And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’ – Luke 3:10-14
I got a new cell phone today, my first ever “smart phone”. And I just love playing with new toys like that; learning what they can do, activating all the bells and whistles. It’s loads of fun.
But thinking back on the high points of the day, that one isn’t tops. In first place is a conversation with a dear friend who has had some medical difficulties and who was feeling blue. Our soul-full exchange brought both a depth of meaning and a quiet joy to my day that far surpassed anything else.
The little passage from Luke above is talking about putting first things first. John the Baptist, a fire and brimstone preacher, has been telling people to repent. What that means is that they must turn around and embrace what is really important. They must dedicate their lives to God, and the sign of that will be that they will be baptized in the Jordan River. And people are doing it. They are deciding to make radical changes in how they live their lives. And when they come up out of the water of the Jordan after having been baptized they ask John, “What should we do now?”
It’s the age-old question. After the revolution, what are we supposed to do next? And John’s answer is both simple and practical. Take care of one another. Share. Be honest and fair. Don’t take advantage of each other. It’s almost a let down in its simplicity. Is that all? Isn’t there something more profound?
But that’s just the point. The simple times, the moments when one soul meets another and communion occurs, those are the important ones. Sharing a coat, sharing a story, sharing a meal – this is the pearl of great price. It’s right out there for everybody to see, and yet so often we pass it by unnoticed. Surely having the smart phone, with all the opportunities it opens up for networking and communication, is more important. But looking back on my day, looking back on my life, I can see that isn’t true.
God’s dream for the world is often as simple as that we will each do what is in front of us to do to be there for our neighbors, moment after moment after moment. The sign that we are on the right track is the deep joy and meaning we get from the experience. It’s almost a let down in its simplicity – and yet what could possibly be more profound?
Icon by Laurie Gudim.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.