becoming poor (4/4)

The people of Israel wanted a king.

To have a king was a sign of power.

To have a king was a sign that you had arrived as a nation.

To have a king meant that you were a people to be reckoned with.

The prophet Samuel warned the people – you don’t want a king. A king will take the best of your vineyards and fields and orchards through taxation. A king will take your daughters as his perfumers and bakers and cooks. A king will make your sons his soldiers and horsemen and commanders.  Let me warn you – you will rue the day that you asked for a king. Continue reading

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becoming poor (3/4)

As we start out this morning, I’d like to explore a couple of temptations the preacher faces when dealing with a biblical text. The preacher’s task, of course, is to explore a particular text, and then to share its message with the congregation. The sermon itself can take many different forms – there are many different styles of preaching – but the task is always the same – to repeat and share the message of the text.

Now in the background to this task there are a couple of temptations – more than a couple – but there are two I want to mention this morning. And the first of these temptations is a temptation to smooth over different points of view within the text. Within the Christian tradition we believe that the Hebrew bible and the New Testament are faithful witnesses to life of God with his people. The scriptures provide one grand narrative of God’s creation and covenant. But at the same time, within that one grand narrative there are different voices:

voices that emphasizes particular issues,

voices that raise specific questions,

voices that explore different aspects of our life with God. Continue reading

becoming poor (2/4)

I’d like to bring two thoughts together as we begin this morning. The first thought is this: That I don’t really understand poverty.

Of course, in an abstract kind of way I understand poverty.

I understand that it must be tremendously painful and disabling not to know how you will get your next meal.

I’ve heard my own parents tell stories of hunger in occupied Holland during WWII.

I’ve helped serve meals a few times down at the Old Brewery mission.

I’ve slept in the hut of a poor family in rural Mexico.

So in an abstract kind of way I understand poverty. Continue reading

becoming poor (in spirit) 1/4

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The question of poverty looms large in both the Old and the New Testament. The question of poverty confronts us in an especially powerful way in the life and teaching of Jesus. And so over the next few weeks we want to spend some time wrestling with the question of poverty – more specifically, we want to think about what it means to become poor.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We will probably recognize these words as coming from the Sermon on the Mount. But this morning we should perhaps remember that both Matthew and Luke have versions of the Sermon on the Mount. And in the gospel of Matthew, the sermon begins with Jesus saying, as we’ve already read: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But in Luke’s gospel, Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Continue reading