Friday, December 07, 2012

Words of Judgment

Friday, December 7, 2012 -- Week of 1 Advent, Year 1
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 397


[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Note:
  We are now in Year One in the Daily Office Lectionary.  We are using the readings on the left side (even numbered) pages starting in the Prayer Book on page 936.

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 936)
Psalms 16, 17 (morning)     //     22 (evening)
Isaiah 3:8-15    
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Luke 20:41 - 21:4

My eyes got crossed yesterday, and I did the readings for Thursday of Advent 2 instead of Thursday of Advent 1.  Sorry.  Back on track today. 

Today's gospel reading shines a light on a poor widow offering two modest copper coins into the temple treasury.  Her gift seems overshadowed by the nearby lavish, expensive contributions of the wealthy.  Jesus remarks on the contrast:  "All of them are giving out of their spare change.  But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had to live on." (Luke 21:4, CEB)  The poignancy of the scene is deepened by Jesus' words that follow in the next passage.  This temple that they are contributing to "will be demolished." (21:6b)  It is a corrupt system that benefits the wealthy and cheats the poor.  Not even Jesus' cleansing can purify it.  It cannot stand.  Jesus also speaks judgment upon the "legal experts" and religious officers who are honored in the market and have seats of honor in worship and at banquets.  "They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers.  They will be judged most harshly." (20:47)

Isaiah has a similar complaint today.  "My people -- your leaders mislead you and confuse your paths....  The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people:  You yourselves have devoured the vineyard; the goods stolen from the poor are in your houses.  How dare you crush my people and grind the faces of the poor? says the LORD God of heavenly forces." (3:12b, 14-15)  The chapter continues with Isaiah's condemnation of the extravagant and lavish lifestyle of the wealthy women of Jerusalem, and speaks a haunting word of judgment to them. 

Two voices, Jesus and Isaiah, consistent with so many other voices in scripture, speaking God's judgment and prophesying political and economic catastrophe because of how the wealthy and powerful exploit the poor and vulnerable. 

Jesus and Isaiah speak to our contemporary political and economic scene.  Right now we are in a debate.  How will we act to restore prosperity to a nation with high unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, increased poverty, struggling schools and a large public debt? 

For thirty years gains in wealth and income have all gone to the wealthiest 10%, the lion's share of that to the top 1%, and an even more dramatic portion to the super-wealthy 0.01%.  "The elders and princes... you yourselves have devoured the vineyard; the goods stolen from the poor are in your houses." 

Slick promoting financiers have sold speculative loans and repackaged opaque derivatives that busted the housing market and caused scandalous numbers of foreclosures.  "They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes." 

So our leaders debate.  Who should sacrifice to mend the nation?  "Do not raise taxes on the rich.  Cut spending for these widows and poor.  We can't afford them anymore," say some of them.  (And they do "say long prayers.")  No more "spare change" from the contributions of the wealthy.

Is there any question what Jesus and Isaiah would say?


Lowell
_____________



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

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 http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

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

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

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

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