Sunday, August 4, 2019

2019.08.04 Who Taught You To Walk?

Today’s scripture readings began at home and continued in church.

Some people abstain from looking at the morning newspaper before they come to church to worship. They say it’s a practice that protects their minds and hearts from being stained by reports of violence, and more violence. Violence sells newspapers. It’s also a fact. I read the paper as I drank my morning coffee before I headed to church.

Today’s lead stories in the Boston Globe: One detailed more mass shooting in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio; another was about a man who buys then runs "sober houses" where recovering addicts get support and safety while they recover from the disease of addiction. Many of these places are unsafe, unclean, and extremely costly. Families of addicts empty their wallets and bank accounts in hope. Residents are instructed to stop taking any and all prescribed medications and “find a Higher Power.” Death happens, because God fails. Not only is this bad and errant theology, it is CRUEL THEOLOGY, motivated by greed camouflaged as health care treatment.

I longed for hope and different headlines. In church I heard more of the same about human behavior. AND, I also heard the voice of God speaking tenderly through the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11:1-11) about loving Israel as a parent loves a child from birth—embracing, leading with “cords of human kindness, bands of love,” teaching the child to walk, and, even when the beloved turns away, refusing to “execute fierce anger.” Why? “I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”

Nowhere is there a suggestion of divine abandonment or wrath. These are human fears only.

In Luke’s gospel story (12:13-21) there is a dispute about dividing the family inheritance. Money again! Someone in the crowd wants Jesus to instruct a brother to divide the family inheritance. Ah, the inheritance! Jesus replies: “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then he warns them to guard against “all kinds of greed”—ALL kinds. 

Then Jesus offers a parable about a rich man whose harvests are so abundant he has no place to store it all. He, notably, does not think of sharing but decides to build larger and larger barns to lay up his goods, saying: ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ Oh, how familiar this sounds today. This is not what I was hoping for. I felt as if I were reading the daily news reports. Are we in America now storing up every privilege, every claim to greatness, every imperialistic ostentation, every violent strategy (war), even reiterations of policies that equate compromise, aka diplomatic dialogue, with appeasement, aka losing?

What is God’s policy? Jesus tells the self-satisfied Soul in the parable what God, Creator of all wealth, said to the greedy Soul: “You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared whose will they be? So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

It is left up to each one of us and all of us collectively to discern what being “rich toward God” means. (One of my ways is to counter cruel theology, even if it’s in scripture. It breeds spiritual poverty.)

May I gently suggest you remember who taught you to walk? Who let you fall down and who picked you up to try again with tender encouragement—all your life. Who loves you in spite of yourself?

Life is short. We do not have much time to gladden the hearts and minds of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind. Be rich toward God, O my Soul. Be rich.