The world will be saved by Beauty.

Sunday, October 3

Isaiah 5, 1-7 + Philippians 4, 6-9 + Matthew 21, 33-43

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"He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!"

During a critical era, Isaiah brought the word of God to Jerusalem. Israel, the northern kingdom, had been destroyed by the Assyrians. Over and over again, he calls Judah to faithfulness to its covenant -- and to stop oppressing the poor. Hmmm, where have we heard this before?

Matthew's gospel today is a parable of the history of Israel and his passion, aimed at the leaders of the people, the ones laying "heavy burdens" upon the people. Just after this parable, those leaders were wanting to arrest Jesus, but the crowds were honoring him, so they held back. Too many people watching.

Ancient stories of proud empires and peoples rejecting the covenant, and a reminder that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history will repeat them until they destroy themselves.

Paul teaches us that the world indeed will be saved by Beauty. In that Beauty, there is no anxiety, but rather true communion between God and humanity. We are called to be in prayer and to "set our sights" higher things. Paul wrote to a people who were poor, oppressed, and often persecuted. Their lives were in danger, and they lived in a society where the culture of death ran strong and murderous. He offers good advice -- honor, justice, purity, beauty, grace, excellence. Orthopraxis -- right living, then and now.

It wasn't an easy world back then, not for Isaiah, not for Matthew, and not for Paul. It isn't an easy world today either, although like our ancestors we often pretend it is something different than it is. Part of our problem is our persistent tendency to acknowledge as "real" only that which immediately assaults our physical senses. Thus we try to do everything ourselves, and shut ourselves away from the overflowing source of life, joy, and peace. Paul is telling us how to open our spiritual eyes and other senses so that we see that our reality includes the supernatural, the metaphysical, even though it may not be sensible by our traditional physical senses. When we follow Paul's advice, and in everything give thanks and be in prayer and petition, practicing the presence of God, we indeed find the peace that passes human understanding -- a wholeness, a healing -- that can hardly be discussed with words.

Thoughts on orthopraxis: When was the last time that you said the Lord's prayer over and over as you kneaded bread?

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