Ready? Here goes. These are all the things I WANTED to talk about today. In outline form. Let the controversy ensue.
1) Happy birthday, John Calvin, 500 years old today (and many years dead). We appreciate your honesty and willingness to challenge authority. We also like to remember things and put ourselves back in other people's shoes, especially those who have so heavily influenced us. That's why we're having church out of the 1946 prayer book today.
2) prophet Amos. Let's play Bible-Land and hang out with him in our imaginations. Amos is controversial guy, just like Calvin, and kinda like the other Amos, Tori. (and THAT is a throwaway line, but being a Bible Geek, I thought it was pretty funny when my sister asked "which Amos?") Anyway, this Amos preached about social structural issues, about economic unfairness and extortion, some of which was a crime, some of which was just a little on the greedy side, but all of which ended up heaping cruelty of various sorts on the heads of the poor. A rich class of Israelites bought up a whole bunch of subsistence farmers and put them to work at a great loss on the land they used to own (which is called latifundialization, which is a very fun word to throw around and feel smart). And to add insult to injury they then sat around in luxury houses on ivory couches eating veal from the herds that the subsistence farmers used to use for working.
3) The same things happen today. It's not face-to-face-cruelty but through impersonal systems of trade etc, people get trampled on. In Uganda, coffee is grown by local subsistence farmers, who sell them to Nestle, and they process them, package them, and sell them back at enormous profit. In India Coca-Cola does a similar thing with water, buying up land and water rights, and then filtering, bottling, pricing up, and selling that same water back to the people who used to use it for free. In Iowa there's a food desert, in the midst of great abundance of corn -- the day-to-day balance of food is produced there, trucked out, processed, and trucked back in. Also, Monsanto will sue you if you save seed from their GMO crops. Not to mention loan bundles and credit-default swaps. GET THE POINT? Through the same systems and structures that allow us to prosper and make money, people are inadvertently, indirectly, but cruelly harmed. Oh and bananas -- Dole does the same exact thing buying up the subsistence farms of local folks, just so you can have bananas in the fruit bowl whenever you want them. Chiquita does worse. Veal, bananas, coke, corn, and coffee -- I think I got all the major food groups of oppression there.
4) by speaking of such things the prophet proves that GOD CARES. That religion ought not to be just an issue of whether you are nice to your neighbor, and say your prayers, and don’t curse, and have a reverent attitude throughout your life. You can make it through life being nice to everyone you see face-to-face, but you may be hiding another form of cruelty. Hidden cruelty is still cruel. God holds us accountable.
5) This is related to the 4th of July, which some celebrate as independence day, and others choose to label "anti-colonialism day" in solidarity with the many who are still under some kind of colonial chains. Dole, Chiquita, Nestle, Monsanto may be the modern-day colonizers - DISCUSS AMONGST YOURSELVES!!
6) call to repentance. Back to Amos -- who said wake up people and do justice again.
repentance means turning AWAY from the bad (boycotts? snarky blog entries? calling the big guys out for public disgrace?) and turning TOWARD the good (responsibility, transparency, accountability, justice, and maybe also kitchen gardens as an expression of responsibility and abundance).
7) At the Lord's Table we observe several things.
a) "until Christ comes again" - we know that there is a coming day when these things will be put back to rights. That doesn't mean we don't work at it meanwhile, but that we have this future consolation coming to us. You can discuss that too - am I placating if I call upon this?
b) ABUNDANCE like the feeding of the 5000 or the non-stop heavenly feast or the non-canonical book "stone soup" that says God really HAS given us enough - we just need to share it with others -- share Jesus with others -- share the body of Christ with others, which means to share ourselves with others - break ourselves like bread for others like jesus.
c) Amos, after nine chapters of fury and vitriol, gives a blessing, a promise, and an invocation of abundance. You should read it if you've made it this far in my rantings.
MAY THE BLESSING OF ABUNDANCE BE UPON YOU AND YOUR BREAD AND WINE AND STRAWBERRIES.
Thanks be to my collaborators for this one!!! it was fun =)