Friday, November 29, 2013

What to do with all those Black Friday Bargains?????

2013 New Testament Challenge – Day 15 (Reflections on Mark 12-16)
Every year I participate in a special effort called the New Testament Challenge sponsored by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He encourages Christians to spend the Christmas Fast, also known as Advent) reading the entire New Testament as a preparation for Christmas. Each year I have done this, it has been blessing to me and I pray this year will be no different. As part of the New Testament Challenge, I endeavor to blog a bit about the reading for that particular day. I may miss a few, but I pray for those who follow this blog (NOW ALSO ON FACEBOOK) it will be a blessing.

Today is “Black Friday” so I wanted to keep my comments on the readings somewhat connected. If you read me earlier post today, “If you need it, buy it; If you can’t afford it, WAIT FOR IT,” then you already know my feelings about “Black Friday” so I won’t repeat them here. Today I want to reflect on a conversation I had last week, and Mark 14.3-9.

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted? "For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. "For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. "She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." (Mark 14.3-9)

The other day, I had a conversation with someone about, as I was told, wasting money in decorating the Church. I’ve had this conversation MANY times before, so it doesn’t faze me, but it ties well into today’s readings. Have you ever noticed when people complain about “wasting money” in decorating the Church, they defend their affront with, “God doesn’t need money!” In my personal experience with this topic, the one with the affront is not at all financially struggling. In fact, they are fairly well off.

Although today’s reading in the Gospel of Mark doesn’t make reference of Judas’ intention in filing HIS affront, other sources do. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” (John 12.6) I’m not suggesting the person with whom I had my conversation last week was a thief, merely that I’m not quite sure the affront was as pure as I was led to believe.

God has directed that His Temple be decorated with the finest materials; gold, fine linens, precious stones, etc. You can read about the construction of the Temple in Exodus 25-31. Why did He command this if He didn’t desire it? The point is the value WE place on those precious items. WE place a value on gold, and therefore we gild items that are of precious value to us, OR to show high social status. When we decorate God’s Church with golden items, it is because we place a value on those items and we wish to honor the highest social status that God deserves. When we pretend to be affronted by the money spent decorating God’s house, and then proceed to spend “Black Friday” filling our shopping baskets with items we don’t even need, how much affront is genuine?

So here is a challenge for you, specifically during this shopping season. How about you take the money saved on GREAT BARGAINS and bring it to the Church? This would be consistent with Saint John Chrysostom’s urging to take money saved during fasting periods and giving it to the poor. It might also help keep things in perspective for the Christmas shopping season. If we focus on spending the savings on ourselves, or worse, MORE SHOPPING, then we really haven’t benefited at all.

Until tomorrow…..You’re right! God doesn’t need money….but you probably don’t need that extra stuff you’re buying on sale either.

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