Tag Archives: poor

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11C

Track 1: There Is Need of Only One Thing

Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

We live in the age of greed. This is not new. It was true in the time of Amos in the Old Testament. Amos prophesied:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”   (Amos 8:4-6)

God had blessed his people, but many had forgotten from whom those blessings came. Something very destructive happens when people forget God. They become less secure in their outlook on life. This feeling of insecurity feeds a desire to gain more wealth. The new wealth does not seem to eliminate the insecurity in many cases, because a fear of losing what has been gained may enter in. The psalmist wrote about

Oh, that God would demolish you utterly,
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!

“This is the one who did not take God for a refuge,
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.”

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

I will give you thanks for what you have done
and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.   (Psalm 52:7-9)

The only cure for the fear of not having enough is our trusting in the mercy of God. In order to trust him we allow ourselves to be steeped in his Word. The world has many distracting messages. We need to focus on God’s message to us.

In today’s Gospel reading we have the familiar Martha and Mary story:

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Martha was doing important and necessary work. She felt that her sister Mary was not doing her fair share. But Martha was also worried and distracted. This is the trick of Satan. He makes us feel insecure and that we are going to receive disapproval for not fulfilling the expectations of others. In other words, we do not measure up.

But we do measure up. How do we know that? God tells us that we do when we listen to his Word. That is the one thing that we need to do above all. Everything else is secondary. God want us to be “like a green olive tree in the house of God.” It is there where we learn to trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

God makes promised to us but we must believe them and receive them. In today’s Old Testament lesson, God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. The odds of this occurring did not seem likely, from a worldly point of view. Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing. Abraham had to hold on to this promise by faith. He chose to believe God and his voice above all the competing voices which may have surrounded him.

Are we listening? God wants us to sit at the feet of his beloved Son like Mary did. He wants to tell us that he loves us. He wants to assure us of our salvation and eternal life in Jesus, his most precious gift of all. By faith alone we can believe and receive a security in him that will never end. Let us not be so distracted that we miss the voice of his Son.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

And also this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”   (John 3:16)

 

 

Track 2: Who is Our Authority?

Genesis 18:1-10a
Psalm 15
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

Who do we listen to today? Who captures our attention? Who is our authority? Whom do we want to please the most? We live in a culture that tells us that in order to gain acceptance and approval we must please certain people. Political correctness is the order of the day. But who determines what is correct?

Should not our authority know who or what is correct, ruling out that which is not? If we are going to listen to someone then should we not know what their credentials are?

The Apostle Paul wrote about the credentials of Jesus:

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.   (Colossians 1:15-20)

In today’s Gospel reading we have the familiar story of Martha complaining about her sister Mary not helping her. Martha is planning a bit meal for Jesus, but Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him. Martha asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus answers:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”   (Luke 10:41-42)

Are we doing the one thing that is needful? In a complex world with so many distractions from what is important, to whom or what are we paying attention. Distractions can be dangerous. Paul writes:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him– provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.   (Colossians 1:21-23)

We have a famous scientist talking about billions of stars but never mentioning the creator of them. The Apostle Paul writes:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.   (Romans 1:18-22)

Are we listening to the One through whom the universe was created? Jesus said this about Mary:

There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

What is our one thing? Who is our one thing? Are we listening to Jesus?

Praise God that we still have the availability of the written word of God and the freedom to read it. A time is coming when this opportunity may no longer be available. Amos prophesied:

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send a famine on the land;

not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.

They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.   (Amos 8:11-12)

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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Planted by Streams of Water

The psalmist wondered why the wicked seemed to prosper and not the upright:

Truly God is good to the upright,
    to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant;
    I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pain;
    their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not plagued like other people.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against heaven,
    and their tongues range over the earth.   (Psalm 73:1-9)

If we are looking for worldly success then the psalmist seems to suggest that God may not be the best mentor. The Apostle Paul wrote:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.   (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Paul seems to be saying that life may be more difficult for the Christian disciple than anyone else. It surely was for many in the Early Church, especially the apostles.

God’s “blessings” may not be the type of blessings that the world seeks. In fact, they may be what the world is trying very hard to avoid. Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
    for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[a] on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.   (Luke 6:20-23)

If one is looking for quick success, he or she may be tempted to take short cuts by compromising their ethics or morals.

The psalmist who observed the prosperity of the wicked had second thoughts:

But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I perceived their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!   (Psalm 73:16-19)

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus warned:

“But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
    for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
    for you will mourn and weep.   (Luke 6:24-25)

In today’s appointed psalm we read that those who follow the law of God will bear fruit “in due season.”

Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.   (Psalm 1:1-3)

Difficult times are coming. They will tell us where we are really rooted and grounded. From today’s reading from Jeremiah:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit.   (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

What is our time frame of reference? Are we prepared for the long haul? Are we planted by streams of water? That water is God’s holy Word. Jesus, the Word made flesh. His sacrifice on the cross is our guarantee for an eternal salvation in the presence of God. That is the promise we are offered in Christ. Christ’s success becomes our success by faith. We are able to stand firm in him no matter what circumstances may come our way. Today’s psalmist concludes:
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

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