The Overwhelm of "Uh-Oh"
I confess that I am not a particular fan of reality (or, in most cases semi-reality) television. I am not invested in who has the "X-factor." I am not invested in the concerns of a group of 20-something partiers on the Jersey shore. The concerns of any one particular celebrity family don't consume my thoughts. I don't really enjoy the drama of any of the numerous shows that depict the trials and tribulations of the upscale lives of particular housewives. I do understand the allure. The key to what makes "good television" is being assured in these programs...they provide a high quotient of drama. Better yet, that drama is at a distance. It is entertainment. We get to observe it, judge it, enjoy it. It isn't our drama, and it remains at a safe distance. Rather than being the concerns, worries and fears that keep us up at night, those dramas remain safely in the realm of "water-cooler" or "Keurig" conversations at work, school and play the next day.
Think of Paul today, telling Timothy to keep an eye on the widows. These women have lost their support and protection, both economic and social, in their communities upon the death of their husbands. There are no social nets, or professional prospects, for women thus isolated in 1st century Palestine. The command from the Christ, and the adjurations of Paul call upon the community of the Church to care for these women and their children. To a point, that is, it seems that Paul is saying. A "good" woman who is widowed, of more than 60 years who possesses a moderate and charitable disposition, that one is worthy. A young widow, one who might remarry but who chooses instead to move from house to house while making use of the asset of the distribution to engage in gossip and stir up drama....well, that one is not worthy.
Great, are you ready to be the judge?
Easy enough for us to look at all that and raise our eyebrows. Easier still to push off the wild craziness that is disclosed in the Psalm and revealed in Isaiah's continually unfolding vision of woe for Israel, Judah and their environs. Go ahead, pull back and just watch. We all want to...because it keep us distant from the "reality" being placed on display.
Fact is, there was great injustice abounding in ALL the nations Isaiah is pronouncing God's judgment upon in his prophecies. Fact is, the psalmist continues to define and describe the struggles and conflict we all contend with on a daily basis as human beings, caught up in community and in relationship with God. Fact is, Paul's concerns for Timothy's dealing with the volatile question of the welfare and care of the widows and orphans is a HUGE third rail for the church he is serving, in the day they live.
We can go "Uh-Oh," or "Oh no, he/she didn't!" to great enjoyment as we read these "stories." We can indulge in them as we would in a reality television show. We can discount them, even as we raise our eyebrows and promise to meet each other later over coffee to kibbitz over the latest drama. We can do all that....or.....
We can bear witness that these were real people living real lives in relationship (yes, a complicated one to be sure) with a living God. We can see that their dramas are for the most part our own. We can note their struggles and experience sympathy. We can even embrace empathy for the conditions we ALL find ourselves in when the enemies of peace are at the door, the gossips rail against us and the waters wind up rising up to our necks again and again.
What we can't do?
Turn the channel.
This is the actual, real world...and may God be with us through all the drama we ourselves tend to generate.