Collect and Readings for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity – Amos 7.7-end, Deuteronomy 30.9-14, Psalm 82, Psalm 25.1-10, Colossians 1.1-14, Luke 10.25-37
The Prayer for today
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase
and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things
temporal that we lose not our hold on things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for our Lord Jesus
Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
It is in today’s Psalms that God’s standards of loving are clearly and beautifully stated. These precepts of defending the cause of the poor and oppressed, upholding right judgement and caring for those in need, are like a strong heartbeat pulsing underneath the events and stories of the other readings.
Amos, burning with God’s indignation at the corruption and idolatry of the practices in the northern kingdom, sees the lives they have built like a leaning wall that ought to be straight and true. Not surprisingly his words, spoken as an outsider from the southern kingdom, and critical of a civilisation which has brought comfort and wealth to many, are received with anger and verbal abuse. It’s never an easy life being a prophet. Amos bridles in response. Surely, they didn’t think he would have chosen to come to their country? Their refusal to listen to God’s warning simply proves the extent of their spiritual deafness, which is bound to bring about their destruction.
In the reading from Luke, Jesus is also facing opposition. The seventy-two have recently arrived back, and there has no doubt been an angry backlash from those towns denounced by Jesus for their refusal to receive the message brought to them. The law expert is smugly deprecating as he leads Jesus into a trap, which Jesus neatly sidesteps, dropping the man in instead. Perhaps he was hoping for Jesus to agree that ‘neighbour’ only refers to those within the law – such as the denounced Capernaum, for instance?
The story Jesus gives by way of an answer forces him to look with God’s measure, or plumb line, at attitudes and assumptions which need a thorough overhaul. The right words may still be in place, so that the love of God and neighbour can be glibly quoted, but the spirit of those words has dried up inside and left only the empty shell.
In contrast, Paul is full of thankfulness at the lush growth of the Christians of Colossae, and he prays for that to continue to flourish. For us, too, there are many signs of regrowth and regeneration in the Church, which is wonderful to see. We need to ensure that the walls are regularly checked as we build, so they can stay true to God’s priorities and values.
And when any prophet speaks out, and what they say is uncomfortable to hear, it is wise to listen carefully in case the unpalatable is the truth. Prophecy is rather like the surgeon’s scalpel; it’s worth putting up with being sliced open if it’s going to lead to healing and life, rather than death by default.
Some things to reflect on:
· Why does human nature so often react to God’s light as something to be deflected or shut out?
· What should we do if we find God pointing out an error or sin in our life?
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev’d Fiona Robinson