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Amos 3: This World . . . and the Next

Monday, July 2, 2018

Each time we visit this prophecy we have the opportunity to hear God speak to us on the topic of social justice.  For they know not how to do what is right . . . storing up in their castles what they have extorted and robbed.  The gathering of wealth at the expense of others is something many of us may not want to ponder.  We may not want to think about how much we have stored up in our homes and in our accounts that may have arrived in our hands because someone somewhere struggled to make ends meet on low wages.  We may want to open our IRA statement without wondering if the dividends were partially gained or fully gained on the backs of those who have no political or social voice.  In each news cycle we can find stories about companies and individuals who happily ignore today’s message.  Companies keep double books in order to hide their safety infractions (http://www.connectmidmissouri.com/news/story.aspx?id=635646 ), priests are involved in sex scandals (http://www.americancatholic.org/news/clergysexabuse/  ), scientists squabble over the truth or lie of global warming and the consequences for our planet (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/).  There is an endless stream of information that asks us to think about how we act.  Today’s Noontime tells us that there is nothing new in this.  For millennia we humans have been taking advantage of one another . . . and hoping all the while that no one sees us.  Amos reminds us that God sees all.

When we turn blind eyes to corruption we have forgotten that our actions have consequences, and Jesus reminds us of this with a number of parables defining stewardship.  One story in Luke 16 even demonstrates how a corrupt steward bargains with his master’s debtors in order to save himself.  And while Jesus does not make the case that the wealthy do not go to heaven, he does plainly say (Matthew 19:23, Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25) that a rich man will have to bend a bit and be willing to sacrifice as a camel does to enter the eye of the needle.  (This is likely a reference to the pedestrian door in a large city gate – the camel will have to pass through on its knees.)  Jesus tells us that all of us are called to humility no matter our station in life . . . and so we ought to become accustomed to putting ourselves last rather than first, to serving rather than expecting to be served.

The picture of the world that Amos describes is a world gone mad with greed and envy; God will eradicate all that has been stored in silos and greenhouses, ivory apartments and summer houses.  The enemy shall strip you of your strength and pillage your castles.  Jesus paints another possibility for us.  He describes a world in which we think of one another before self, in which we pray for our enemies rather than condemn them.  And this is a prospect that all us might welcome.  Even those who are so self-centered as to be narcissists might pause to think . . . how much better it is to share what we have rather than to lose all.  But in our striving to survive we so often forget that in this finite world we prepare for the next.  We either conveniently forget, or we willfully ignore, the words we hear today: There is a consequence for what we say and think and do . . . and woe to those who take advantage of the marginalized who have no voice.

I have shared with a number of my friends that I honestly believe that our lives on this planet are a complex, interlocking dress rehearsal for the real life which follows; and that if we do not learn the art of sharing as God asks on this planet then we will still have to learn this in the next dimension.  I believe that we are living in a complicated laboratory which is full of hypotheses and lesson plans for us to learn the art of love as presented to us by God among us, Jesus.  I believe that if we struggle to tend to the despair of the great disorder within our society today . . . we are already living in the kingdom we thought was only a dream.

If we believe this world is beyond hope . . . let us act as if we are living in the next . . .


Image from: http://www.all-creatures.org/hope/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 2, 2011.

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