Written by Pastor Mark
Now we are really headed for trouble. People think that politics are what get you in trouble as a preacher. Politics are nothing. Economics are what really get you in trouble. Just try uttering the words “income redistribution” sometime and see how many people walk out of the room angry. Our country is in the process of redistributing wealth on a massive scale. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. More wealth was transferred from the poorest Americans to the richest during the presidency of Bill Clinton than any president before him. Why are we allowing this to happen?
In today’s first lesson, Amos is addressing the people of Israel. That country had become prosperous because they were able to control much of the trade in the middle east of the time. A rich upper class had developed and they passed legislation, and controlled the courts to ensure that they would continue to prosper. Amos calls them to account. They are never going to enjoy the wine from their expensive vineyards, nor will they be able to move into their expensive new homes. And why is this? Because they have stolen from the poor. When Amos looks at those who do not have enough to eat, or a place to lay their heads he does not interpret it as just the way things are. He states flatly that the rich have stolen from the poor, and that God is not happy about it.
Jesus is not angry with the young man in the gospel lesson today. There is love and appreciation. Here is a young person who is on fire to walk in Gods’ way. It is not to punish him that Jesus tells him to sell everything, and to give it to the poor. Jesus is trying to aid him in his quest to follow God. According to Jesus riches are an impediment to following God. This is shocking to the disciples (and if we will admit it, to us as well.) When a person becomes rich, isn’t that a sign of God’s blessing? Maybe, maybe not.
What is our true identity? Another way to ask this question is why are we here? Were we placed on this planet to consume more and more and more? Is that our ultimate purpose? I would argue we are put here to serve others. There are things we need, but that list is pretty short. Meeting our basic needs does make us happier. The problem comes when we start to think that getting a lot more stuff will make us a lot happier. The reverse seems to be true. We end up being possessed by our possessions. When we identify ourselves as consumers we enter into a never ending spiral of needs which will ultimately drive us to despair.
Amos calls us to hate evil and love what is good, and then to work it out in our public square. Our faith seems to call us to seek solutions to the massive inequality in our country and to point out evil wherever we see it. How do we know something is evil? According to Amos it is where we see the poor being taken advantage of, where we see the richest of the rich use their wealth to abuse the most vulnerable among us. Confronting such evil is difficult. It is not easy trying to live our lives in a just and equitable way. We will need to pray, share our ideas, and step out in faith.
Quotes for the Week
“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” – Henry David Thoreau
“Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” – Unknown
“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club
“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” Noam Chomsky
To better understand why you need a personal computer, let’s take a look at the pathetic mess you call your life. Dave Barry
1st Lesson Amos 5:6 & 10-15 (The Message)
Seek God and live! You don’t want to end up
with nothing to show for your life
But a pile of ashes, a house burned to the ground.
For God will send just such a fire,
and the firefighters will show up too late.
10-12 People hate this kind of talk.
Raw truth is never popular.
But here it is, bluntly spoken:
Because you run roughshod over the poor
and take the bread right out of their mouths,
You’re never going to move into
the luxury homes you have built.
You’re never going to drink wine
from the expensive vineyards you’ve planted.
I know precisely the extent of your violations,
the enormity of your sins. Appalling!
You bully right-living people,
taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they’re down.
13 Justice is a lost cause. Evil is epidemic.
Decent people throw up their hands.
Protest and rebuke are useless,
a waste of breath.
14 Seek good and not evil—
You talk about God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
being your best friend.
Well, live like it,
and maybe it will happen.
15 Hate evil and love good,
then work it out in the public square.
Maybe God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
will notice your remnant and be gracious.
Gospel Lesson Mark 10:17-31 (The Message)
17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”
18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.”
20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
23-25 Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”
26 That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked.
27 Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”
28 Peter tried another angle: “We left everything and followed you.”
29-31 Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.”
Questions for the Week
If you could run up to Jesus what would you ask him?
What is your purpose in life?
How would you describe yourself?