Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sept. 13-19

Tuesday September 14, 2010

Background on this weeks readings:
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 Jeremiah’s Lament
                Here we have the prophet pouring his heart out in lament over the suffering of the people. Writing as he was after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, but before the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586BCE, he is calling the nation back to faithful devotion to God and asserting that their future survival depends on it. Clearly, his heart is broken for the state of the nation and the people.
1 Timothy 2:1-7 Pray for your leaders
                Here we have a snippet from the writer of 1 Timothy using language similar to that of Paul, but sounding  more blunt and less nuanced than I believe Paul would ever sound.  Biblical Scholar John D Crossan would say that of the three voices of Paul found in the work attributed to him, the radical Paul, the Conservative Paul and the reactionary Paul, this would be the reactionary Paul. The first section of this reading calls for prayer for the Kings and other leaders. As kind as this may be,  I get the sense that this sentiment replaces a more radical sentiment that would have the early Christians opposing the secular authorities on behalf of the gospel. Thus opens a whole can of worms.
Luke 16:1-13 The Parable of the dishonest manager
                Finally, the gospel reading offers us one of the most troublesome parables of Jesus. A manager gets caught skimming and squandering, is given notice to clear off his desk and be gone. Thinking ahead, before he leaves, he goes around and curries favours from all the clients, hoping to take care of his suddenly shaky future. According to verse 8-12, the moral of the story is, our future is kind of shaky, so be shrewd in this life to gain favours for the next one. Interestingly though, in verse 13 and following, though not directly addressing the earlier point, may actually lead us to a more central point. What about serving two masters? How many of us are “lovers of money?” (vs 14) Here I think we are getting to the main point. The one who appears to be the scoundrel in his use of money may be no more a scoundrel that the rest of us respectable folk who, when push comes to shove, are serving two masters and have no more clear motives than the scoundrel in the parable. Our very discomfort with the parable may well reveal how important money is to us.

Some thoughts
                I plan to focus on the Jeremiah and the Luke readings this week. The outpouring of Jeremiah’s heart is hard to resist. His question: “Is there a Balm in Gilead?” moves me. Is there no cure for the deep malaise of the people? How many situations give rise to such lament within our hearts: oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico,  we remember 9-11 while a pastor from the south calls for the burning of the Qur’an, thousands struggle in Pakistan.
                Then, I turn to the gospel reading and the tangles we humans get ourselves into over money. Is there a balm, a healing salve for the brokenness of materialism? Does the Christian Way offer anything that might cure our love of money?
Starter questions:
1.       As your read Jeremiah’s lament, what situations come to you that bring forth similar lamentation? If you were to offer a prayer, naming the brokenness that most speaks to your heart in our day, what would that prayer include?
2.       What is your initial reaction to the gospel reading? How do you feel about these words and this story coming out of Jesus’ mouth?
3.       The gospel reading is really calling us to focus on our loyalty. The love of money is the problem. Expecting money to save us is the problem. To what degree have you placed your trust in the monetary system, RRSPs, investments, the stock market,  to sustain your life? What else do you place your trust in?

Further Exploring:
1.       From Christian Century:  “Shrewd investment” by Jennifer Copeland  http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3120


  1. This post offered by Deborah Richards, who has some technical difficulties and passed it on to me.
    The brokenness in the world today that most disturbs me is the inherent distrust of others based on 'assumed knowledge' of their faith that has been demonstrated in the last week. It is hard to believe that anyone would see the burning of a holy book as an acceptable form of demonstration. I ask myself what it will take from each individual and the collective of tolerant individuals to change this frightening side of humankind. Is modeling respect, and understanding of others, enough? What more do we need to do?

    Having said all that, I am heartened, by some of the commentary in newspapers and in speaking with individuals, to know that there are voices speaking out about tolerance, understanding and remembering deep seated values that we say are the cornerstone of civil society. We need more voices of reason to provide 'the balm in Gilead' that may heal this particular wound.

  2. In the reading about Lazarus and the rich man, I am sometimes like the rich man. Thankfully, I have been blessed and have little understanding of what brings someone to sleep on the street or beg for money. Having been raised in a third world country I have a good grasp of the realities of seeing others who have grown up in poverty or other difficult situations. That does not make it easier to understand, or not simply walk pass the Lazarus’ of this world. Over the years I have learned to be less judgemental of others and to stop and think about what might have brought someone to the difficult point in their life where they are like Lazarus. The call to action for me as a Christian is to find ways to bridge that gap – it may not all be directly financial, but I can help bridge the gaps through compassion, stewardship of my time or other gifts, as needed.
    There are huge gaps in means are often brought home to me, here in Canada, when I consider what we have, use, and discard without a thought each day. The consumer society of the average person in North America is a far cry from the reality of the ordinary person’s life in Africa or Asia, or the struggles of Aboriginal Peoples of North America to simply make a living. When we think of buying that new piece of clothing or item that I do not ‘need’ but ‘want’, I ask myself if the money is not better spent on helping others, on our doorsteps or as far away as Africa. Small efforts by each of us can make a difference.
    There are prophets out there who carry the message of compassion - some are working quietly in sharing their compassion, and doing ‘good works’ without fanfare. Others are more vocal prophets. I think we need both types of prophets to help us sustain the message – those who ‘shout it from the mountain top’ and those who work quietly and directly with individuals.