Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Sunday Meditation

Since I was away last Sunday, here are two meditations by Barbara Crafton on texts that were read on Sunday.

Jesus Without Makeup

This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. - Luke 7:17

Jesus is becoming a celebrity. People have heard of him, they want to see him in person. Jesus is like Paris Hilton.

Well, not exactly like Paris Hilton, the young woman whose face we know, who is famous just for being famous. But Jesus' celebrity endangers him in the same way Paris Hilton's has compromised her: when people know you superficially, they may never bother to inquire more deeply into what lies beneath your surface. The person behind the face may disappear. Or, even sadder, may never emerge, as he begins to believe his own press.

People need privacy to grow and become wiser. Everyone needs to make his or her quota of mistakes by which to learn important lessons -- fully human as well as fully God, Jesus must have learned in this way, too, by falling on his face now and then. Successes and failures composed his life, as they compose ours, and he needed space in which to make them, as we do.

So we see him hiding from his own celebrity, sometimes: commanding his friends not to tell people when he performs a healing, seeking to avoid the crowds who pursue him everywhere he goes. We see him misunderstood, repeatedly. In the end, he dies from misunderstanding.

We take what is good: beauty, talent, intelligence -- and we commodify it. We reduce a person to his appearance, her wit, that one day in the sun that sticks in our memory. But each of us is more than our worst bumble and less than our finest moment.

Enough Already

The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. - 1 Kings:16

On one level, this is just a story of a magical event: a jar of meal and a jug of oil that replenish themselves. Such things appear often in the folk tales of the poor, for whom scarcity is a way of life.

But we can read it in other ways. The miracle occurred using ordinary things: meal and oil. The miracle used what the woman already had in the house: this wasn't manna from the sky, not this time. God used what was already there.

Manna from the sky is the exception. Usually, God uses what's already there. Episcopal Relief and Development's work in poor countries mirrors that divine economy: use what is already there. Make what already exists in a community able to do better what it already does. Turn to local leaders, who already know their people, and give them the tools they need to do what they do better. Strengthen a community's capacity to sustain itself with the relationships of bartering, buying and selling it already has, and a small amount of money will go a long, long way.

In Puno, Peru, for example, where 78% of the population lives in poverty, ERD partners with the Anglican diocese and the Episcopal Church Loan Fund in offering loans to establish small businesses -- very small by our standards, twenty-five or thirty dollars being enough to get one off the ground. Almost always, the indigenous Queucha and Aymara borrowers pay back their loans very quickly, something American lenders encounter only in their dreams. Thus the money becomes available to be lent again, and remains in the local market economy.

So the jar never empties, and the jug never runs dry. Because the people themselves continue to fill them.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Crafton

Find more of her meditations here.

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