Friday, November 22, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 320: Amos 7; Psalm 113; Matthew 15

Taking the Measure of a Person, of a Community
Are we really ready for God's judgment?

As we work our way through today's readings, I am struck by the depth and profundity of how God sees us, loves us and ultimately judges us in ways that are so different from the ways we judge ourselves and each other. Amos' vision of the plumb line set in the midst of the people accomplishes two things: it shows the resolute standard we are called to in relationship with God; and it reveals that while we are fashioned in God's image, we too often fail to measure up to that blessing. Amaziah and Jeroboam think that by expelling Amos, they can control the narrative of Israel. They are mistaken. Amos reminds them that he is not bound by human institutions or power structures, he is a humble laborer who has been charged to stand in the breech between God and the people in order to proclaim what God would reveal. The measure will be taken, and there won't be any spin. Humans can't control how God is experienced. God is the author, and the editor of our life's story.

The psalm reminds us, and all the advantaged, that God's eye and attention are first and foremost focused on the poor, and those in need. The standard we are called to live into? Not so much the pursuit of holiness, but rather a righteousness born of a zeal for justice. Easy enough to say, harder to practice....

...and an invitation to practice is what we hear from Jesus in Matthew. In his contention with the Pharisees, he calls out the people challenging him over the fact that as a proponent of God's teachings he fails to have them perform the most rudimentary chores of the holiness code, the washing of hands. Jesus turns their, and our, world upside down, saying that if God's creation is good, then nothing going into us can pollute. Even what flows through our natural digestive processes is organic. That filth goes down the sewer, but the pollution to avoid and repent of is the junk that comes out of our mouths. That stuff, the pollution of hearts, the signifiers of poor choices, the physical manifestations of our rejection of God's desire for justice and peace for all people is the stuff that stinks, stains and fouls our relationship with God and with each other.

Jesus models what the way of God looks like, and what conversion to that way is, when he engages the Canaanite woman in her plea for her daughter. He shows them what harsh, holier-than-thou exclusivity looks and sounds like. What gives us hope is her tenacity...even the dogs get to lick the crumbs up from under the table; why would Jesus withhold mercy from someone in need?

Answer: he wouldn't and he doesn't; and yet the disciples continue to struggle with what it means to choose mercy over self-justification; service over privilege. So, we once more see the feeding of a multitude. See to the needs of humanity, says Jesus, if you want to manifest what the kingdom of God really looks like. It isn't found in purity, or in the sham avoidance of prurience. It is revealed in how we treat each other, stranger and kinsfolk alike. It is embraced when we set aside pride and certainty, and embrace humility and the awareness that God is not just some set pattern of codes to keep from the past, but a dynamic, revelatory Creator who is involved and invested in our choices today, in whom we choose to serve and

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