my little house ready for my friends to come tomorrow. And I read and pray and ponder my ministry. I come away, out of my usual too-busy routine, sit by myself, with myself, and I rest. And all the little stress fractures that have come to criss-cross my soul begin to mend.