I’ve been listening to the news over the past few days, and it has been very troubling. I’ve been hearing a lot about the Greek debt crisis. I’ve been hearing the politicians in Europe condemning the Greek government. I heard reporters say that the Greek finance minister had to resign because his hotheaded speeches in negotiations with the debt holders were prevent forward movement on negotiations. I read about the referendum vote by which the Greek people rejected the European and IMF monetary fund offers of bailout in exchange for austerity measures that the Greek people believe will stifle their economy and further hurt the poor.
Even though I have experience with debt—I served in the CA state treasurer’s office managing an economy more than 10 times the size of the Greek economy, I found the reports confusing. I keep wondering what is the right thing to do. Whose interests will be served by which path? What will happen if the Greeks do not settle and today, what will happen now that they have reached a settlement?
I do not feel like I can say which way is the right way to go forward. I felt worried and insecure as I tried to hear the prophetic voice, the voice that would have an answer on the news. There are so many rulers, politicians and commentators babbling about the economic truth. They are making predictions about what will happen to the people. But who should I believe?
Our scripture readings today focus on this dilemma, how do we hear the truth, the prophetic voice in the midst of the babble of rulers.
When the people of Israel have strayed far from God, God has a plan. God says to Amos, Amos, what do you see? And Amos responds, “It’s a plumb line.” God tells Amos that he is to be the plumb line in the midst of his people. He will be the straight truth. Amos objects and tells the people—I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, I’m a herdsman, a dresser of sycamore trees. The people of Bethel tell Amos to get out—this is the king’s realm, the temple of the Kingdom. They want to send Amos to Judah. But Amos, says no, this is where God wants me.
In the Gospel of Mark, we see King Herod making a very bad choice about who to listen to. Herod knows that John the baptizer is a holy man. He is preaching and baptizing. But Herod has a conflict, because John is preaching against him because he married his brother’s wife, and Herod’s wife holds a grudge against him.
So Herod has John beheaded at the request of his daughter. But when Jesus appears casting out demons and curing people, Herod knows that this is the truth. He says John has been raised because he knows that John also spoke the truth. He took the wrong advice, the spiteful advice of his daughter and wife instead of listening to the divine words of Christ.
The message that I hear in our readings today is that we must listen for the truth and build on the plumb lines in our midst, not on rhetoric of the politicians who might have their own spiteful grudges. If we listen for Jesus’ message, we may hear the way forward. Jesus’s words came to Herod—he was casting out demons and healing the people.
What would it mean to cast out demons at this moment? How could we put aside petty hatreds? I keep hearing people ask what is “fair”? But maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe the right question is what is loving? How do we cast out hatred and distrust and build on a plumb-line of love?
What is the most loving economic solution for the Greek people? How can they prosper? How can they stabilize their economy so that the things that have real value, health, food, housing families will all be secure. How can we be sure that if people are doing honest work that their currency will retain its value so that they can live well?
We can see the politicians with grudges and petty whims. There are the Greek politicans who have been corrupt and have built personal fortunes while the people around them have suffered. We can see the European politicans who have power and want to maintain their control and wealth, turning away from the pain of their neighbors.
What would healing look like? If Jesus is teaching us about anointing and healing, what would it take to bring the Eurozone together around a shared vision of prosperity, safety and peace for all people.
I hear in our scriptures today that we must look for the plumb lines. We must listen and work
for the truth in the midst of the babble of political rhetoric, petty grudges, diatribes against corruption, explosive shouting about coercion and unfairness. We must ask what we can do to cast out hatred, to build a system on love and to seek to heal the rifts between all people, cure the brokenness that affilicts the poorest people among us and create a healthy and whole world, one that more closely matches God’s vision for the Kingdom of Heaven.