Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A basket of summer fruit


I hear rattling at the door. Assume it’s one of the gang. But look and it’s a young Asian woman. She wants a place to pray. She goes into the sanctuary. And soon I hear beautiful classical music coming out. Later we talk. She’s here for the Mannes summer festival. Very competitive. Very hard to get practice time. have to draw numbers. Wait in line. I tell her she’s always welcome here. She said she wanted to pray, but playing the piano, well, better....

Another day with a lot on our agenda. Trayvon Martin. Still. And Detroit is bankrupt?!!! Say what? 
  So we start with Amos 8:1-12 I start with a visual aid. A basket with raspberries, blue berries, grapes, strawberries. I ask,  What do you see here? Answer: a basket of fruit. What kind of fruit? Summer fruit.What does that mean? Fullness. Richness. Abundance. Plenty.

So then we read: This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit.* 2He said, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’* Then the Lord said to me,
‘The end
* has come upon my people Israel;
   I will never again pass them by.
3 The songs of the temple* shall become wailings on that day,’
says the Lord God;
‘the dead bodies shall be many,
   cast out in every place. Be silent!’ 

4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
   and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
5 saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
   so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
   so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
   and practise deceit with false balances,
6 buying the poor for silver
   and the needy for a pair of sandals,
   and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ 

How strange that the symbol of abundance, of plenty, should  be the sign of the end. 
Writing almost three millenia ago, Amos is on to exploitative capitalism as explicit as today. The picture of ravenous consumption, dishonesty, failure to honor the traditions about gleaning, about leaving nothing for the poor, it’s where we live. 
And the point is,it’s not about God’s judgment, it’s about the society has already destroyed itself by rending the social bonds that connect us all. It’s written after the exile to explain what led to exile. We don’t need God’s judgment, we’re doing it to ourselves. 
Psalm 52 echoes that theme and then we end with  the gospel. The story of Martha and Mary.(Luke 10:38-42) We understand how concerns of the world consume us, distract us. But we want a different answer from Jesus, like, Martha you come, sit and listen for awhile. Or you women sit awhile, we’ll get the food ready. Hospitality  is a key cultural practice. And she is fulfilling that. So why be criticized? IT echoes back to the Good Samaritan story from last week.  We pass by because of important things on our mind, distractions, obligations...and miss what’s right in front of us...
We finish the day with a prayer. A song. And then our Session meets. Proposals to think about. Strategies for dealing with Presbytery as we try to get our manse sale taken care of. Political strategies. How to deal with candidates. Promises made and broken. Promises still being made.How do we engage in this process? How do you balance Amos style prophetic witness vs. political pragmatism? We struggle for answers. 
The Sanctuary NYC people are arriving. The basket of summer fruit has been eaten.

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