"He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly." - Luke 1:52, CEB
For 25 years, I've walked past two paintings on the wall of our church's largest Sunday School room, which doubles as a parlor and chapel.
Recently an insurance adjustor had those paintings appraised. Both are original oil on canvas. One of them is "Mother with Child" by William Mulready, a nineteenth century British artist. I was shocked to learn its value is estimated at $25,000. The other painting is "St. Anthony in Paradise," by Annibale Carracci, an Italian artist who died in 1609. Its value is $40,000.
Who knew? Construction dust covered them a few years back during remodeling. Kids have played in that room. Hundreds of Confirmands have met there. In retrospect I'm a little surprised that no kid (or grown up!) has thought it amusing to add a mustache to the little boy Jesus.
Several years ago someone broke into that room late on a Friday night and stole two sofas, two end tables, and two lamps, but left $65,000 worth of art hanging on the wall.
By contrast, almost a decade ago we opened our 1958 cornerstone and found stock certificates placed there by the building committee chair. We immediately thought, "These must be worth something!" One of them might indeed have been worth tens of thousands of dollars, except that the company had long ago declared that it was lost. Every paper stock certificate from 1958 is now worthless.
The Gospel radically turns upside down the value we place on things and people. We stand in awe before power and wealth and fame, while heaven laughs. People we find insignificant or unworthy or unredeemable are the very ones through whom God changes the world.
O God, you who see all with clarity, open my eyes to people and things today that otherwise I would ignore. Help me to value who and what you value, through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC. He posts sermons and other reflections on his blog, corinthpastorbob.com.