Blessings

File:Harvest (13429504924).jpg

Saturday

Psalm 67

1May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
2that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.

We all want God to bless us. We want God to bless our homes and our children. We want God to bless our tables and our jobs. We want God to grant us prosperity and peace. We want God to protect us from all evil.

And when we are generous, we want God to bless every table – though the truth is we are more concerned with our own than those neighbors far away.

We think blessing is an end in itself, that it is good to be blessed, that it is good to have safety and security and abundance. We have a much harder time thinking of blessing as a means to an end. God intends to accomplish something through it. God is not just giving us an overflowing pantry. God is giving such a pantry that others might know God’s grace and power.

And it’s not this strange American perversion: “Look at me. I’m rich because of God. You can be rich, too.”   It’s rather, “Look at the abundance of God that there is plenty to share.”

There are two types of wealth in scripture. There is the wealth that comes from rich fields and timely rains. And there is the wealth that comes from profiting at the expense of others. The first is regarded as God’s blessing; the second as “unrighteous mammon”. But the wealth that comes from the fortune of good weather and land – wealth that is gift from God – is meant to be shared. If my fields prosper, I have the obligation to aid those whose fields did not. This is the failure of man in the parable of the rich fool. When his barns overflowed, he thought only of himself and not his obligation to his neighbors. He was at ease, but no one else. This is also the problem of the rich man with Lazarus at his gate.

So the psalm is a harvest song, calling upon all creation to recognize God’s goodness, God’s abundant generosity. The harvest is meant to bring joy to all – and give rise to praise from all. God’s blessing has a purpose: “that your way [God’s generosity and goodness and care for all] may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.”

 

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHarvest_(13429504924).jpg By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Harvest) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Uh oh, Jesus is talking about money

Watching for the morning of August 4

Year C

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 13 / Lectionary 18

Incipit to the Gospel of Luke from the Book of...

Incipit to the Gospel of Luke from the Book of Kells, c. 800 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The assigned readings for Sunday have us skipping over the rest of chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12 in the gospel of Luke to take up what is commonly known as the Parable of the Rich Fool – so the common element in the readings is possessions.

What we bypass is the accusation that Jesus is driving out demons by satanic power; the message that no sign will be given to this wicked generation but the sign of Jonah; the reference to the eye as the lamp of the body and, if that eye is dark, how great the darkness within; the woes that Jesus pronounces on the Pharisees and the warning to beware of their teaching; and the encouragement not to be afraid when you are persecuted.  All of this reminds us that Jesus is on his way to that final showdown in Jerusalem.

When we arrive at this parable about the rich fool who built bigger barns to store his abundant harvest only to perish that night, it is set in a context of conflict between the defenders of the world as it is, with all its injustices, and Jesus message of what should be – and what will be.

Jesus’ teaching about wealth and possessions is not an abstract discussion – it looks out upon a community where some are very wealthy and others deep in poverty and debt and reminds us all of God’s declaration that he is the defender/redeemer of the poor.

“Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)

The Prayer for August 4, 2013

O God, from whom all good things come,
you have called us to live with open hands,
sharing what you provide with those who are in need.
Grant us humility to receive your gifts with thanksgiving,
and the wisdom and compassion to share them freely with others.

The Texts for August 4, 2013

First Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
“Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” – The poet reflects on the meaningless of life in the face of death that renders all human striving meaningless.

Psalmody: Psalm 49:1-12
“When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others.” – The poet is not troubled by the threats of the wealthy and powerful, for their wealth cannot deliver them from the grave.

Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-11
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” –
Paul writes for us to put to death the deeds of our fallen nature and clothe ourselves in Christ.

Gospel: Luke 12:13-21
“Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” – asked to arbitrate and inheritance dispute, Jesus warns about the corrupting power of possessions.