A Message Thousands of Years Old and Yet...Completely Needed Today
Proper 21, Year C
I Timothy 6:6-19
I don't know about you but I found this morning's texts to be the homily themselves with little interpretation needed. Often times we hear the Scripture readings of the day and scratch our heads wondering what in the world did that just say? At least I find myself often doing that when I first read over the upcoming passages. However, this morning we have been given a clear and authoritative message from God and the holy prophets Amos, David, Paul and our way-shower Jesus. I want us to simply peer within today's text once again and take a journey, as it were, through the readings so that we can find the message they string together for us as people of faith in the 21st century.
Our first stop is in the book of Amos. Amos lived around 750 BC and his book is technically the first of the Hebrew prophetic scriptures. Amos prophesied (or taught) during a period of moral decline in Israel. The wealthy had become greedy and the poor were poorer than ever. Amos himself was a farmer but God called him out to be a spokesperson for social justice, equality, and a return to the loving ways of God. The words we heard this morning from Amos are directed at the situations he sees before him, a people who live in extravagance while their own family members are facing utter destruction and death. Amos warned his people and us with the following words: "those who are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph...shall be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away." Amos saw a time coming when the greed and shortsightedness of the rich would become their very destruction. One can't help but wonder if Amos wouldn't look upon our culture and speak similar words to us? Our message in Amos reminds us that greed is never of God and never a path to happiness but rather one of destruction. May we never be guilty of being so consumed with desired luxuries that we miss the ruin of those in need, crying out, around us.
Our second stop today, as every Sunday, is in the book of Psalms. David reminds us of many life truths including the fact we mustn't place our trust (or hope) in princes or rulers. I wonder if this isn't a prophetic call to our time where many of us, including myself, are guilty of expecting a few leaders to change our social climate rather than taking up the task ourselves. David tells us the happy ones on earth are not those who have endless possessions but instead those who cherish love and execute justice for the oppressed! If that isn't a counter culture message in 2013, I don't know what is! We are constantly led by television and advertisements to believe our happiness is dependent upon one more item or one more selfish, ego-centered, experience. David tells us, on the other hand, our care for others is the true creator of happiness. We are reminded that God watches over the orphans, the widows, the strangers and holds them while he brings (or more accurately allows) ruin to come to the wicked. It seems David and Amos were hearing the same voice of God calling them to fight injustice. Do we hear the message today, a message that is thousands of year old and yet just as needed today?
Our Scripture journey now takes us many, many years forward to St. Paul writing to his young colleague, Timothy. Timothy was a Gentile follower of Christ who eventually became a bishop in the early church. Paul often wrote him with pastoral advise and this passage is no different. Paul's topic of choice is dealing with greed, desire, riches, and true peace. Paul knows that the temptation for self grandeur and luxuries are great for any human being. He shares the following with Timothy and us: "we brought nothing into the world, so we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." Reality television would have us believe otherwise but if we were to see the reality behind reality television we would know Paul is no fool here nor is he simply against being successful. Paul is calling us to a wake up and understand all our actions have consequences. All of them! Often times our blood thirst for “more” results in another being destroyed, even if it never affects us. We see a prime example of this in our country where the desire to give less to the poor is costing children with hunger pains and parents great anxiety. We have all heard the classic homilies on the “love of money” but it still rings true. Money itself is simply a reality, its not going away anytime soon. The issue with money arises when we will do anything to keep our wallets filled. When money begins to dictate our lives and decisions instead of compassion and common sense guiding us. Rather than being rich in money let us work towards being rich in righteousness, being rich in love, being rich in goodness towards all. Paul asked Timothy to do so and God is still asking us to do so. Do we hear the message?
Finally, our journey brings us to words of Jesus in the form of a parable typically referred to as, “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Some people love to try and create end time theologies, explanations of the after life, and all sorts of hocus pocus with this passage but today let’s just look at the heart of it. We might think, after hearing the parable, "Jesus - what the heck...give a guy a break!" But then we must have missed the whole point. Jesus never created the chasm the we read about separating the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus didn't create the chasm either. It was the sole life endeavor of the rich man who spent his existence making sure he separated himself from anyone and anything that was beneath him or less than his greedy heart desired. He spent years pretending hunger, brokenness and poverty didn't exist so that he could enjoy his possessions without guilt. But in the fullness of time, all things are revealed for what they truly are. Are we ever guilty of being the rich man, do we ever become so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss the hurting people right in front of our faces? Honestly, yes we do, all of us. Thankfully, the message today is a prophetic one calling us to wake up and to cease to be the people that indulge while others starve. God's grace is abundant for all, however, is our grace abundant for all or only those we find comfortable?
Can we solve the problems of the world overnight? No. But we can step by step and word by word begin to make a change in our personal lives, households, families and communities. It isn't easy. It requires reprogramming our hearts with the message of the Gospel instead of the message of the world. It forces us to examine our motives and reasonings but the end result is beautiful. The end result is a homeless person finding a bit of relief, an orphan finding a home or a widow having someone to drink a coffee with. It also results in the destruction of the chasms we have built around ourselves, separating us not only from others but also from the love of God that is found in their faces. Ultimately, our steps toward a world of equality and justice, will help us to take ahold of the life that really is the “true life” as Paul mentioned (a life from above, a life of grace), and we will be able to proclaim with all our being: “Praise The Lord, O my soul!”