We are just coming off a three month process here at the church that gets us through the end of one fiscal year and into another. Finance meetings have spent the last quarter of 2012 crafting a budget for the coming year. Year-end reports have been generated and reviewed for analysis. The Vestry has reviewed, and approved, our financial mission for the coming year. A week and a half ago, our parish's annual meeting heard the report from them on the state of the parish. As well, our community development foundation had its annual meeting, and we did the same set of exercises with regard to budgets and reports. And soon, at a diocesan level, we will gather in Convention and repeat this same process just completed at the local level. In that context, I am deeply aware right now of "the cost of things" when it comes to maintaining institutions, or meeting the vision, or expectations, of the communities in which I am tasked with leadership.
That said (or rather, written...), I am sitting here in a state of quiet awe as I read the passages from Exodus and Matthew. With regard to Exodus, there is a sense of shock at the magnitude of "start up" costs that are required to outfit the ordained ministry of Aaron and his sons. Lord, the expense of the precious stones, the fabrics, the craftspersonship, the cost of the offerings and the time it took to organize all of the same...and it had to be just so! My parish is mulling the design and possible purchase of new vestments, and though expensive I am sure that even with adjustments for inflation they do not come near the cost of what Israel must have assumed with God's direction and design expectations in that exercise!
On the other side of shock and awe is that small pile of thirty pieces of silver that Judas was given by the agents of the chief priests for the betrayal of Jesus...and the use of that blood money to by the potter's field.
And finally, approaching the account of Jesus' humiliation and execution at the hands of the Roman cohort, I am seeing the horror and sadness in a new lens. How costly this terrible thing really is, at root! The emotional response to Jesus' suffering always brings tears to my eyes, but this morning my heart is also angry for the incredible expense that putting someone to death requires of us in time, in energy, in money...and in human pain and grief. What a waste. There is the cost of trial, of the soldiers' time, of the cross itself, of the bribe that Joseph of Arimathea probably had to pay to obtain Jesus' body, of the tomb that he had prepared for himself and now gave that Jesus' body might lie in peace. All that expense, just to put someone to death in as humiliating and shameful a manner as is possible: death on the Cross. Please don't assume I am discounting all the rest of the reactions to Jesus' death that we all feel every time we revisit this terrible narrative. I am just struck this morning by how senseless a waste it all seemed to be...just a waste.
So, this morning, I am humbled by the ways we experience the call to make a witness to God, both from a hearts and minds approach, and sometimes in "dollars and cents." In the response to outfitting the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, and the equipping of the sacrifices for the sanctuary, I respect a community that gathers its resources to tender to God offerings in the right way. In response to the crucifixion, I take new issue with how much human societies are willing to invest in the practice of public execution.
I pray that today we can take some time to meditate on how our resources are put to use...may we use those thoughts to follow God in the right way, with hearts, minds and even pocketbooks....