It is the first week in the Church's liturgical season of Ordinary Time. The Christmas Season is officially over and we begin to walk with Jesus as He begins His adult ministry and ultimately His journey to the Cross.
Today is also the day that we remember one of our American leaders who fought for justice and peace: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Across the country, this is a national holiday and day of service. However, currently here in Richmond, VA, pro-gun protesters have descended into our city to make their displeasure about our state government's recent common sense gun laws known. Even though I recognize their right to exercise their freedom of speech, it has to be one of the more twisted things that one can protest on a day that we are trying to remember a man who worked for peace. In my mind, increased access to guns won't make our country more peaceful. I know there are people who think that we need guns to keep peace. But if we were truly more kind, more merciful, more forgiving in general- living the Kingdom of God on earth- we wouldn't need guns at all.
So I am, sadly, spending today holed up in my apartment trying to stay away from the angry, anticipated antics that are happening just blocks away. It has given me some time to relax and reflect, however, and to meditate on the Scriptures for this Monday in the beginning of Ordinary Time.
The first reading is from 1 Samuel. Samuel warns King Saul about disobeying God. Sadly, Saul's self interest and self-importance leads him away from listening to God or Samuel. Samuel utters a line that has really stood out to me previously as well as today: "Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission than the fat of rams." - 1 Samuel 15 : 22.
This line strikes me because I think we can agree that sacrifice is pretty important. God sacrifices His only Son as way to save humankind from our sins. Soldiers sacrifice so that our country can be strong. Parents sacrifice so that their children can have opportunities and live healthy lives.
But similarly to my points above about peace, if we are obedient to God (as Adam and Eve are meant to teach us) we won't need to make the amends that sacrifices were meant to do. If we obey God, we will please Him so much more than the offerings we try to come up with.
In the Gospel for today is another one of my favorite lines about "new wine in new wine skins" (It should come as no surprise that one of my favorites is about wine :). Jesus is trying to make the point that the old laws and old beliefs- the old offerings- are not going to be the same as what He has come to offer. I also interpret this as, to be obedient to God- to Christ- we need to change. We need to leave behind the old, and become new. This truth really is something to meditate on: how can being obedient which seems like such an old fashioned ideal lead to something new? That is the beauty and the mystery of Christ. He can make all things new, but we need to follow Him.
Change is important and necessary and sometimes it is radical. Sometimes it requires sacrifice. But it almost always comes from an adherence to a belief that we are obedient to, that we follow.
On Friday, our school had its annual prayer service for Unity in honor of this day of remembrance for Dr. King. We gathered to pray for the unity among all Christians and among all of us in our nation. Last minute, I ended up having to lead the singing for the service. I was so nervous and worried about having to hit the high notes when I wasn't really warmed up, that I wasn't even thinking about what I was singing.
We ended the service with a song that we've sang so many times: "Let There Be Peace on Earth." If you are familiar with the song, you know that it starts low and builds to the final line: "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!" It's always so sweet and heart warming to hear small children belting this line. They are the future and we want them to be the ones to bring peace. But peace also can and should begin with us.
Change doesn't have to be radical, though sometimes it needs to be. I'm asking God today what "new wine" I need to put into "new wine skins." In other words: what changes do I have to make to bring peace into my life and our world?
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us- with obedience to God's Word and the changes that we may have to make due to any "new wine" God shares with us.