Low and High, Rich and Poor

August 7, 2010

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of time…” So Charles Dickens famously begins his epic novel, A Tale of Two Cities.  I kept thinking of that quote these past few weeks as my travels took me not to two cities but rather two islands: the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean and Seven Mile Island in New Jersey.  

There is obviously much for us to process from the Haiti trip and decisions to be made about our next steps there as a parish.  But an immediate consequence of the experience for me, at least for now, is a kind of heightened sense of appreciation for much of what I have and enjoy.  Air conditioning, electricity, clean water, hot water, appetizing food, telephones, the internet and TV, comfortable living environments, cars, roads, a job, trees, grocery stores, and the whole long list of things not generally available in Haiti.  I have a feeling this heightened sense of appreciation will wear off, unfortunately, but it is still very much with me. In fact, taking my vacation immediately following the Haiti trip probably increased that response.  Haiti is a country of poor people struggling to survive each day, Avalon is a community of affluent people entirely at leisure.  Nothing is available in Haiti, anything is available in Avalon.  Children are privileged and pampered in Avalon and needy and neglected in Haiti.  Millions are homeless in Haiti, in Avalon homes are often needlessly lavish.

One day on vacation, with little kids running around (by the time I left there were 7 kids under the age of 10) and company coming and going and meals to be made and all the other accoutrements of big family gatherings, my sister said to me, only half in jest, “You should do this more often, because this is the real world.”  She’s right of course, my life is extremely insolated from much of the practical details of most people’s daily schedules in suburban America…things like kids and a commute and a boss.  But at another level, what is that “real world” we refer to anyway?  Is Avalon the real world, or just a pretty perch for a lucky few?  Is Haiti the real world, or just an unfortunate anomaly for some very unlucky ones?

The Bible says:

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world, 
both low and high, rich and poor alike…
God will redeem my life from the grave;
he will surely take me to himself.
Psalm 49

While it is important to live each day with a sense of gratitude and enthusiasm for the gifts God has given us; while it is incredibly important to look to God for assistance and support through the difficulties and challenges we face, more than anything else we have to be living our lives in the light of the reality of God himself, God in himself, God who is perfect and does not change, who is and was and will be, who is sovereign above all things. 

Gratitude as well as reliance or faith in God are really going to stem from a more profound sense of God’s own faithfulness to us, that he has given us life and breath and has a plan and a purpose for us that will not fail.  Give him thanks in every blessing, turn to him in every trial and through it all, know that he is sovereign above all these things, low and high, rich and poor. 

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