|Lectionary||1st Reading||Psalm||2nd Reading||Gospel|
SECTION ONE: NOTES ON THE READINGS
Amos is known as a ‘fire and brimstone’ prophet – announcing God’s severe coming judgement. His criticism is first and foremost directed toward what we call ‘social justice’. He critiques the rich who engage in many wicked behaviours as they seek to maintain and increase their wealth and status. Many readers are often shocked at the language used by Amos. He is often offensive and crude, but this is on purpose with the aim to shock and wake up all those who think the situation is fine when it is not.
Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, drew on some of the language in Amos 5. Like Amos, King also criticises social injustices and inequalities in the name of God. And similarly to the exodus story, which was often used in the civil rights struggle, Amos’ words are capable of transcending their ancient context and transforming our own world today.
In the reading for today, Amos criticises those who ‘rob the poor’ and ‘trample on the needy’, those who cheat in the marketplaces, under selling. He prophesies a time when God will send a ‘famine’ – a ‘famine’ of ‘hearing the words of the Lord’.
Saul was trying to kill David. David and his men ran away from Saul. They came to Ahimelech the Priest and asked for food. He gave them the ‘priests bread’ and also gave David, Goliath’s sword. Doeg worked for Saul but twisted his words so that Saul believed Ahimelech had helped David to kill him. Doeg killed 85 priests, their wives and children. He was a powerful, important man. Rich and powerful but he was also a very cruel man. He said things that hurt people. In Psalm 52, David says that God will destroy people who say bad things and hurt other people with their words. He also said that people who ‘trust in God instead of money will always praise God. The ‘always’ meaning they will continue to praise God in heaven when they die.
This passage is a glorious summary of who Jesus is and what he has done for the whole of creation, in his life, death and resurrection.
The homely account of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home is short but contains a gem of wisdom from Jesus. Namely that Mary had found ‘the hidden treasure’ and that once found her life will be completely changed. Drawing from time spent with Jesus will inform our lives and actions. Being a disciple should produce a life of learning and action!
SECTION TWO: DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
No one can deny that we are living in turbulent times. And that’s not just the natural world or the fact that there is war waging in Europe. There is also much lack of understanding between people. Many are frustrated with life. Individualism is rampant. The view that the majority view is the right view is gaining ever more ground. There is much political extremism. The Church often doesn’t speak out when it should. In my work as Caring for Creation leader in the Diocese, I often hear the excuse that a particular congregation is only small and there is no Chaplain/Priest at the moment therefore ‘we can’t change anything or do anything new at the moment’. Does that really mean that we cannot truly live Christian lives without a Chaplain/Priest?
Our readings this week speak volumes into these kinds of situation. Caring for Creation means exactly that – Caring for the whole of God’s Creation. Not just the natural world on our doorstep or across the world but also for men, women and children everywhere.
Corruption is rife, all over the world the poor are still robbed, the needy trampled on and others cheated and short-changed. In the reading from Amos we hear how Doeg ‘hurt’ people. He said things that hurt people. And in Psalm 52, David says that God will destroy people who say bad things and hurt other people with their words. He also said ‘that people who ‘trust in God instead of money will always praise God. The ‘always’ meaning they will continue to praise God in heaven when they die.
How often are we, with our actions or lack of action, complicit in many of these things. Do we always guard our tongues, or do we often join in with hurtful words and remarks? Do we consider what we buy, where it comes from and whether it is fairly traded, or whether those who produce it or the land it is grown on are being exploited. The rapid increase in online shopping, for example, especially in the fashion branch has opened up a multitude of loopholes for businesses to make a profit at the expense of both the environment and of those who make the products. For example many employees have to work far too many hours for far too little pay and have no ‘rights’. (see explanation of this week’s photo)
How do we ‘see’ the many refugees fleeing their countries in search not purely for a ‘better life’ but for the basic right to earn an existence!. The number of people fleeing their homelands will only increase as climate changes increase. How will we welcome those from other lands?
Our readings this week give us plenty to reflect on. We read how God dealt with his chosen people who disregarded his will and sought only to increase their own wealth and well-being at the cost of other people’s well-being. He did indeed send a ‘famine’ – a famine of words meaning that they would no longer hear his voice and experience his favour. This punishment was not to be for ever, but it was certainly for a long time. The Jews were indeed scattered over the globe. Only now are they beginning to re-assemble again. But that is another story.
So how are we going to react to many of the issues in our times? We cannot plead ignorance. The facts are out there, we must investigate. Caring for Creation is a work entrusted, by God, to men and women from the beginning of time. It is the very foundation of our discipleship.
The passage from Colossians 1:15-28 contains the overwhelming ‘Good News’ of Jesus, the Christ who holds everything together. He was there at the beginning, when God created this planet. As Paul says, ‘We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.’
I love the Message translation of Colossians 18-20
‘He (Christ) was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so expansive, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding.
Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross’.
Paul has already written that we are ‘saved’ by Jesus’ death on the cross. Christ has brought us over to God’s side and put our lives back together, whole and holy in his presence.
As in Psalm 52, we are exhorted in this passage to ‘trust in God’ not money!
As Col. 1.23 continues: ‘You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted.’
And that, too is the message we see in our reading from Luke. Martha, the practical hostess was flustered and anxious that the meal would be a success. She was cross that her sister didn’t come to help. Jesus used the situation to explain that actually what Mary was doing was the result of her ‘finding’ Jesus and making his words the basis of her life. And it was, as he said, ‘the only thing worth being concerned about’! He was talking about the amazing love God pours out on the whole of his world. The fact that we were made to be in relationship with God our Father and the fact that God had also given us an amazing mission – not only to share the good news with everyone but also to live it out. Caring for all that God has made – looking out for our fellow humans wherever they may live and looking after all that God created and loves. And in doing so, sharing the Good News that we and others can experience a new start, a new life here and now as we begin to learn to live in God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom he will bring to fruition when heaven and the renewed earth are at last re-united.
We may not be able to right all the world’s woes, but we can do all in our power to make some difference. We need to focus on Christ and find out what he wants us to do every day through our relationship with him. Only as we follow this way of life can we understand and know who Jesus really is.
SECTION THREE: ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
A Prayer to Understand God’s Will
Father, because You are gracious and merciful, Your will is always oriented toward our benefit. Yet, this world we live in is cast in darkness. It can be difficult to understand Your will for us. What seems to us to be good, is sometimes not. Illuminate the darkness around us, that we might understand Your will. Speak to us through Your holy word so that we might continue in our understanding. Amen.
A Prayer to Live Out God’s Will
Father, even when we understand Your will for our life, it doesn’t follow that this is always easy to implement and live out in our life. Living according to Your word requires us to make many sacrifices. Indeed, it is akin to dying – both to ourselves and to the world. Lord, uphold us by Your Holy Spirit. Guide us through the challenges of life so that we might become witnesses to Your immense love. Amen.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV
Thank you, Jesus, for helping me, loving me, and showing me the way. Thank you for new mercies, for forgiving me. I rededicate myself to you wholly. I surrender my will to your will. I give you back control of my life. You are the only one who gives freely, with love to anyone who asks. The simplicity of it all still astounds me. In the Name of Jesus, I pray.
photo by UNICEF
In the cotton industry, children are employed to transfer pollen from one plant to another. They are subjected to long working hours and exposure to pesticides. They are often paid below the minimum wage. Children work at all stages of the supply chain in the fashion industry: from the production of cotton seeds in Benin, harvesting in Uzbekistan, yarn spinning in India, right through to the different phases of putting garments together in factories across Bangladesh.
Revd Elizabeth Bussmann
‘Caring for Creation’ leader in the Diocese in Europe for the last six years.
My prayer and vision is that all Christians may come to know that ‘Caring for Creation’ is not an optional ‘add on’ but the pivotal point of discipleship.