A reflection on Proper 26A, by the Rev. Camille Hegg
Elton Trueblood points out that Chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew is the funniest part of the Bible. In the reading for this week, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees: do what they teach, but know, they are hypocrites. “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” Later in that same chapter he says “they close the door to heaven and forget to go in themselves.’
I love the image of Pharisees’ being so convinced, and yet not realizing what they are saying. A lot of people are likewise so convinced of their position that they don’t realize what they are saying. Politically, the speakers say rote things, like that to raise taxes on the rich is class warfare;, but I think they don’t realize what they are saying. They talk about the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and other cities, as pitting Americans against Americans. What are they saying?
The Pharisees of today are rigid, mean spirited, narrow minded. They adhere to some law that is beyond what most of us assume or can understand. Certainly they are not Christian principles. There is little mercy for the poor, little compassion for those out of work and who have no way of supporting their families. There is little hospitality for the immigrants who have come here for a better life.
That is part of the hypocrisy of today. They don’t see themselves as being hurt by the current economic situation and therefore others should not be affected either. I actually heard some commentator say of the Occupy Wall Street people: “they should just go and get a job.” Where? Police, who have been a target of job cuts and getting rid of collective bargaining, have been used to fight against the people.
The current economic condition of this country has very much to do with Christian principles. Are we about trying to improve the life of all people, or are we not? Are we ourselves so disheartened that we can’t see that that protest is part of what should be our protest? “They put on burdens which they are not willing to lift themselves.”
So, what are we to do? How are we to have hope and live in hope? God has promised that we shall be protected. That God’s everlasting arms are around us at all times. Some of us, (that would be me) have to hold onto that promise. Maybe I need to look upon the current political situation as the whole of chapter 23 of Matthew, according to Elton Trueblood. Jesus looked at the Pharisees as worthy of humor. Serious, but, really, worth a smile at what they were trying to do.
I am going to Occupy Atlanta on Monday. I expect to be inspired, and maybe to give hope also.