Saturday, September 06, 2014


Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless. 1 Corinthians 4:10-11
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry?  How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?”  Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”  Luke 6:3-5

From “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Barratt Junior High School speech in Philadelphia October 26, 1967:

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

As we conclude this week that began with Labor Day, Jesus gives the wise Pharisees a lesson in labor and the idea of a higher calling. 

The Pharisees think that all labor is prohibited on the Sabbath.  That may have been the view in sacred history up to this point.  But much of sacred history is changed when Jesus comes onto the scene.  Jesus re-interprets the old ways with a new view.  According to the notes in the New American Bible, in his defense of his disciples’ conduct and his own charitable deed, Jesus argues that satisfying human needs such as hunger and performing works of mercy take precedence even over the sacred Sabbath rest.

Jesus connects this with the Old Testament story about David – which was not about a violation of the Sabbath rest.  The incident is an example of a violation of the law being permissible because David’s men had no food.   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. 

According to the notes in the parallel account in Matthew’s gospel, if certain kinds of work have a higher purpose that outweigh the Sabbath law, “how much more does the presence of Jesus, with his proclamation of the kingdom (something greater than the temple), justify the conduct of his disciples?”

We are always busy but are we busy with the right items. 
Growing up in places like New Jersey and Massachusetts, there were blue laws that forbid certain businesses from opening on Sunday.  Back in 1979, working as a salesperson at a car dealership, my boss required us to show up on Sunday (without pay).  Even though Massachusetts laws forbid the business from opening Sunday, the owner wanted us to work. His rationale was that customers who wanted to shop for a new car without being bothered by salespeople would visit the lots of new cars on Sunday.  If they found something they liked, they could come back during the week to buy.  But, they may go somewhere else to buy.  The owner did not want to take the chance that these people would buy from someone else.  He wanted his workers to violate the letter and spirit of the law and troll the lot for customers who thought they would be shopping in peace.
Within weeks, pretty much all the sales force quit because of the behavior of the management which dictated that a sale was more important everything or anything else -- even more important than following local laws.  He did not see his workers as having a life outside the dealership.  While you could argue with the basis for blue laws (which have been overturned in most places in the U.S.) and maybe even work to have them changed, willfully violating them thumbed your nose at authority.  He mistakenly thought that selling stuff was more important. It cost him a lot.  All he invested in training a sales force had to be spent again as the sales force kept quitting.
Clearly there are higher callings than selling cars or banning the harvest on Sunday.
The word "call" comes from vocare. We get the word vocation (a "call" or "summons") from it. Biblically it is used primarily for our being "called" to live in Christ, in relationship with God through Jesus. We belong to Christ, and our work is to believe, to glorify and enjoy God. It is our "high calling," our highest calling. Our daily work, whatever that is, is also a high calling. It is to be directed toward fulfilling God's purposes. (From “Why Work Is Holy,” by Dave Williamson)
What is your higher calling?

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