Reflection: "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"
In today’s gospel story, as is fairly typical of Jesus, he replies to a conundrum with another conundrum.
He’s presented with a sort of riddle about a woman who marries seven times – and not just seven times, but to seven brothers - in succession.
And each brother dies, leaving her a widow – time after time.
The Sadducees, who are critics of Jesus, want to know: “In the resurrection, whose wife will the woman be?”
They didn’t believe in the resurrection and so they’re trying to mock Jesus, to show how silly and unworkable the idea of eternal life is.
They’re trying to demonstrate that the things we hold dear in this life, including the bond and covenant of marriage, will make no sense in the next life.
And they are trying to depict Jesus as a kind of oddball faith healer and snake charmer, whose fundamental claims just don’t make any sense.
And, I guess, in one way, they’re right, because to the average man in the street, Jesus can be very easy to mock.
Eternal life is a strange and seemingly unworkable idea.
And the fundamental claims of Christianity don’t make sense when compared with the values of the secular world.
This was true in Jesus’ time, and it’s still very true today.
The first assertion made by the Sadducees is that the fundamental claims of Christianity just don’t make any sense.
The greatest commandment is: love God and love your neighbour. That’s fundamental, right?
But most of our world is obsessed with power, prestige, wealth and control.
If we admit to the existence of God, then we must acknowledge that all the possessions we have are not ours, but are simply “lent” to us - ie. we’re stewards of our possessions, including our earthly bodies.
All we have is a gift from God and they’re only of value while we’re alive on this earth.
But the culture we live in says “this is my home, my money, my whatever, and I can do with it whatever I want.”
It’s very much a “me” society.
However, when we acknowledge the existence of God, we also acknowledge that we’re not in control, not the ultimate judge, not the great power of the universe – or even of our family.
Of course, the secular world would say otherwise.
Our society is full of people who insist on doing it “their” way, on their own individual authority.
It happens at the simplest levels of human interaction, and at the highest levels of government and industry.
And what about the concept of loving our neighbour?
Our society doesn’t always uphold this principle, does it?
Loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself – these two great imperatives - to those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians - are not always the values of our country, of our society, or of our world at large.
Then there’s the idea of eternal life – is it a silly and unworkable idea?
As for multiple partners in the afterlife - the Sadducees have shown us that it sounds silly – or have they?
When we think of eternity like this, we’re failing to use our imagination.
We’re promised great joys, never-failing care, the strength of God’s presence, rejoicing in eternal glory, being received into the arms of mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and being reunited with those who have gone before to the paradise of God.
When you talk about those things, on that kind of scale, then we’re wasting a lot of energy discussing whether we’ll live forever, or to whom we may be married and it just seems to me another manifestation of that power and control thing.
I call it “sweating the small stuff” - spending too much time worrying about little things.
The fullness of God’s love and truth is not known to any of us – not yet.
And that’s exactly why Jesus can be so easy to mock.
We don’t know everything, or as Paul puts it, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly.”
Remember, that in the first century, a mirror was probably not like one of today’s manufactured, perfectly smooth and clear glasses. Looking into a mirror was more like looking into a brook or stream, or into a highly polished rock.
Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but when the end comes, Paul says that “we will see face to face. Now, I know only in part- then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
The Christian dispensation acknowledges that we don’t know, we don’t have control, we’re not in charge.
So, how is it we’ve come to believe?
Think of an empty jar on a table and fill the jar to the brim with large rocks. Is the jar full?
What if we then pour in very small pebbles until they filter down between the larger rocks. Is the jar full now?
What about if we tip a box of sand into the jar. Is the jar full yet? Most would answer “Yes.”
Think of this jar as representative of your life.
The big rocks are the most important things, your family, your friends, and your health.
The pebbles are the things that matter but to a lesser degree, things such as your job, your house, or your car.
And the sand, well, the sand is everything else, all the small stuff.”
If you put the sand into the jar first, there’s no room for the pebbles or the rocks - and the same is true for your life.
If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you’ll never have room for the things that are the most important to you.
So, take care of your big rocks first, the things that matter above everything else.
But illustration is a worldly one, because it makes no allowance for Jesus Christ.
How can we get Jesus into our jar of life along with everything else?
Think of him as water.
We could take this jar analogy one step further by pouring water into the jar, pausing every now and then to shake the jar, allow the water to weave its way down through the rocks and sand. Now it IS full!
Establishing priorities in your life is a wonderful thing, but they must be touched by the “living water” of Christ.
The way to make your life count the most for eternity is to surrender it completely, every last corner of it, to him.
Let him permeate everything you think, say, and do.
Let him lead you into his perfect will and plan for your time here on earth.
Let him guide you into all truth.
Let him mould and shape you into the absolute best version of you there can be and let him take everything about your life, all the rocks, all the pebbles, all the sand, and use it to bring glory to God.
The journey of faith isn’t a life lived without doubt or questions, the life of a Christian isn’t one without trial or hard work, and the earthly pilgrimage isn’t about control and power.
It’s about truth, hope, and above all, love.
So, I encourage you to look at the big picture and work on the big rocks in your life.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
There’ll still be room for the small rocks, sand and especially the water of Christ, to carry you through on your journey in God’s Kingdom.