Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking Forward to October 30, 2011 -- 20th After Pentecost, Proper 26A

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Micah 3:5-12
  • Matthew 23:1-12

The Sermon Title is Actions Speak Louder...

Early Thoughts: It is a classic complaint about the church "they are all hypocrites". Why do you think that is? What is our best response? (other than the rather snarky "always room for one more" or "then you'll fit right in")

That accusation is leveled because people listen to what we as people of faith say about loving and caring for each other and holding up a better (or at least different) way of living.  Then they look at how we actually behave.  And all too often they see a discrepancy between the two.  And as we have all heard many times, actions speak louder than words.

THe role of the prophets in Scripture is to reminds people what their actions say about them.  The prophets remind people that words and ritual are not what God wants.  God wants right action, justice to be done, people to be cared for.   REtired United Church Minister Rev, John Shearman says about this Micah passage:
Micah, of whom little is known other than that he was a rural Judean, holds an important place in Old Testament prophecy. He lived in the late 8th century BCE when Assyria threatened the existence of both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. His prophecies declared uncompromising justice as God’s sole interest at a time when more popular prophetic voices sought to please their political masters and accepted bribes for doing so.
Power has a strange way of attracting popular support by means of solicitous propaganda. We confront this every day, even in the most democratic societies, giving it the curious name of “spin.” As this passage points out so graphically, ancient Israel had its spin doctors too. They were called false prophets who sought favours by saying what their political masters wanted to hear.
The challenges of Micah’s prophecies were decidedly different than those desired by Israel’s leaders. In an era of great political and religious corruption and compromise, faithful Israelites had to struggle to maintain the purity of their faith tradition rooted in the justice and righteousness of Yahweh that required faithful obedience to the Covenant.
A growing gap between rich and poor characterized the age of Micah’s contrarian prophecies. Naturally, the rich and powerful sought to continue the comforts they enjoyed no matter how much it violated the nation’s religious heritage or whatever the cost to those less powerful than they. They found plenty of favourable support in the twisted prophecies of those whom they could bribe. At the same time they worshipped hypocritically believing that they were safe in God’s providential care (vs. 11). (found here)
Sound familiar?  THink the same could be said about the world today?

Jesus makes the same argument against the religious authorities and teachers in his world. They were big on the showiness of being teachers, they were quick to name possible breaches of the Law.  But they forgot that they had to live out God's Justice.

In the end, actions speak louder.  ANd so if we don't want to appear hypocritical, we have to get our actions to match what we claim we are all about.

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