Keeping perspective on things

Daily Reading for June 20

The truth about being human is that all we have, all we are, all we ever will be are gifts from God. At the offertory we are invited to reflect on our attitude toward “things.” We are constantly challenged in Scripture not to allow things to become our “god.” It is astonishing how easy it is to become so attached to things that it distorts our view of reality. Imagine a situation where a child running around a beautiful, well-furnished home knocks over a prized object, which then shatters into a thousand pieces. It is true that the object may be of sentimental or monetary value and perhaps irreplaceable. But from the viewpoint of healthy and authentic living, it is still a “thing,” which is, before God, of no value compared to the child. To yell at the child, to sink into a deep depression, or to allow the moment to damage the rest of the evening or the week would be tragic. Or take another illustration. At a delightful restaurant with a group of friends celebrating a wedding anniversary, the waiter accidentally dribbles a little red wine on your new outfit. The angry words to the waiter, coupled with real distress about the new outfit being wrecked, destroy the evening. Or we return to our car in a parking lot and find that some inconsiderate driver has dented the car door and then driven away without leaving a note. We so easily lapse into depression or rage that preoccupies us and inflicts misery on those around us. In each of these cases things have assumed a disproportionate place in our lives. We make furniture, gadgets, clothes, and cars into the things that matter instead of friends and family. We allow problems with things to damage our relationships with those around us. . . .

If we are going to have things, then we are required to make sure that our possessions do not distort our values. At the offertory in the service we symbolically recommit to focusing on what matters. A healthy life is one where we make sure that our propensity to shop is kept in check. We should never allow things to matter so much that they assume a disproportionate status in our affections. As we write out the check for the offertory plate, we remind ourselves of what matters much more than things. And we give God thanks and praise for the health of friends and family and the gift of life for another day.

From Liturgical Life Principles: How Episcopal Worship Can Lead to Healthy and Authentic Living by Ian S. Markham. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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