Spirit-filled People celebrate and honor

Posted by Fr. Tere on 07/16/2016

Amos prophesies, “The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day…So many dead bodies…They are thrown everywhere!” “Silence! Here this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end…” “Behold, the days are coming….”

In the days of the prophets Israel, the land, and the People of God were in a mess. The rich were ruling like tyrants – “… mak(ing) the ephah small and the shekel great deal(ing) deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat.” The poor were kept down and not allowed to improve. In these days, you were born into your wealth and position or into your poverty and menial job. Truly the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

The only thing many of the rich were concerned about was appeasing God – but not too much. Did you hear the whining in the reading from Amos? Will the new moon never be over? I want to sell my wheat! Do we really have to wait until sundown on the Sabbath? I want to make more money. Even the Sabbath (only 24 hours) was too much time to waste. Let’s get on with getting on. Everything was about the world, everything about themselves. No wonder the Kenyan liturgy we use today says, “…for a rebellious crowd you sent your prophets.” There was, effectively, no “People of God,” just a rag tag bunch of people who appeared to follow their God and a few who, no doubt, believed – God always had a remnant of true believers at hand. In this case God says he will send a “famine on the land – …a famine…of hearing the words of the Lord.”  God will not be mocked.

It feels as though we are now living under this famine of hearing the words of the Lord, or, if hearing, we are ignoring the words of the Lord that are heard, certainly wandering from sea to sea, from north to east, running to and fro, seeking “the word of the Lord.” And not finding it.

In the midst of trying to put thoughts to words this week came the horrendous news from France, of a deranged man driving a large delivery truck at high speed through a crowd celebrating their equivalent of July 4th, Bastille Day, the day of independence. Families and children had been celebrating all day along the street and it was getting time to get ready to go home, when this white wall shot 2-3 miles along the street, destroying all the people in its path. Yes, the driver is a Muslim, but evidently not a good one – a drunk, pork eating, wife beater who had just lost his job for going to sleep on the job and destroying a variety of parked vehicles with, yes, his delivery truck.

This made so clear the word of the Lord to Amos. A world which refuses to hear the word of the Lord, and refuses to follow, even if it’s heard. Self is all that matters and nearly every decision seems to be made on “my” feelings, “my” self, “my” wants, “me, me, me, me.” No one looks to the Creator.

This is shown in strange ways. In our reading today from Luke, Jesus goes to visit Martha and Mary – a surprise visit, it appears, so there were no previous arrangements. Martha sets about getting ready and serving – the context makes it appear she was probably over-serving, bringing out morsel after morsel, tidbit after tidbit, running to and fro, not hearing the word of the Lord who was sitting before her. Her sister Mary sat herself at Jesus’ feet, soaking in all he had to say. I’ve never read this in quite the way that reading Amos just before makes it clear. Martha always appeared to be the one for whom we felt sorry (sound familiar all those of you with the gift of hospitality?) – here she was trying to make Jesus comfortable and her very capable sister was sitting there, doing nothing to help. I could always picture in my mind various of my aunts in one of these two roles, mostly they were all Marthas. But with Amos in mind, Martha cannot hear, her mind is too busy planning, and her body too busy doing. She truly is in the presence of the Lord God, and she doesn’t find a single word of his to fill her mind.

Mary represents Amos’ antithesis to all he is prophesying. She seeks to fill the famine of her own soul in the word of the Lord and she finds it and fills herself with its sustenance. What she finds “will not be taken away from her.”

The examples of Amos, of Nice, France, and of the home in Bethany (not here in OKC!) all show the same thing, in different forms of violence.

What happened with the people to whom Amos prophesied? They cheated the poor, trampled the need, buying into slavery both the poor and the needy, selling them the chaff of the wheat to eat – the chaff that Jesus says is to be separated and will be burned away. They gave the Lord lip service at the very best, ignored his words at all times, unless those words justified something they wanted to do.

In Nice, as in the rest of France, there is intense secularity, even among the Muslim long-term emigrants and native-born. There is so little practiced Christianity or Islam or Judaism, even less strong born-again Christian believers or practicing Muslims or Jews. There are no moorings for most of France – it appears to be aggressively secular and any religion is put off to the side and must fit the multicultural life. There appears to be little care that the word of the Lord has gone silent – they will not find it as they aren’t seeking it. In fact, many don’t even know it should be sought or heard or heeded.

Martha was too busy “doing good” to realize she was missing all that was good, even her future Lord and Savior.

Are we so focused on ourselves that we are not seeking the word of the Lord? Do we know he has something to say? We have things to say in light of the happenings in Nice. But to know what to say that is not rooted our self, we must feed the famine of our souls with the word of the Lord. Even in the midst of the perceived famine of our time, he will feed the faithful, the remnant of his people. We can have to doubt that if we seek the word of the Lord, we shall find it. Seek, ask, find – his promises are sure. Enjoy the journey; share the fruit.       Tere 

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