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