Amos 8, 4-7
- Hear this, you who trample upon the needy! What do I hear? We have entered the sanctuary together, and
now we have to hear this minor prophet arousing class consciousness among us! Scripture
is full of protests like this, though we read few of them in our weekly liturgies. Let
me remember that I personally do not judge individuals in the assembly, so let me not look fixedly at anyone.
- The prophet does not like what he sees, and he calls the God of the people to witness against it. Most of the passage is made up of a conspiracy among the oppressive landowners. It begins with the prophet’s outrage and ends with God’s judgment. I will use a disapproving voice throughout it all.
- “When will the new moon be over – you ask –
that we may sell our grain?” The landowners are not keeping the spirit
of the holydays. The phrase “you ask” seems to interrupt the flow
of the ungodly thought, and it could also interrupt the concentration of my listeners.
I first saw it as an unwanted intrusion, but then discovered that it could form a vital part of the prophet’s
accusation. I will read the words “you ask” as though I am making
a summation in court against them.
- We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel and fix our scales. In other words, the small farmers will be cheated out of a just return for the grain
they have brought to the mill for grinding. Let me add a suggestion of a chuckle
in these lines, to show their sense of control over the lives of others.
- We will buy the lowly for silver. I don’t want this sentence to slide through so quickly that the church doesn’t hear it. Take my time, for it is the most brash claim, and the most outrageous of the three
offenses. Many of my listeners have been on the short end of the stick, as small
farmers or mortgage holders. Several psalms quote the ungodly as saying that
God does not see them. As I speak their lines today, I will repeat that suggestion
that God is too far away to give a care.
- The Lord has sworn.
But God heard every word. I will pause before I get to God, because I
want the assembly to feel the same outrage as the prophet feels.
- Climax: God’s judgment.
Never will I forget! How decisive
is my “never”?
- Message for our assembly: As we go through life, we learn quickly
how to get away with cheating and holding onto our money. Does our faith counsel
us in this regard? Who is our neighbor?
Today’s Gospel counsels us to make friends.
- I will challenge myself: To remind the church today that it is natural
for our inherited faith to sit in judgment on our actions.
I Timothy 2, 1-8
- I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings
(this means especially the Eucharist) be offered for everyone. That sounds like our prayer of the faithful.
- That we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion. We hear this advice often in the letters of Paul.
Jesus was rejected and killed, but that is not necessarily the fate of all his followers. Today’s reading suggests that the Christians should take a positive place in their society like active
- This is good and pleasing to God, who wills everyone to be
saved. In other words, it seems, God wants harmony, getting along, good example. But God also wants people to come to knowledge
of the truth. Do we think that this can be achieved by people merely getting
along? Something will have to give.
- This was the testimony at the proper time. In other words, the letter was written after the days of the apostles, for the faith of those who followed
- In every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands. This is the right time to lift my voice as well.
Let the people know why we lift our hands today.
- Climax: There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. We are overhearing an early formula of faith.
- The message for our assembly: Do we truly believe that there is one mediator?
What then of those who have not heard of Jesus?
- I will challenge myself: To speak the words with the same quiet confidence that underlies this apostolic letter.
Luke 16, 1-13
- A rich man had a steward who was reported to him. Substitute “bishop” and Jesus could be speaking of our own parishes today. I will focus my attention on the steward in the verses that follow.
- What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship. There are no rights to
a trial in scripture, and no second chances, since God sees and knows all. Or
perhaps I could pause between the charge and the sentence, to suggest that the steward had no answer to the charge.
- What shall I do? The steward has a clear quandary and I should copy his thought process in my own
reading. He begins with the question. He
goes on to reject two job prospects open to him, farm labor and begging. Finally,
the light goes on: I know what I shall do.
Take my time with every step.
- He called in his master’s debtors. Now the steward is in complete control, and so will I be with my snappy pace. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.
- And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting
prudently. I need no special attention to this line, which could come out
of the evening news.
- I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth. Obvious enough? Not so! Every case of church embezzlement I have seen reports that the clergy and the treasurer kept it all for
themselves. The important words are “make friends” in the tradition
of Robin Hood.
- Let me not rush through the sayings at the end of the reading. I think
the key word is trustworthy, which is repeated four times there.
- Central theme: Prudence and trust are praiseworthy inside as well as outside our gatherings. Our faith does not come to us in isolation.
- Message for our assembly: How much do we challenge each other to attain such worldly wisdom? To what extent do we insist on transparency in the church?
- I will challenge myself: To take to heart the words I am rehearsing.
From Word to Eucharist: We
have not come to the table because we have made an investment, and though we may have come forward all our lives we must not
think we have vested rights in it! Yet we do not check our best human values
at the door.