Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Warnings and Judgment

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 -- Week of 2 Advent, Year Two

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 937)
Psalms 38 (morning) 119:25-48 (evening)
Amos 8:1-14
Revelation 1:17 - 2:7
Matthew 23:1-12

There are several warnings that may speak to many of us in today's readings.

Amos speaks judgment upon business people who are greedy for gain and who practice forms of economic abuse. He condemns those who find religious holidays to be annoying because they can't be making money. (I remember when nearly every business was closed on Sundays. In my childhood, it was customary for stores to close one afternoon in the mid-week, the day varied from town to town. Retail workers were able to have at least a day and a half free from their labor.)

Amos especially condemns those who cheat or who push the margins -- who "make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances..." The ephah measured wheat by its capacity; the shekel measured by weight. The image is of people who will cut corners to improve their profit. Right now we are trying to recover from a major economic depression created in large measure by deceitful business practices. Amos declares that the whole land trembles on account of such evils.

Amos condemns those who take advantage of the needy, "buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat." Low wages and limited benefits for hourly workers and those at the bottom of the income scale. The Torah commanded that what dropped to the ground from the commercial harvesting should be left on the ground for the poor to sweep. Amos expects the laws insuring that the poor would have access to food should be honored.

The judgment Amos speaks of is both physical and spiritual. He speaks of bitter days of lack and of environmental ruin. He also speaks of a loss of spirit, a famine "of hearing the words of the Lord," and an aimless wandering without roots.

Amos' words apply so easily to our own day. When greed and power exercise free rein (and free reign) to maximize profit and monetary gain without a sense of responsibility for workers, consumers, and the poor, economic abuse and exploitation will produce injustice that God will not ignore, Amos tells us.

From Amos' perspective, the work to regulate business, to oversee lending and the money industries is holy work. The calling to insure living wages, health care benefits, abundant jobs, and universal security is a Godly mission. Amos could have said, "I told you so," about our recent recession. He would encourage today's work of restructuring our economy in a more ethical and humane way. Often the judgment of scripture reads like the day's headlines.

In Revelation we begin today a series of letters that speak to the churches that John's vision addresses in Asia Minor. The first note is to the congregation in Ephesus. They are enduring and working faithfully, but, says the vision, "you have abandoned the love you had at first." They've lost some of the energy and vitality that was theirs at the beginning of their ministry. That could be said for so many of us. Renewing and sustaining the original vision, commitment and enthusiasm that marked our embrace of Christ's work is an ongoing challenge. John reminds us to return to our roots and to renew our vision.

And finally Jesus speaks words of warning to people like me, to religious leaders and others who have high profiles. He warns against being seduced by privilege or roles that convey respect. Our essential calling as followers of Jesus is as servants. "The greatest among you will be your servant." Jesus warns, "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."

What if our economic, religious, and political policy was all governed by a service mentality rather than by the quest for money and power? Many people who find themselves today trapped in destructive systems of abuse or control can remember the ideals and hopes that motivated them when they began their work. Amos, John and Jesus call us to reclaim the high calling. We can be servants toward each other and we can create systems that benefit the poor and the weak. If we don't, the scriptures warn, we will lose our grounding and all will suffer.


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:14 AM, Blogger jcross said...

Amos inspires me to voice. With the ongoing health care debate I have talked with many people about the plans. I generally find that those with insurance are against the plans(s). I am insured, extremely under-insured. I may drop my policy. My policy just increased 22%, it has never paid a claim. I tell my congressmen to drop their ("public option") insurance until they can come up with and pass a plan. They have all had issue with the plans. My bet is if they and their families were not covered, they would find a solution. This country has much, yet is way behind in health care. With our "much" we need to look after those with less, especially within our borders. Some call it socialism, I call it God's Plan.

Father Lowell thank you for what you do, and for this forum.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for your witness, John.

I know a lot of people who have insurance who favor health care reform. Some do so just because it is just. But others do because they have found insurance companies frustrating the care or medication that their doctors choose for them, and others because our costs are so much greater than costs of other nations and our outcomes poorer. There are so many reasons why people desire reform. I'm hopeful that Congress will do meaningful, wise and moral work to pass constructive legislation. To do so, however, they will have to overcome the pressures of fear and greed that seek to sink any possible reform.


At 9:58 AM, Blogger jcross said...

Lowell, thanks for your comments. My community is admittedly small. Glad to hear that you from a broader community do know of those with insurance and more fortunate than many that support health care reform.

Good message this morning as well, thank you!


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