It is a now and again a question that Pastor and I get. “Why do you preach so much about the poor? And why do you so often pick these lessons that talk about the poor?” Which brings us to a teaching moment. In the aftermath of Vatican II, that wonderful conclave gathered by Pope John XXIII of blessed memory a half century ago, the Christian Church sought ways to lift up all that we share in common, rather than emphasizing that which divides us. And one of the wonderful gifts of that understanding was our three year common lectionary, the lessons to be read each Sunday in all of our churches. And so today, the overwhelming majority of mainline churches are hearing the same lessons you just heard. One of the goals of all this was so Christians of varied backgrounds could go to work and school and play on Monday morning and talk about the proclamation they had heard on Sunday. And so how did these lessons get picked? Our churches gathered our best theologians to capture the very essence of the Gospel. And their conclusion? We needed to talk about the poor and what you and I do with God’s gifts entrusted to us. That makes sense since Jesus talked about those gifts a lot. One sixth of everything he taught us, concerns our relationship to our material possessions. One third of all the parables are about us and our “stuff.”
And so we do not pick the lessons and we understand we are called to preach on the Word that is before us.
Our lessons this morning are often among people’s favorite passages. For me, too. Their message is clear. There’s no wavering around what God is telling us to do and how to act as people of faith. They proclaim God’s Word simply and practically.
Every day for years – I passed the local Synagogue that has etched on the front façade Micah’s words … “To do justice – to love mercy – and to walk humbly with your God…” I passed by Temple Emanu-El countless times in the 20 years that I lived in Westfield. Often multiple times a day. Back and forth to work – to drop off and pick up my kids – going to and from school, and play dates and activities. Countless times each day, every week. And I never failed to glance over, to look at the words, to read them. God’s words, God’s message to the Jewish people. And God’s message to all people of Faith. To people of all faiths. God’s message for everyone to see. God’s message to us.
This is an historic time as our government goes through unprecedented change this week. And so we have asked Theri to pray for President Trump and his incoming administration, that they might have wisdom and a moral compass to lead our country going forward. We pray too today for President Obama, giving thanks for his 8 years of caring for all the American people. And today is a day when we are reminded about our Lutheran understandings about government. Our confessional theology, our evangelical theology, is clear, that government is a gift from God, an arena in which the faithful interact in order to care for all of God’s children. Remembering the nightmare of 8 decades ago, we pray today for all who speak and who struggle for justice and for peace for all of God’s world, for all of God’s children.