GOD’S FAIR MEASURE
READ: Proverbs 16:1-11
“A human heart makes the plans, but the Lord gives the answer. A person’s own acts seem right to the doer, but the Lord is the One who weighs our souls…. The balances and scales belong to the Lord, all the weights in the bag are of the Lord’s determination.” – Proverbs 16:1,2,11
Our orchard shed rests hidden amongst the apple trees. And in that shed, on an old wooden table sits a grocer’s scale. When we harvest the apples at Greyfriars’ Abbey, we weigh out the measure of apples we put in each basket on that antique scale. We realize that the spring in the scales has probably grown a bit worn through the years, so we always throw in an extra apple for good measure, lest we come up short. So when you buy apples from Greyfriars’ Abbey, you can rest assured that you are getting a gracious, generous and providential share.
In the Book of Proverbs, the Wisdom Writer provides a cautionary word about the Reality of God. If there truly is a God, it is not we who determine the right and the wrong, the acceptable and the unacceptable, the holy and the un-holy … it is God who holds the scales and it is God who sets the standards. Yet … throughout human history, human nature keeps forgetting this Reality of God, the reality of a God who is actually there, the reality of a God who knows, defines and administers justice … it is God who holds balance and not we ourselves.
When I was a boy playing sandlot baseball with the neighborhood kids, half of our time and energy was spent setting the rules of the day – such as right field is a foul ball, or pitcher’s mound is as good as first base, or a ball going under the tractor is one base only. Of course, as we played arguments over the rules would always take place …”That was a ball! That’s was a fair ball! No, it was foul. Hey, no fair, the dog ran in front of me!” So we would keep adjusting the rules as we went, only to change them again the next day. Later when I began playing high school and college baseball … well, the rules …. they were handled in a far different way. Then we had set rules, well tested and well-proven, officiated by umpires whose ruling was final. Oh, we still argued about this call and that call .. complained about this rule and that rule … but the game was in the hands of the Umpire.
In the Christian walk, especially in these more liberated days, we don’t much like having rules and umpires. Oh, we don’t mind principles and attitudes, goals and objectives, but standards and rules, well … those we would rather leave behind. And granted … there was a time when we made far too much of the “rules”, “rules” often quite tangential to God’s principle, with more human interpretation in them than divine imperative. For example … when I was a boy, Sunday meant no ball playing, no reading the funny papers, no making noise and certainly no going to the movies. I suppose it had some faint Biblical with Old Testament Sabbath laws… but on the whole … more human calculation than divine desire. For another example … when in my first church pastorate I was admonished by the lay leadership for wearing shorts as I mowed my lawn!? Still … don’t know where that one came from … Yet, nowadays … I fear sound rather fuddy-duddy when I say this … we seem to have gone far too far the other way. I fear that WE MORTALS have made OURSELVES both the definer of the good and the bad, the acceptable and the unacceptable, the holy and the un-holy, the right and the wrong, and thus have made ourselves our own Judges thus the weighers of our own souls.
One of the beauties of life in a Benedictine monastery is the comfort we have with the Rule (or Constitution) we sign unto, share in and follow in our life together. It is not the only way, but it is our way. And I believe we live with the Rule so comfortably because we have a sacred reverence for our common understanding. And our willingness to all yield to its common good is what is so liberating for the spirit of our life together. Because of our common understanding, we can invest so much more of our time and energy in the joy of “playing the game” than in the stress of “setting the rules”; we can invest so much more of our time and energy in the joy of “living the Life” rather than in the stress of “debating the Law”. This willingness to yield to the wisdom of a Higher Power is an aspect of Faith that seems of late to have fallen by the wayside.
When you read the Rule of Benedict, it is remarkable the balance it does strike between order and freedom, between the communal good and the individual’s well-being, between timeless stability and adaptive flexibility. Saint Benedict claimed that the Rule was …“but the Gospel of Christ expressed in a human community.”
Brother Anthony of the Cross