The students from Western Michigan University who are staying here for their service trip told me an interesting fact. They have had over 100 inches of snow on Campus this year. That kind of puts our impending snow storm into perspective. But that factoid also got me to wondering: “What do birds eat when there are several feet of snow on the ground?” When Jesus tells us to ‘look at the birds of the air that neither sow nor reap” was he thinking of 100 inches of snow? I don’t know. But if I was a bird living in Kalamazoo, MI, I would be nervous this winter, despite what Jesus tells me about God watching over me.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” “Really? That’s easy for you to say. You’re the son of God. But for us, it is not so easy.” Maybe it is a middle child thing, but I worry about a lot of things:
· We only have a little Ice Melt left – and there is a big storm coming and Schulte Hardware has been out of it for weeks.
· Our enrollment has been slowly declining in the school, and we could use about 8 more students to help turn things around. Where will we find them?
· Will the bills in the Missouri legislature address the future of our Normandy school district and neighborhood? How will it affect our Saint Ann School?
And so it goes. It is so easy to worry about so many things.
But into that human experience of worry, which we all know on some level, Jesus tells us: “Make sure you are worrying about the RIGHT things.” We can get so bent out of shape about things that DON’T matter in the long run. Clothing, possessions, what to eat or drink – we can end up serving them, to the exclusion of what is of ultimate importance. There is only one thing to worry about, one thing to wrap our energy and thoughts around: Seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness – and then everything else will flow.
In our time, in that same vein, Pope Francis has invited us to look at our entanglements with and dependence on material possessions. Do not rely upon them for your security, he tells us. Possessions can belost, destroyed and stolen. They do not last forever. One wag once said: “I can tell you one thing that you will never see in your life – a funeral possession where the hearse is followed by a u-haul.” We laugh, but there is a truth there. All that we can ‘take with us’ are the intangibles of the heart – our love, our service, the way we cared for and responded to the needs of our neighbors. The way we lived responsibly as members of a global community.
To that end, this Wednesday begins our parish experience of Lent 4.5. In that, we are invited to look at the pattern of our consumption – both external and internal, there to find a simplicity of heart that is a gospel response to our loving God. One of the ways we will do that corporately as a parish you will begin to see at our fish fries. Thanks to the efforts of a parishioner, Kathy Dolson, we are phasing out all of our #5 style plastics – all the ‘paper products’ that are non-recyclable. In addition, though it might not happen the first week, we will be working toward composting the food wastes, so that we do not send items to our landfills that can instead become fertilizer. All in all, some 2,000 plates, knives and forks and cups will all be earth friendly, sustainable products, going into composting/recycling facilities and not the trash. It will cut a bit into our bottom line, but, it is the gospel thing to do.
And you, how will you learn to seek first the kingdom of God this week? How will you train your heart to let go of all the things that we worry about that do not last and do not build a more just planet? How will you serve God and not mammon? This week’s Lent 4.5 insert gives some very practical, doable strategies for doing just that.
Do not worry about your life, what you are to wear, what you are to eat or drink. Whether you are a bird in Kalamazoo, MI with its 100 inches of snow, or a parishioner sitting in a [different] pew [because of Snowmaggedon II] – know that God has your back this week. And next week. And all the ones after that. Which frees all of us to be busy about seeking first the kingdom of God…