The Adventurous Lectionary – The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2016
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:22-30
God invites us to be the change we want to see in the world. Too often, we have let the world squeeze us into its mold, allowing our imaginations to be stifled by concrete limitations, and our becoming tranquilized by the status quo. God calls us to alternative visions of reality, and challenges us to become partners in healing the world.
Confession and hope belong together in the prophetic vision. Speaking for God, Isaiah proclaims God’s distaste for worship that denies the realities of poverty and injustice. Paraphrasing a comment from Bernie Sanders, God is “tired of hearing your damned songs of praise and smelling your damned incense.” Quit trampling through my Temple, God roars, unless you first expend your efforts seeking justice. There is hell to pay for those who forget that God is God and they aren’t! Trouble is on the way for the 1% of the population who focus on amassing wealth while others lose their homes and barely scrape by.
Could Isaiah’s words apply to us in North America? As I write these words, it is political convention time in America? One candidate promises to “make America great again” but this “greatness” has little to do with people of color, the unemployed, single parents on government aid, and children in school lunch programs. God scoffs at such coronations of injustice. God’s justice trumps our xenophobia and materialism, but God may also show up at the Democratic Convention challenging its own forgetfulness of the poorest of Americans as a voting bloc they need not concern themselves with to win the election in November.
Still, there is hope for the nation. Repent, seek justice, set things right, and forgiveness is possible. If you mend your ways and seek justice in the marketplace and the halls of Congress, God will no longer hold your sin against you. We still may have to face the consequences of our earlier injustices, but God welcomes us to be part of new and healing vision of reality.The Psalmist continues God’s critique of worship that neglects the vulnerable. True worship involves walking the paths of compassion and mercy, not opulence or fanfare.
The Epistle of Hebrews proclaims the life-changing power of faith. The author proclaims that the great people of faith lived with the vision of another country, God’s country that lay beyond the limitations they were currently experiencing. Childless Abraham and Sara trust God’s promise, even though they initially cannot see this coming to fruition. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, confidence in things unseen.”
This faith, however, is not unrealistic, nor does it deny the real limitations and challenges we face. Faith emerges from recognizing the concreteness of reality, including the forces of entropy and injustice. Faith sees the concrete world as the womb of possibility and imagines that God is presenting us with provocative images of the future, even when these seem unlikely at the moment. Trusting God’s vision, the widest horizon of hope, faith trusts that the moral arc of history will come to pass, despite our current waywardness. God’s vision is more powerful than our recalcitrance.
Faith opens us to deeper and wider visions of reality. It gives us greater perspective and energizes us to be God’s companions in transforming the world.