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'Dollar Coins 'In God We Trust'' photo (c) 2009, cometstarmoon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Here is a sermon from my archives on the gospel text for Ordinary 28, Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary.  It couples Mark 10:17-31 with bracing words about wealth from James 4:11-5:6. 

A Dangerous Obsession

A Sermon on James 4:11-5:6 and Mark 10:17-31

James, you sound like the Old Testament prophets: weep and wail, rich people, your riches are rotted?  The cries of your workers have reached God’s ears?  James, you sound like Amos in Israel, seven hundred years before Jesus who thundered: “For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals—they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and push the afflicted out of the way (Amos 2:6-7a).  How terrible it will be for you who have such an easy life in Zion, and for those who feel secure in Samaria, you notables…how terrible for those who stretch out on your luxurious couches, feasting on veal and lamb!…You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest perfumes, but you do not mourn over the ruin of Israel.  You shall be the first to go into exile!  This party will be over!” (Amos 6:1-6).

Yes, James joins a long line of prophets who speak harshly to the rich and the comfortable.  Imagine how he might deliver that critique now, in the twenty-first century: Woe to you big businesses that don’t pay your workers a living wage.  Woe, you CEOs that pull in hundreds, thousands of times what you pay your workers.  Woe, you wealthy that buy influence in Washington, and woe to you officials that coddle the wealthy and leave the poor and the sick out in the cold.  Woe to you affluent who luxuriate in homes of many thousands of square feet while some have to work long hours at multiple jobs in order to rent a basic one bedroom apartment, and while others call the streets home.  Woe to you who live to buy and consume and accumulate and throw things away.

Now imagine the “amens!”  Amens from people like the former workers at Enron and other companies who lost their retirements due to the shenanigans of the higher ups.  Amens from people who live paycheck to paycheck.  Amens from workers stuck in sweatshops producing cheap goods.  Yes, James’ tough preaching does draw Amens from the oppressed.

But it won’t win him too many friends elsewhere.  (more…)

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