Today’s Scripture Readings
So I think today’s readings ask us to decide what makes us happy: really happy, little kid giggles happy, picturesque mountain view happy, peaceful quiet by the fire happy, being with each other happy. There was a yogurt commercial a few years ago in which two young women tried to describe how good the yogurt was with descriptive experiential phrases like that. This is about more than yogurt. It’s about what is most important in our lives. However, the yogurt commercial hints at what is involved here and that is, trying to capture, i.e. trying to understand what something means. How good is good tasting yogurt? What does it mean to be happy with life?
The back story is that Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that they shouldn’t be fighting over whose teacher or preacher of the Gospel is the most authentic. These early Christians had started to develop factions even before other people were calling them Christian. Paul is trying to bring them back to the core message of the Gospel, their faith, that their connection is to Christ and God the Father not any one teacher. What they have learned through Christ about God is true wisdom. Looking other places for the answers to life is foolish.
What I heard when I read it today is the way he makes his point. He turns around their arguments of which teacher they belong to and says that they belong to God because of Jesus Christ. Therefore all the rest, the teachers, the future, this world, their very lives belong to them. They have all the wisdom, value, and authority they need because of their understanding of God’s gift to this world. To put it in terms of Luke’s Gospel, they have all the fish that Simon and his partners have in both their boats. They have already been given the wisdom, the insight into what is valuable in life.
In the Gospel the overwhelming catch of fish demonstrates for Simon that he is in the presence of the divine. Nothing else could provide such a bounty. Simon and James and John were fishermen they knew these waters, fished them all the time, yet they had never seen a catch like this. They didn’t understand the true gifts of this life, much like the bickering Corinthians. Encountering Jesus opened an unseen door. The story says, Jesus transforms “no fish” into “more fish than they can handle”. It means, Jesus transforms what looks like a harsh world with nothing to give for our efforts into a world of wealth and plenty. The Psalm sends the same message, “the earth and all that fills it” belongs to the Lord and the Lord chooses to give it those “whose heart is clean and desires not what is vain.”
Which brings us back to Paul’s references to what it means to be wise. In Matthew’s Gospel, Simon acquires that wisdom by recognizing the unbridled generosity when he sees it and he changes his life as a result. It’s easy to not see the world or our existence that way. We think we’re smart and wise in our lives. We too have fished this lake a long time. Too often the world can appear harsh and unforgiving. Paul thinks this is a foolish view. I think we are being fools when we fail to seek out what makes us truly happy. What could be wiser than knowing what life is all about? What would produce more joy than being satisfied with my own life? Too often we can be dissatisfied and unhappy with life. Looking for happiness in things beyond ourselves, perhaps in approval, power or possessions. I think if we can believe in God and recognize God’s overwhelming generosity in our lives we can describe happy in very different terms. We can recognize close relationships, being open and honest, admitting mistakes, helping others, following our dreams, being at peace with ourselves, and being in love as the true wealth of this world. Oh, and eating really good rich creamy ice cream. (I don’t actually like yogurt.)