Archive for the ‘Gordon Gecko’ Tag

God and Mammon   Leave a comment

Above:  $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Strength of all them that put their trust in thee;

mercifully accept our prayers;

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do good thing without thee,

grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments,

we may please thee, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 184

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Deuteronomy 6:1-15

Psalms 1 and 15

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 7:19-35

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The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A. Thank you very much.

–Gordon Gecko, Wall Street (1987)

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The readings this week are about behavior, which is about attitudes.  Revere God.  Revere only God.  Obey divine commandment reverently.  Remember that, contrary to what Gordon Gecko said in Wall Street (1987), greed is not good.  Do not give into hubris, which goes before the fall.

The love of money is the root of all evil, and in pursuit of it some have wandered from the faith and spiked themselves on many a painful thorn.

–1 Timothy 6:10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Psychological research reveals that, to a certain extent, more money can reduce stress and increase happiness by improving one’s quality of life.  When one can pay all one’s bills, afford all of one’s necessities, and reduce or eliminate debt, one feels better, of course.  However, past a certain financial threshold, more money does not increase one’s happiness.  In fact, in cases of extreme wealth, more money may decrease happiness and increase stress.

Money is a morally neutral tool.  It is also worth what consensus decrees it is worth.  Money is psychological.  The moral aspects of money pertain to (1) how one uses it, and (2) how one relates to it.  Money is one of the more common idols.

Revere only God, we read.  Trust and obey God, we read.  God is faithful.  Are we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds, Part I   2 comments

Above:  A sign from Matewan, West Virginia, site of a massacre of miners in 1920 (from the West Virginia Archives)

FOR LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:27-32a (New Revised Standard Version):

So it is with every artisan and master artisan

who labors by night as well as by day;

those who cut the signets of seals,

each is diligent in making a great variety;

they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,

and they are careful to finish their work.

So it is with the smith, sitting by the anvil,

intent on his iron-work;

the breath of the fire melts his flesh,

and he struggles with the heat of the furnace;

the sound of the hammer deafens his ears,

and his eyes are on the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork,

and he is careful in its decoration.

So it is with the potter sitting at his work

and turning the wheel with his feet;

he is always deeply concerned over his products,

and he produces them in quantity.

He molds the clay with his arm

and makes it pliable with his feet;

he sets his heart to finish the glazing,

and he takes care in firing the kiln.

All these rely on their hands,

and all are skillful in their own work.

Without them no city can be inhabited,

and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.

AND

Psalm 107:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

those he redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to an inhabited town;

hungry and thirsty,

their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress;

he led them by a straight way,

until they reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

For he satisfies the thirsty,

and the hungry he fills with good things.

OR

Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and prosper for us the work of our hands–

O prosper the work of our hands!

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:10-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.

THEN

Matthew 6:19-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; 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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All honest work has dignity.  I hear and read this sentiment from some politicians and business people whom I suspect do not believe it, for their deeds belie their words.  As I have written elsewhere, “Deeds reveal creeds.”  When a corporate CEO continues policies of not paying living wages I do not believe that he or she thinks that all work has dignity.  A corporate chief who exports jobs to the third world, where wages are lower and safety regulations are weak or non-extant, cares most about the bottom line.  And when miners in poor, rural regions of the United States die needlessly year after year because the mining corporations for which they work do not maintain the maximum possible level of safety, I know that those who occupy corner offices at headquarters do not think positively about the dignity of the work their employees do.  And politicians the soulless corporations have bought off or who have subscribed to the idolatry of the market as the arbiter of morality do not believe in the dignity of all honest work, either.

These are moral issues.  Living wages, sufficient benefits packages, workplace safety, and whistleblower protection are matters of morality.  My North American society is one in which those who make society function–teachers, social workers, police officers, and fire fighters, for example–earn much less than many professional athletes.  This fact tells me that society places higher value of what a relative few do with baseballs, basketballs, and footballs than on the crucial work of our educational, public safety, and social work professionals.

This a matter of values.  (I do not concede the issue of values to far-right wing theocrats, would-be theocrats, and union-busting governors and legislators.)  And it is an issue of my nation’s collective soul.  Life, Jesus said, does not consist of the abundance of possessions.  Our Lord and Savior was no Gordon Gecko, from Oliver Stone’s movie, Wall Street.  Do you remember that movie?  Gecko, who was indeed well-named (for he had the morality of a reptile), said, “Greed is good.”  No, people matter far more than wealth and material possessions.  That is a value I want to hear uttered more often and see demonstrated more frequently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL MARSDEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

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Good Priorities and Bad Priorities   2 comments

Above:  Logo of Lehman Brothers, a Firm Defunct Since 2008

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 5:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Do not rely on your money

and say, “This makes me self-sufficient.”

Do not yield to every impulse you can gratify

or follow the desires of your heart.

Do not say, “I have no master’;

the Lord, you may be sure, will call you to account.

Do not say, “I have sinned, yet nothing happened tome’;

it is only that the Lord is very patient.

Do not be so confident that of pardon

that you pile up sins on sin;

do not say, “His compassion is so great

he will pardon my sins, however many.”

To him belong both mercy and anger,

and sinners feel the weight of his retribution.

Turn back to the Lord without delay,

and do not defer action from one day to the next;

for the Lord’s anger can suddenly pour out,

and at the time of reckoning you will perish.

Do not rely on ill-gotten gains,

for they will not avail on the day of calamity.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Mark 9:42-50 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with free hearts those things which belong to your purpose; 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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Self-reliance is a lie and an illusion.  It is one of the most cherished lies and illusions of my North American culture, where “self-made men” are ideals.  The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a “self-made man” (or woman); everybody relies on God.  And we humans rely on each other.  What affects one affects another,  immediately or in time.  If we get greedy and reckless, this affects a great many people, hence the old Lehman Brothers logo at the top of this post.

So much for Gordon Gecko and Horatio Alger.  These signify bad priorities.

The reading from Mark is a continuation of the discourse of Jesus in which he states he who wants to the greatest must be the servant of all, and in which he says that anyone who receives a child (a vulnerable and powerless member of society) receives not only Jesus himself but YHWH God.  Then our Lord and Savior engages in hyperbole.  No part of the body causes one to sin, and he is not advocating self-mutilation.  Sin arises from inside ourselves, and the point of the hyperbole is to say to flee from sin.  As Ben Sira reminds us in the first reading, God’s patience does have limits.

And then there are lines about salt.  First we have, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  This is a reference to salt used on a ritual sacrificial item or animal. As William Barclay observes in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, the salt made the sacrifice acceptable to God.  And fire signifies that which purifies life.  Hence being salted with fire is obeying God and undergoing discipline and the risk (at least the risk) of persecution.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

Salt, in proper quantities, improves the taste of food.  It also preserves food.  Salt was valuable in the ancient world.  Sometimes it was a form of currency, so an underperforming employee was “not worth his salt.”  We Christians, then, are supposed to give to our world a positive flavor and to preserve and promote goodness.  Are you worth your salt?  I cannot answer that question for you, no more than you can answer that question for me.

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Salt, in this case, is a metaphor the the purifying Spirit of Christ.  This is not purity of the ritual kind, as the Pharisees practiced.  No, this is the inner variety of purity.  Jesus said that nothing that enters a person defiles (or “makes common”) a person, but that what comes out a person does that.  Ritual purity was about making oneself a member of the spiritual elite, unlike the “impure” rabble.  But Jesus advocated a different understanding of purity:  love, forgiveness, altruism, et cetera.  There is no divine law against such things.  These are good priorities.

The fire will come to you and to me.  Will it consist of flames destroying treasures laid up on earth, or will it be the disciplining fire likened to salt?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 3, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD HOOKER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF DANIEL PAYNE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF PAKISTAN, 1970

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

The original posts:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

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