Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Ruin of Joseph

Sermon 9.25.16
Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
   and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
the notables of the first of the nations,
   to whom the house of Israel resorts! 
Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
   and lounge on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
   and calves from the stall; 
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
   and like David improvise on instruments of music; 
who drink wine from bowls,
   and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
   but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! 
Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
   and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away. (Amos 6:1, 4-7)

Alas for those who are at ease, for those who feel secure and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.

Do you grieve over the ruin of Joseph? Media strikes every day, all day, continually breaking news, reporting more than any one person can possibly consume.  

News of bombings and we change the station.
Reports of exposed and exploited refugees and we scroll on.
A warlike political season we excuse inexcusable behavior and language.
Sidestepping the imbalance of racial inequality in our lives has become the new normal and we are unclear about which lives matter anymore.
We justify our opinions and rationalize the distance we place between self and those who dare to disagree.
Our earth-home groans beneath our weight and greed and still we invest and mame so as not be disturbed in our ease.

O God, save us.  Our hearts are hardened, our minds are numb, our capacity to see your suffering is blinded by fear.

Alas for those who are at ease...but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.

The prophet Amos speaks the words of God’s judgement to us today.  The ruin of Joseph refers to the northern kingdom of Israel.  Amos is angry that God’s people have chosen to seek wealth while ignoring the rest of God’s people.  Amos is angry because God’s anger swells over such profound, human indifference.

Amos begins with that haunting words, “Alas..” with one words we know we are hearing a warning and also a surrendering.  “Alas…” you had your chance to care for your neighbor more than you care about yourself, you had your chance to trade your precious oils for the gain of Joseph…”Alas…” people of Israel, God’s chosen and beloved people, you are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph -- “Alas…”.

This judgement and flippancy carries us right into the gospel story as well! Normally we can hear a condemning Old Testament reading and then turn to our gospel reading for comfort and salvation.  Not this morning.  Judgement, surrendering, is the biblical tone before us.

Every day the rich man walks past the sick and hungry man at his gate.  Now in the afterlife they stare at each other from either side of the great, fixed cham and Father Abraham tells the rich man it’s too late.  Alas, he had his chance with the prophets, alas he never once showed grief over the ruin of the man sitting at this gate. and even though he now has concern for his family, they would even ignore a resurrected man. No grace, no second chances.  

There are days or maybe whole life times where we carry the arrogance and selfishness of the rich man.  Mostly likely we will now know the level of poverty of social marginalization of Lazarus.  But I think this story places us in another role.  Luke is the only gospel writer to include this story and Luke is very invested in proclaiming the salvation we receive in Jesus in the many way that manifests in our lives -- social redemption, physical redemption, economic, community and spiritual redemption is proclaimed in this gospel.  So it carries his theme of urgency and awareness if we remember that we are really the five siblings that the rich man wants to warn.  We are those five siblings of the rich man. We who are still alive have been warned about our urgent situation, the parable makes clear. We have Moses and the prophets; we have the scriptures; we have the lessons of God’s economy, about God's care for the poor and hungry. We even have someone who has risen from the dead. The question is: Will we -- the five sisters and brothers -- open our eyes? Will we tend to the impoverished person laying at our gates?

People of God, we come here this morning to worship a God who will never leave us with “Alas…” like the prophet Amos did.  God will never be satisfied with a great chasm fixed between God and God’s people. It will not be our own efforts that move us from alas to healing or from fear to hope or from darkness into light.  
God gifts us with a more holy and eternal power that far outshines our feeble efforts and short attention spans...God gifts us with the power and movement of the Holy Spirit.  This was the gift given to the church by our resurrection Savior.  

Our hardened hearts are not left alone to rot and break...we are softened and healed every day by the love of God that just won’t leave us alone!

I want to leave you with a picture and story of hope this morning.  A story that I believe is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through God’s people.  Unlike the rich man who was too consumed with his own well being to see the suffering at his doorstep, there is a community in Philadelphia that began to work together to ease the suffering in at their doorstep.  Modern day Christian activist, Shane Claiborne lives and works in this neighborhood.  He has authored a few very thought and faith provoking books that tell the story of his life and the life of his neighbors that attempt to live out kingdom of God values as they feel so called.

Now, we are going to move into a congregation conversation about how we are called to serve and work in our neighborhoods as God’s people.  I offer this story not because I believe we are called to do exactly what they are doing.  But they are a beautiful example of flawed, hurting people joining together to do more together than they could ever do alone.  

Listen for this pattern: They stay in their neighborhood, they know their neighbors, they discern the need, their work to meet the need.

Let us pray...God, in this moment we know the the privilege that allows us to not see the needy outside our gate, we confess we see the poor as other than you. Risen Christ, this is how you come to us, this is your visitation. Let us be poor in keeping and rich in sharing. We pray for your Holy Spirit, for a softened heart that will let you in. God, open our eyes, open our hearts, open our gate.

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