(88) S5E10 SOTM: Sapphire

Continuing the Sermon on the Mount working through Mt. 6:16-18.


  • Richard Rohr's "Sermon on the Mount": https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003A0IASQ/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_uOXEFbGCN7ASQ
  • Dallas Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy": https://www.amazon.com/Divine-Conspiracy-Rediscovering-Hidden-Life/dp/0007596545/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=dallas+willard+divine+conspiracy&qid=1601907374&sr=8-1
Sapphire
 
Blue collared workers work to pay the bills
White collared workers work so they're not blue
The first, harbor of all our social ills
Second, enforcers of what is taboo
 
Day will arrive when our Lord comes again
Redeeming blues through Saturnalia
No more wanting, no more a social plan
All clothed with same Sapphired regalia
 
Time is as fleeting as the passions are
While future’s as sure as where our hope lies
In present, then, we each must work so hard
Ensuring passions don’t our hope belie
 
Until day our bridegroom comes to redeem
We mortify our sin, fasting unseen


 

[Mt. 6:16-18] Much myth lies around blue sapphires. I honed in on its representation of royalty and social harmony.
 
I know it’s a generality that blue collared workers make less than white collared workers, and that they work to scrape by. I know because I was a “professional teacher,” and I made less than a number of other lucrative professions like welders, mechanics, etc. I am not at all making a value difference, but a general observation. Blue collared workers tend to be looked down upon because they are generally working to pay rent, food, electricity, etc. Often times the less well-off live more day to day. On the flip side, the white collared workers work to survive as well, but in a different way. The white collared workers who are able to look beyond today recognize that life is vain. As such, they work and work in order to obtain more money, and through money, more things. They work to keep the blues away. This both means that they work to maintain their status and not become blue collared, but even more so, it means they work in order not to become depressed and suicidal. But this materialism is just a vain pursuit meant to numb the pain. 
 
Again, my slight on the blue collared isn’t my own position, but from the perspective of the elite. The elite believe that the poor and lower class are where social ills are born and raised. We see this by aversions to immigrants, aversions to the poor, aversions to those in particularly lower-class occupations (e.g. fast food), etc. But ironically, it is the white collared, or upper class who gets to define what taboo means. Obviously their definition is self-serving and perpetuates subjugation of others while perpetuating their own status. We can see this in how white collared crimes and individuals are prosecuted, the length of punishment, etc. We can also readily see that the white collared are no more socially graced, as they are frequently involved in great evils. The white collards are constantly trying to assert power, grab money, and subjugate others, defining what is good and evil, taboo and acceptable. 
 
Saturnalia was a festival celebrating the god Saturn. It was a time of great feasting and celebration. In this sense, the merrymaking rids us of the blues, as in sadness. However, Saturnalia was also a time when social classes and distinctions disappeared. As one common example, the masters would serve the slaves dinner first, and slaves could speak freely and critically to their masters. They could also dress like freed people. I use Saturnalia both because I think it is a beautiful depiction of what Christ actually does permanently for those in the Kingdom now, and what he will make permanently for all when he returns, both in terms of our equality and in terms of our partying, banqueting, and feasting. I also use Saturnalia because Saturn is one of the main gods associated with blue sapphire. Also, Christians later used the Christmas celebration to mask Saturnalia and replace a pagan holiday with a sacred one. So interestingly, Christmas is when Christ condescends to the lowest possible form by becoming a poor human born in a stable. He condescends to the blue-collards and lower, thus beginning his plan for redemption of them. 
 
There will be no more wanting both in the sense of needs, but also in the sense of envious wanting, like that found in materialism. We will have all provisions and will share freely, having no need of evil desires or creating social plans to provide for those who are not being provided for. 
 
Passions, like time, disappear. They either disappear because they are fickle and changing, because we temporarily satiate them until they return, or because we die and have them no more. Hope – at least the hope of the Christian, however - is a permanent hope grounded in the immutable. If our hope is in the Almighty, immutable One, then our future is unwavering, as is the hope we can have today.
 
As Christians, we have competing desires. We desire to live in accordance with our hope, but we also continue to have our fleshly desires and lack of faith. Our job is to live in accordance with our hope and not give into vain and fleshly desires. This doesn’t mean we abhor pleasure, but we hold it in perspective of the eternal and the meaningful. 
 

If we are to have hope and subdue fleshly desires, we must then mortify sin in our flesh. This mortification is an allusion to John Owen’s book, “The Mortification of Sin,” a wonderful read about how and why believers (or followers, as I’ve begun to call them) should be putting sin to death in their flesh. In Matthew, one of the ways we see Jesus telling us to be perfect like God is by fasting. This fasting is not intended to be seen by others, or that would be self-serving. It’s not meant as something which appeases God in and of itself. This fasting is an action which teaches us that 1) we are dependent on God (e.g. Jesus in the desert and “man cannot live by bread alone), and 2) that our desires can be lessened and controlled. By weakening the power desire has over us – even good desires like eating – we help discipline ourselves to choose against fleshly desires. We also learn to depend on God and we are able to use the time we save on preparing and eating meals to pray and focus on God. Every twinge we feel in our stomachs reminds us of our provider and our hope. While Jesus doesn’t say or imply the following, I also think that in light of all those in the world who are suffering without food, that we join them in solidarity as we choose not to indulge – or more likely in our Western lives, overindulge. Choosing to forego food helps us to live lives focused on others. As many early saints who fasted remind us, it doesn’t merely allow us to live in solidarity intangibly, but also tangibly. As we forego a few meals, the money or food not used on ourselves can be used for others. Fasting, then, should not be some empty ritual. It should focus us on God, mortify sin in our flesh, remind us of our dependence and hope, help us live in solidarity with our fellow humans, and allow us to tangibly help those in need. Fasting is a practice which gives us a foretaste of its opposite – the feast where all are united and equal. It helps us to reflect on this truth of equality and worship now, and hope for its future assurance for the world. See Appendix 12 for a deeper discussion on desires.

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