Restoring Balance to Society

Devotional for July 15

Written by Pastor Mark

Theme Background

In 1980 Howard Zinn edited a book called “A People’s History of theUnited States.”   The whole premise of the book surprised me.  “How can there be particular versions of history? Isn’t there just history?”  Yes, might be the answer, but who gets to write it?  Zinn’s premise is that the richest, most powerful people get to write history and they tend to present themselves in the best possible light.

As a child I heard quite a bit of history of the Whitman massacre which took place inWalla Walla,Washington.  In the typical history book the Native Americans rose up and murdered the nice, Christian, white people who lived near them.  It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I heard the stories of blankets being given to the Indians that were infected with smallpox.  At least in some cases the givers knew that they were infected before they were given.  In this light the actions of the tribe are much more understandable. TheUnitedMethodistChurchis embarking on a path of repentance for their past treatment of native peoples.  The Rev. George “Tink” Tinker a Native American theologian spoke at the UMC General Conference and said that it is painful for Americans to reconsider history, and: “It doesn’t get taught in our schools, Native Americans have to learn it in our homes from our parents and grandparents.”

In the first lesson today, Amos has a vision.  He sees a plumb line set up by God.  Plumb lines are still in use today.  They provide an accurate way of establishing straight up and down.   The plumb line in the story shows that things inIsraelare not level; they are totally out of whack.  Amos as a prophet has to tell the truth, he as to tell those in power that God is not happy.  I don’t know if you’ve tried this, but people in power do not like this kind of talk.  Neither do we.

Walter Wink, an ordained Methodist minister and theologian states in his book, “The Powers That Be” that every institution, organization and government has a spirit.  If the actions of that group are in line with what they were created to do—do bless humanity, then the spirit is healthy and intact.  If they have “turned their back on their divine vocation” then Wink says they are possessed of evil.  This is a form of demonic possession that I can believe (and see with my own two eyes).  According to Wink, no matter how violent the organization or government is it can not be defeated with violence.  Only non-violent opposition which calls them back to their original divine purpose will correct the problem.

In the Gospel we have Mary’s song, or The Magnificat. Mary sees a world which has been leveled.  “The starving poor sat down to a banquet,” while “the callous rich are left out in the cold.”  Perhaps the most amazing part of Mary’s perspective is that it has already taken place.  This great leveling was accomplished in and through Jesus.  It may not feel like it just yet, but that those are the dying spasms of a doomed system.  The question isn’t whether or not God is going to bring divine balance to the earth, the question is are we going to be a part of making it happen.

Quotes for the Week

People might say I’m difficult, but did you ever hear anyone describe a label as ‘difficult’? By nature, artists should challenge. When they call you difficult, it is a reflection of the imbalance of power.                Michelle Shocked


“There must be not a balance of power but a community of power.  Not organized rivalries, but an organized peace.”                 Woodrow Wilson


“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”                    Ellen DeGeneres


1st Lesson Amos 7:7-15  (version)

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

Gospel Lesson Luke 1: 56-55  (The Message)

46-55And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Questions for the Week

Do you think there is balance in our society?  Why or why not?

If you could correct on imbalance in the world what might it be?

Who are the people in our society who are not being heard, whose stories are not being told?

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