Question and Answer
  • Sunday, July 21, 2013

9 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: Amos 8:1-12 • Ps. 52

Alternate: Gen. 18:1-10a • Ps. 15 • Col. 1:15-28 • Luke 10:38-42

Not everything is difficult. The Lord God shows Amos a basket of summer fruit and asks, “Amos, what do you see?” Amos replies, “A basket of summer fruit” (Amos 8:2). The Lord God, speaking through a trinity of persons, asks Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?” “There, in the tent” (Gen. 18:9). The Word of God is not far from you, it is in your heart and upon your lips, and, if you listen, you may hear it coded in the question. “Where are you?” “Here, in the basement.” “Did you hear me?” “Yes, I heard you.” God takes you not only to the land of unlikeness, but also to the land of here and now, examines with the sharp precision of the present moment, and causes you to say, “I am here.” Here the apocalypse begins.

The basket of summer fruit, beautiful in vision, is about to rot under the condemnation, “The end has come.” “The songs of the temple shall become wailing, … the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place” (Amos 8:3). Prosperity has come to a few at too great a price in human suffering and economic plight. “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.” We are not, after all, talking about fruit, but wealth torn from the weak and impoverished. After the wailing comes the wandering of a lost people who go “from sea to sea, and from north to south.” They go “seeking the word of the Lord, but they do not find it” (Amos 8:12). Eventually, however, questions will come again and a word from the questions. “Do you know that the time is surely coming?” “Yes Lord, I know that it is coming.” “I know that he is about to judge the living and the dead.”

The Holy Trinity appears as three men arriving at the oaks of Mamre where Abraham sat at the entrance of his tent. Before they ask about Sarah Abraham goes to work with her, offering a full and generous display of Middle Eastern hospitality. “He took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared and set it before them; and stood by them under the tree while they ate” (Gen. 18:8). This gesture is, in a sense, divine, for hospitality is a way of respecting the dignity of every person, which dignity is rooted in the divine life. Still, there is something normal about the sequence. People arrive; Abraham greets them, bows to the ground, and then offers food. They ask, “Where is your wife Sarah?” He answers, “There, in the tent.” Suddenly, this is the meeting of God and his people. “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son” (Gen. 18:10).

In the fullness of time, in the time that is now, God speaks. God speaks in a late spring. God unfolds in bursting buds, pushes up a bluing heaven, asks questions with obvious answers, and paints pictures clear even to dim eyes. “A basket of summer fruit.” “There, in the tent.” The Lord God, meeting his people in ways so hidden and so obvious, asks another question holding another answer. “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15-17). “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted about many things; there is need of only one thing” (Luke 10:41-42).

Look It Up
Read Luke 10:38-42. The active life and contemplative life do not compete. They are, together, one thing.

Think About It
Sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to his questions. “What do you want?” “Do you love me?”

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