or Whadda’ ya’ want?
What is your ‘one thing’?
What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill your life? Not just your dreams, but the expectations of the community you live in, and of your church. What would fulfill all that God intended you to be?
The Gift of the Magi, O Henry
In the radio adaptation of O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi a young couple has two precious belongings in their otherwise poverty captured lives: his heirloom golden pocket watch, and her flowing hair that would put the jewels of the Queen of Sheba to shame. In a shop window they see an exquisite pair of bejeweled shell combs that match her hair perfectly. But they are unimaginably expensive.
Unbeknownst to the other as Christmas Eve arrives, he buys the combs for her, and she buys for him a silver chain perfect for his watch. But the price for each of the gifts is so high.
What is the ‘one thing’ of all your dreams?
Martha’s, Mary’s and Our ‘One Things’
After Martha invites Jesus into her home one thing fully occupies her: respecting an ancient tradition as hostess she must provide for her guest.
Mary has one thing on her mind, and it has nothing to do with Martha’s busy concerns. Mary sits attentively listening to Jesus.
Isn’t it true how as listeners we do not worry about the preoccupied doers’ tasks and obligations. And as doers we are offended by the lazy, unrealistic listeners or talkers who do not help with the obligations that must be met!
Whether you are a doer or a listener, what is the one thing that you dream of that would make life good and fulfill all that God intended you to be?
Sitting by the Oaks of Mamre
In the OT lesson for today Abraham sits under one of Mamre’s oaks in the midday heat, recovering from his recent circumcision.
Mamre is one of Abraham’s three allies. Abraham and Sarah have no land. They squat in tents by Mamre’s oaks. Eventually Abraham will buy a piece of land near the oaks. There in a hewn cave Abraham buries Sarah. Isaac and Ishmael, the son of Hagar, bury Abraham there. Jacob and Esau, the estranged twins together, bury Isaac there. Jacob buries Leah there. Joseph returns from Egypt to bury Jacob there.
God Comes Strolling Up
Abraham and Sarah do not go to God to find him. God comes as three strangers, yet one, strolling up to their camp at the oaks of Mamre, where they have built an altar to worship God.
Observant, Inviting, Busy, and Attentively Listening
Abraham beseeches the Strangers to pause to receive his hospitality as required by ancient custom. They accept, which sets Abraham, Sarah and their servants all into a flurry of action preparing a feast!
Abraham stands listening attentively under the oaks as the Strangers eat.
The Stranger asks after Sarah by name and includes her in God’s restated Promise. She shall bear Abraham a son when the Stranger returns again.
Sarah and Abraham listened to God. They risked everything to leave home. They have established themselves in the new land with reputation, herds and flocks, servants, and a place they borrow to call home. Though God has promised many times God has still not blessed them with a son. For an heir is the one thing they lack to fulfill God’s purpose for them: to inhabit this new land.
What is our ‘one thing’ we dream of?
What is the one thing that we wish and dream for that will make life good? What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill our lives by completing for us all that God intends us to be as children of God?
A Canoe, a Boat (the Church)
A canoe has one purpose, to traverse the waters without sinking. It may require at least one person handy with a paddle, and the ability to launch the canoe, and to secure it from theft and storms between uses. But the canoe is not purposed to sit on land, or in a garage, or to be hidden under a tree or set out in the sun to rot. A canoe is made to traverse the water as early as the misty dawn of light that pushes back the fog, and as late as the last drop of sun light recedes below the horizon after sunset.
Do each of us have one purpose? Is there one thing that in the doing we would fulfill our purpose, the purpose for which God created each of us?
God Comes to Us: We do the Works of the Righteous
It is clear in today’s OT and Gospel lessons: We do not need to go to God to fulfill our purpose. God comes to us, names us, and calls us. God comes many times to us, as God does to Abraham and Sarah, as Jesus does to Martha and Mary. God builds a relationship with us. We do not build a relationship with God, we are not the builders; we are the clay and God is the Potter. As Abraham and Martha, so we too can only be attentive and welcome God, in whatever guise God arrives in our lives.
What can God do to give you a fulfilled life?
Maudie, the movie: How Can She Be Happy!
One would hardly think that Maud Lewis would be happy.
As the movie Maudie portrays her, she was born an invalid, able to walk but not well. She bore a child, the result of incest, who she was told was so invalid the baby died. But the baby was healthy and sold by her brother, never to know Maud as her mother. Maud’s parents die, her aunt takes her in, and treats her as if she cannot care for herself. They treat Maud as a nobody.
So Maud strikes out on her own to work as a live-in housemaid for a simple man. But Everett hits her, is at best grouchy and at worst impossible. She prevails and starts to paint flowers on the walls in the dingy one room house in rural Nova Scotia. Eventually the two fall in love and are married.
Maud goes on to sell numerous small paintings, most for pennies and some for only a few dollars.
Eventually people travel to buy her paintings. She is even commissioned by Richard Nixon among others. But she lives in poverty her whole life.
In a TV documentary on her, which makes her more famous, she smiles, and paints within the small reach of her arthritic hands, arms and body.
Her aunt on her death bed astounds Maud by asking her about her appearance on TV: How come, of all of us in the family, you, Maud, are the only one who turns out to be happy?
Curmudgeon and insecure Everett gets fed up with Maud’s success. Fearing Maud will leave him, he forces her out. When he finally visits her at her friend’s he asks clearly if she will leave him for someone better.
To her aunt’s question about how she turns out to be the one who is happy Maud responds: “I am happy with whatever, as long as I have a paintbrush in my hands.”
To Everett when he asks if she will go off with someone better than him, she responds simply and completely:
“I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.”
The Gift of the Magi: the cost so high, yet Rich beyond their dreams!
On Christmas Eve James and Della discover that she has sold her hair to buy him the chain for his watch and he has sold his watch to buy her the precious combs. So they set their gifts aside and sit down to their coffee and supper of meat … with each other.
For what is more precious than her hair or his watch, more precious than his silver chain or her precious hair combs? Most precious in all the world is their love for each other, and their loving sacrifices made for the other. They are poor, but their love makes them the richest people on earth.
Jesus: One Thing
At Martha’s Jesus says only one thing is needed. He is not clear what that one thing is. It is left up to us to discover.
What is it that, in coming to pass, would fulfill our lives? Have we discovered it, for this time and place?
Happy are they who know God’s ‘One Thing’ for them!
As the earth moves through space and time we are not unnamed nobodies. God comes to each and all of us wherever we are and relates to us.
How can our ‘One Thing’ be anything other than our Knowing that God knows our names, claims us, redeems us, loves us, inspires us, gives us work that has great meaning, and gives us people who we love and who love us, even if they are curmudgeons or our enemies.
The Church, the Boat
The ancient symbol of the Church is a boat, a boat to traverse the waters of life. It carries us as we give God thanks for all the challenges of travelling to a new land where we have no home, a borrowed place where we must wait for God to give us heirs to carry on into God’s future for the Church.
Our ‘One Thing’
No matter our circumstances we can say to our God, “I have everything with you that I have ever wanted.”