Archive for the ‘Amos 8’ Category

Being Good Soil, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church,

being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and

the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Amos 8:11-12

1 Peter 2:1-6

Luke 8:4-15

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Hell is real–a reality, not a place with geography and coordinates–I affirm.  I also argue that God sends nobody there.  No, people send themselves there.

The reading from Amos 8 is one of the more difficult passages of the Bible.  Divine punishment is in full strength, punishing collective disregard for God with divine silence.  The divine judgment consists of giving people in times of trouble what they desire in times of affluence and spiritual indifference.  In other words, be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.

The word of God (what God says) is readily available.  It is proverbial seed in the story usually called the Parable of the Sower yet properly the Parable of the Four Soils.  The sower sows seeds in the usual manner for that time and place.  The emphasis in the parable is on the types of soil and on the fate of the weeds cast upon them.  The story encourages us to be good soil, to be receptive to the words of God.

Being good soil entails focusing on God, not on distractions, or idols.  The definition of “idol” is functional; if an object, activity, or idea functions as an idol in one’s life, it is an idol for once.

Perhaps the major idol these days is apathy.  In much of the world the fastest-growing religious affiliation is “none.”  Atheism and its militant variation, antitheism (to use Reza Aslan’s word) are chic.  Ironically, many atheists and antitheists know more about certain religions and holy books than many adherents of those religions, with their corresponding sacred texts.  These atheists and antitheists also understand less simultaneously.

God remains in charge, though.  Whether that ultimately comforts or terrifies one depends on one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part IV   1 comment

St. Titus

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:1-8 (Thursday)

Amos 8:4-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 12:2-6 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (Friday)

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In that day, you shall say:

“I give thanks to You, O LORD!

Although You were wroth with me,

Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me,

Behold the God who gives me triumph!

I am confident, unafraid;

For Yah the LORD is my strength and might,

And He has been my deliverance.”

Joyfully shall you draw water

From the fountains of triumph,

And you shall say on that day:

“Praise the LORD, proclaim His name.

Make His deeds known among the peoples;

Declare that His name is exalted.

Hymn the LORD,

For He has done gloriously;

Let this be made known

In all the world!

Oh, shout for joy,

You who dwell in Zion!

For great is your midst

Is the Holy One of Israel.”

–Isaiah 12:1-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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“That day” in Isaiah 12:1 is when God will begin to send Hebrew exiles to their ancestral homeland, a place they have never known.  They have firsthand and secondhand accounts of it, but they have always lived in a foreign country.

The prophet Amos anticipated that exile and condemned the hubris and complacency of many in the population as the kingdom approached its end.  He also criticized those who maintained sacred rituals outwardly while exploiting and cheating people.  Holy rituals are serious matters, not talismans which protect those who sin without repenting, Amos wrote.

God is generous and grace is free.  That free grace can prove to be most inconvenient, for it is costly, not cheap.  Accepting grace imposes great responsibilities upon the recipient.  This was on the mind of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians.  St. Titus was collecting funds for the benefit of the Christians at Jerusalem.  Some of the most generous donors were those who had known great hardship and deprivation.  God had guided them through those perilous times and provided for them.  Now they were sharing enthusiastically.  2 Corinthians 8:15, quoting Exodus 16:18, which referred to manna in the Sinai Desert, established a fine standard:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Everyone has enough in divine economics.  Artificial scarcity, which is sinful, is a human creation.

Giving in thankful response to divine faithfulness and generosity can entail donating many things, including money.  Focusing exclusively or primarily on money, however, is in error, for doing so ignores or gives short shrift to other forms of giving.  One might have little money but plenty of time to share a necessary skill or talent, for example.  Money pays bills and wages, so nobody should ignore its necessity, but sometimes giving only money is the easy way out of exercising one’s full responsibility.  Whatever one has to give, may one donate it for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  May one give cheerfully and out of gratitude for divine faithfulness and generosity.  It will never be enough to compare to what God has done, is doing, and will do, but that is not the point.  I think of a witty Billy Collins poem about a child giving a lanyard to his or her mother.  No gift to God or one’s mother can match what God or one’s mother has done for one, but the thought is what counts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Simony and Mustard Seeds   1 comment

Peter's Conflict with Simon Magus

Above:  Peter’s Conflict with Simon Magus, by Avanzino Nucci

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live.

Nourish our life in his resurrection,

that we may bear the fruit of love

and know the fullness of your joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Amos 8:11-13 (Friday)

Amos 9:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:25-31 (All Days)

Acts 8:1b-8 (Thursday)

Acts 8:9-25 (Friday)

Mark 4:30-32 (Saturday)

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The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart live for ever.”

–Psalm 22:25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I have written many times, a recurring theme in the Bible is that God cares deeply about how we treat each other, especially the poor and the other vulnerable individuals.  In Amos, for example, we read of predators who long for the next religious observance so they can cheat many people.  God promised to destroy such malefactors and never to forget their deeds.

Another bad actor was Simon Magus from Acts 8.  He tried to purchase God’s free blessings, earning the rebuke of St. Simon Peter.  From this account has come the word “simony,” or the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices.  That practice has been the avoidable cause of much scandal in the Church for millennia.

The third strain of this devotion comes from Mark 4.  Some seeds are actually smaller than mustard seeds.  This fact proves that Jesus was a better theologian than horticulturist.  The points remain applicable, however, for a large plant–a weed, really–grows from a tiny seed.  The mustard plant goes where it will; the Kingdom of God is unstoppable.

So, to put all the pieces together, the great Kingdom of God, in which the last are first, the first are last, and the servant of all is the greatest, comes via small vehicles.  The Kingdom of God is the opposite of exploitative and corrupt human systems.  Also, grace is free but not cheap, for it requires commitment from its recipients.  Buying grace, if possible, might be easier from a human point of view, but it would not be better from a moral perspective.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Light to the Nations I   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

Image Source = Martin Geisler

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The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:7-14 (Monday)

Joel 1:1-14 (Tuesday)

Joel 3:9-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 63 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:29-35 (Wednesday)

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The hit parade of judgment comes in these days’ readings.  Among the themes therein is the final judgment, which a glorious future for God’s people will follow.  First, however, one must survive the judgment, if one can.

A theme from the New Testament informs the Old Testament lessons nicely.  Faith–by which I mean active faith, in the Pauline sense of the word, not in sense of purely intellectual faith one reads about in the Letter of James–is not just for one’s benefit and that of one’s faith community.  No, faith is for the good of those whom one draws to God and otherwise encourages spiritually.  The people of God have the assignment to function as a light to the nations.  That was the mission in which many Hebrews failed in the days of the Old Testament.  They became so similar to other nations that they could not serve as a light to those nations.  The same holds true for much of Christianity, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, for organized religion has a knack for affirming certain prejudices while confronting others.  Some denominations, especially in then U.S. South, formed in defense of race-based slavery.  Others, especially in the U.S. North, formed in opposition to that Peculiar Institution of the South.  Many nineteenth-century and twentieth-century U.S. Protestants recycled pro-slavery arguments to defend Jim Crow laws, and one can still identify bastions of unrepentant racism in churches.  Also, mysogyny and homophobia remain entrenched in much of organized Christianity.

To separate divine commandments from learned attitudes and behaviors can prove difficult.  It is, however, essential if one is to follow God faithfully and to function as a light to others.  May those others join us in praying, in the words of Psalm 63:8:

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-27-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, the Powerful, and the Powerless   1 comment

teachings_of_jesus_31_of_40-_parable_of_the_unjust_steward-_jan_luyken_etching-_bowyer_bible

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9

or 

Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113

then 

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 20, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

Proper 20, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-of-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Amos 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/proper-11-year-c/

1 Timothy 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/devotion-for-september-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

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The lectionary readings for this Sunday challenge several audiences.

  1. In Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 either the prophet or God mourns for the afflicted people, who suffer because of societal sins.  Are you, O reader, among those who take part in societal sins?  Am I?  My Neo-orthodox theology tells me that the answer to both questions is affirmative.
  2. Amos 8:4-7 reminds us that God will punish those who exploit the poor.  This should frighten many people.
  3. The Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager, in a difficult situation of his own creation, eased his problem by easing the economic burdens of those who could not repay him.  In the process he made his employer look good and exposed that employer’s exploitation of those people simultaneously.  The employer could not reverse the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s actions without making himself look bad.  This parable reminds us of, among other things, the divine imperative of helping those who cannot repay us.
  4. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us to pray for everyone, powerful and powerless.

One of my favorite ways of approaching a given passage of narrative Scripture is to ask myself who I am most like in a story.  Since I am honest, I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager except when I function as an agent of grace.  And I have not exploited people, so I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s employer.  So I am usually most like one of those who benefited from debt reduction.  If we are honest, we will admit that we have all benefited from grace via various agents of God.  Some of these agents of God might have had mixed or impure motives, but the consequences of their actions toward us have been positive, have they not?

One great spiritual truth I have learned is that, in the Bible, good news for the exploited often (but not always) means bad news for the exploiters.  And the exploiters can learn to change their ways.  I ponder the Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager and play out possible subsequent developments in my mind.  How did the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager fare in his new life?  Did his former employer cease to exploit people?  There is hope for all of us, powerful and powerless, in God’s mercy.  What we do with that possibility is to our credit or discredit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/proper-20-year-c/

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Divine Promises   2 comments

mamre

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010007303/PP/)

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52

or 

Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15

then 

Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 11, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

Proper 11, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-confession-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Amos 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-2/

Genesis 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

Colossians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

Luke 10:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

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Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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Reading and Pondering Amos, Part Five   1 comment

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U-turn.svg)

Too Late to Repent?

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Amos 8:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This is what my Lord GOD showed me:  There was a basket of figs.  He said,

What do you see, Amos?

I replied,

A basket of figs.

And the LORD said to me:

The hour of doom has come for my people Israel; I will not pardon them again.  And the singing women of the palace shall howl on that day

–declares my Lord GOD:

So many corpses

Left lying everywhere!

Hush!

Listen to his, you who devour the needy, annihilating the poor of the land, saying,

If only the new moon were over, so that we could sell grain; the sabbath, so that we could offer wheat for sale, using an ephah that is too small, and a shekel that is too big, tilting a dishonest scale, and selling grain refuse as grain!  We will buy the poor for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals.

The LORD swears by the Pride of Jacob:

I shall never forget any of their doings.

Shall not the earth shake for this

And all that dwell on it mourn?

Shall it not all rise like the Nile

And surge like the Nile of Egypt?

And in that day

–declares my Lord God–

I will make the sun set at noon,

I will darken the earth on a sunny day.

I will turn your festivals into mourning

And all your festivals into mourning

And all your songs into dirges;

I will put sackcloth on all loins

And tonsures on every head.

I will make it mourn as for an only child,

All of it as on a bitter day.

A time is coming

–declares my Lord GOD–

when I will send a famine upon the land:  not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but for the hearing of the words of the LORD.  Men shall wander from sea t sea and from north to east to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

In that day, the beautiful maidens and the young men shall faint with thirst–

Those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,

Saying, “As your God lives, Dan,”

And “As the way to Beer-sheba lives”–

They shall fall to rise no more.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Matthew 9:9-13 (An American Translation):

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, “It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.”  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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I enjoy wordplay.  I eve have my own blog devoted to puns.  So imagine, if you, O reader, will, my interest in noting the Hebrew-language pun early in Amos 8.  ”Kayitz,” the Hebrew word for “summer fruit” or “figs”,” sounds like “ketz,” the Hebrew word for “the end.”  Amos sees a basket of figs or summer fruit, a sign that the end is near.  This pun is serious.

And why was the end near?  As Amos keeps repeating–just in case we have missed it for the previous seven chapters–cheating, exploitation, systemic corruption–angered God.  And this had been going on for some time.  Those who benefited to the detriment of others showed no signs of changing their ways.  So God declared that the time for forgiveness had ended and that judgment day was near.

Now for the Gospel reading.

The Jewish men who collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire cheated others.  These men lived–often quite comfortably–off the difference between what Rome required them to collect and what they collected.  Matthew/Levi was a tax collector before becoming an Apostle.  He repented and followed Jesus, with whom he shared a scandalous meal.  And Matthew/Levi invited some others who sought to reform their lives.

To repent, of course, is to turn around and change one’s mind.  That was what would have made glad the heart of God in much of the Old Testament, including the Book of Amos.  What we do affects others for good or for ill.  There, of course, is nothing morally objectionable about earning a just profit, but the economic exploitation of people is a sin.  To base one’s economic good fortunes on gouging people financially is wrong at all times and at all places.  And it makes God angry.

Maybe those who practice this sin still have time to repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-2/

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