Here are my thoughts for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, 26 September 2010. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Jeremiah 32: 1 – 3, 6 – 15; 1 Timothy 6: 6 – 19; and Luke 16: 19 – 31.
I will tell you up front that there is a great deal of politics in this particular piece. The more I hear from the political circus that so dominates our lives today, the more I would just as soon go somewhere up into the hills and hide. I mean there is some precedent for that. The First Battle of Bull Run (as you Yankees called it) was fought on Wilmer McLean’s farm just outside Manassas, Virginia. For a number of reasons, including a desire to keep his family safe, McLean moved to Appomattox. And those that remember their history know that it was at his house that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, thus ending the Civil War (or depending on your history books, the “War of the Rebellion”). So, maybe that’s not a good idea. (I have heard a similar story about someone who moved from France to Guadalcanal but can’t find a reference to it.)
But then again, maybe that’s what I should do. After all, consider what Jeremiah did. He bought some land in anticipation of the restoration of the people, despite the fact that the people had rebuked him and even thrown him in jail for daring to even suggest that they might be wrong.
I hear God’s name evoked at practically every political event and I hear how so many of the candidates running for office are devout, possibly born-again Christians. But I hear what they are saying and what they desire and I have to wonder if they even know what it means to be a Christian. Now, it is entirely possible that I do not know what it means to be a Christian but I hope that I am working on that.
If this nation was truly a Christian nation or one that held to Christian values (which seem to be the “buzz words” for many politicians today), then there would be no hunger in this nation, there would be adequate and proper healthcare for all, there would be adequate housing for all, there would be a living wage instead of a minimum wage, and each person would have equal standing in society. Yet, when I look at the values of this country, it seems that we want to keep all that we earn for ourselves, we have no desire to help others in need (except when we think it will validate our ticket into heaven), and we seek to justify making some people lower-class citizens because of their race, their sexuality, their culture, their religion, or origin. We have tried very hard to make sure that war was justifiable in all cases and no matter what the case. Our politicians, no matter what party, always seem to end their speeches and campaign rhetoric with a resounding “God Bless America!” But how can God bless this country or any country or the people of this planet when more money is spent on weapons and destruction or on selfish interests than on insuring that all the people, no matter who they are, have enough resources to make a living (not just survive but live).
What is Paul telling Timothy in the portion of that first letter that is the second lesson for today, “If we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough?” How are we to respond to this/ How are to respond when it is our pursuit of the good life for one instead of for all that is leading us to a path of total destruction?
When the rich man dies in the Gospel reading for today, he has the opportunity to see what he missed. He also finds out that all that he had is meaningless because he ignored the one man by his door. And he also found out that he cannot warn others of his fate. He had the opportunity to change his life and he missed it; he had the opportunity to help others and he missed it. And now he pays the price.
I hear all these people today who speak out loudly and proudly that they are good Christians; yet there actions speak of other beliefs, of other gods. I hear all these people who speak of wanting it all for themselves and it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor. The poor want what the rich have because society has told them that is what they should have; the rich don’t want to give it away.
I know that there is a lot being said today that because we live in a democracy, we can earn as much as we can. No one, not even John Wesley would argue against that idea. But, to paraphrase what John Wesley say, don’t earn your money on the backs of the labor class. And having earned all you can, save all you can and then give all you can. There is a responsibility that comes with being a Christian to care for each other and what I see happening is that people today do not want that responsibility. They want to earn as much as they can, they do not want to pay for quality products so that they can keep all they can, and then they complain when they have to pay for the responsibilities that come with the privileges.
Politically, I would say that we truly and seriously need to think about a living wage, not the minimum wage as the standard for employment. I know that there are some who are going to say that you can’t do that. But who are the loudest to complain? Are they not the ones who earn more in one year than their workers earn in a lifetime? I know that there are those who will seek to scam the system; if I read Acts correctly, there were people who tried to do the same thing 2000 years ago. And in the Book of Acts, we read that they kicked out of the community, a community of believers who banded together for the common good.
It would be nice to run away, to run off into the hills and hide. But that won’t prevent the destruction that is coming. Jeremiah prophesized and was jailed for his words and actions. But in the end, his words and actions were shown to be true. And he bought the property because he knew that God would redeem His people, even for all that they had done.
It is the same for us. We have the opportunity, we see the signs and we can make a change. We can still be known as Christians if we first repent of our past life and accept Christ. Hear the words that Christ spoke to us two thousand years ago; heed the warning and repent. Begin anew to build the world that will be the world for all people.
What is going to happen in the coming days? I wish I knew. What I see is not what I want.
What I know today is that the solution is not found in the present system. It is not found in a system which allows us to keep all that we have and not take care of the others. It will not be found if all we say is that we are Christians; those words ring so hollow these days.
But it can be done if the words that said are turned into actions. It is all about what we do with the words that we say; if we just say the words and do nothing; then nothing will happen. But all through our history, those who have acted on the words in this world have made a change. We have that opportunity today, we have the opportunity to ensure that this world goes on. The question still remains, what is going to happen?