The 18th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20C (9/18/2016)

Lessons:Amos 8:4-7 Psalm 113 (7) 1st Timothy 2:1-7 St. Luke 16:1-13

Semicontinuous Series: Jeremiah 8:18–9:1 Psalm 79:1-9 (9)

Prayer of the Day: God among us, we gather in the name of your Son to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.  Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

8.4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,

6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Amos 8:4-7. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

 

God’s Work. Our Hands.

According to H. George Anderson, former Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, in the Middle Ages wealthy citizens gave to the monasteries who, in turn, gave to the poor. In the reformation, the princes found excuse to confiscate church property, and the poor were left without support. Luther saw this early on, and in Leisnig he tried to address it with a ‘"fraternal agreement” where the community would take over the care of the poor from the monasteries. Attention was given to root causes as well as relief. A council was organized in Leisnig, with representatives from the poor included. (It is estimated that in Luther’s day, 30% of the population were considered poor.)

In the early years of the United States there was also great poverty. The first settlers gobbled up the best lands and rented out what they weren't using to newcomers, at a high rate. Many of these newcomers spent their first years on the continent in bondage. They had to sell up to seven years of their freedom, in order to pay off those who transported them to the new country. In those days Lutheran congregations and leaders showed a strong interest in understanding why people were poor, and working to do something about it.

Caring for those who are in poverty, and working to change the realities that make it hard for them to thrive, have been strong priorities for Lutherans from the very beginning. The generosity of Lutherans is not widely known. Although our combined social outreach efforts receive more donations than any other social service agency in the U.S. (including Catholic Family Services, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross), this is less evident because it is spread out among some 461 Lutheran agencies.

Dr. Anderson’s insights into our Lutheran history help explain why it makes sense for us to celebrate the origins of the ELCA each year with a “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday. On this day, we encourage every participant in our congregation to honor this legacy of community involvement. At Saint Peter, this coming weekend, we will have a brief worship service (and an even briefer sermon…), after which worshippers will either make their way to service projects around our city, or gather in the worship center to pray for whose who serve the poor throughout the world.

This is a concrete way for us to honor Martin Luther, and the reformers who took poverty in their day so seriously. It is also a concrete way for us to respond to this weekend’s first lesson, where the prophet Amos warns us not to take advantage of the poor. God calls us to care for all people who find themselves in need. We are thankful for our ancestors in faith like Amos and Martin Luther, and the strong example of faithfulness they left for us.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why was care for the poor so important to the prophet Amos?
  2. How did Luther put in place systems of care for the needy people of his day?
  3. What caring ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have inspired me?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What gifts and abilities do I have, that God can use to care for people in need?
  2. When have I felt the presence of God, as I have served someone in need?
  3. How will I regularly engage in service in the weeks to come?