Real Choices

A Reflection in Response to Proper 20, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (Luke16:1-13)


Click here for biblical texts


A cool September morning, walking in the park,
my husband talking about work troubles,
our dog sniffing the ground and eying the scampering squirrels,
birds flitting and singing, we sharing good mornings
with those on the same path, admiring other dogs,
all the while I keep hearing Jesus, you cannot serve God and wealth,
or the way I learned it long ago, God versus Mammon,
the god of money, Caesar, evil chasing after wealth,
visions of an ugly beast with multiple tentacles
reaching out to ensnare us all
into putting the pursuit of worldly riches
at the center of life.


Sometimes he just gets in your head and you can’t stop it,
sort of like the manager in Jesus’ parable caught up in
what he saw as survival, leveraging what was not his
to keep him from money or Mammon ruin,
forgetting about honor or responsibility—
and strangely he seems to come out alright
avoiding the axe using other peoples’ money;
is this not what we read about with banks too big to fail?
Is Jesus recommending cheating those who are owed?
Or is he playing us, and his hearers?
I don’t claim to know, some scholars I read
seem unclear at best, so I can only say
the Jesus I know does not dismiss honor, care,
love, responsibility, moral judgment so easily.
You just have to take my word on that. Or not.

Wall Street, even lobby of my friendly local credit union,
feel far away, because I keep hearing Jesus who once again
sounds like a socialist, not a fan of free enterprise, or consumersm.
Ouch. Most U.S. citizens are not partial to that label,
despite The Bern, not ready to see the welfare of the mass
more important than the profit of the few who make it work,
no prophet of that ancient view accepted even in his hometown
or sanctuaries that claim him for their own.
Once again Jesus unsettles the easy assumptions
of my life and the lives of my comrades in the pews,
and so we look away, embarrassed by the demand
on our individual and collective soul.
Why does he do this again, force us to stand,
uncomfortable like school children found wanting,
not knowing our lessons and resentful that we cannot
go to recess and play as if we have no cares,
pretending that no one Is hungry, no one is shivering,
no one is dying from neglect?

A walk in the park is a choice for health and happiness;
the market says we have choices, and we do, between brands
of toothpaste and cars, but Jesus reminds us we have real choices,
life and death soul choices.  

About this poem . . . . This choice Jesus calls us to make, between focusing on God and focusing on wealth or money or Mammon, is perhaps the most difficult one there is, at least in the United States where the reigning ideology is about getting enough wealth to survive and then to do more, to become wealthy enough to live well and then better and better, until we die and leave it our loved ones who can continue the quest. We are, it seems a “more” culture—everyone wants, we are told by experts, 20% more than they have . . . and that is true if we are at the bottom of the economic pile or the top. Do not our things get in the way of our relationship with God? What are we supposed to do?


©Robin Gorsline 2016
Please use the credit live above when this poem is published

Do We  Hear?

A Meditation in Response to Proper 13, 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts

The speaker intones, A reading from the Gospel of Luke,
chapter twelve, beginning at verse thirteen.

In the pews, most waited to hear the word that could guide them
in the week ahead. They heard the reasonable question from an earnest
soul seeking what he calls the rightful share of his inheritance.
But Jesus will have none of it, refusing to arbitrate in this case,
then going way beyond that simple task
to declaim what must have sounded a strange idea then,
as now: keep yourself from covetousness,
abundant things are not the key to a good life.

Jesus money payitfwd wordpress com

We may think Jesus’ response is wide of the mark,
all the good man seeks is what he is owed,
he has not earned a lecture about avarice or wealth.
But Jesus has a wider message not just for his interlocutor
then but also us today, a parable in which a successful man
has his priorities askew, spending his years
building an investment portfolio, not tending the wealth of his soul.

Someone might want to tell preachers extolling a prosperity gospel,
not to mention the local and national Chambers of Commerce
and politicians who think the first role of government
is to protect the wealth of the one percent and a few others,
that Jesus, the one so many claim to love, has a different message
“one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
(probably not one of his more popular lines).

If capitalism is the national creed of the United States—
many would claim it so—how can anyone call us a Christian nation—
not that we should be called that anyway, many of our people
are not of that faith, or any faith, and unlike Israel we were not
formed as a sanctuary for any one religion (Jews came pretty early)—
although some thought it then and persist in such un-Jesus thought today.

But if the One so many of us call Lord can mouth this economic heresy
how can we be sure of anything? Is Jesus less patriotic than we thought?
Does HUAC–House UnAmerican Activities Committee—
need to investigate church teaching to be sure
the freethinking does not go too far?
Do we need to remove the American flag from the sanctuary
(yes, long ago) so worshippers don’t confuse what they hear
on Sunday morning with the nation’s creed?

All this from one man’s simple question, and Jesus’ answer;
the challenge for us, like him, is do we really listen? And do we hear?


writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . Jesus said far more about economics than about sex, and his teaching about money and justice and community are very challenging to our contemporary consumer culture.  He is well connected to the Hebrew prophets who regularly denounced the practices of their people and leaders in creating false gods and denying their obligation to the welfare of the community. His response to the man in Luke 12 was most likely baffling in that time, but perhaps even more among us today.

©Robin Gorsline2016
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published