Monday, September 30, 2013


Lets play a game. Try to guess what country I’m thinking of.

I’ll give you a couple of hints, but it can be any country, so feel free to change your choice to another country if you think it will fit better.

 This country is in peace.

 This country has been in peace for a while, actually, and a whole generation hasn't experienced a full scale war.

 This country has lots of natural resources.

 This country has become prosperous by trading natural resources to other countries. Very prosperous.

 This country is prosperous enough that almost everybody is well off. They have somewhere to live, as much food as they want and enough money to buy something luxurious every now and then. Some are so rich that they can buy almost anything they want, especially those trading off natural resources.

 There are some in this country that aren't so rich, but there are so many opportunities that it’s really their own fault for not being able to carve out their share of this wonderful land. I guess you might say that they are bums, hangers on, dole bludgers.

 This country is a wonderful place to live. There’s parties on all the time and those with money really know how to spend it.

 Others wouldn’t mind living here too, but you don’t know what they might do when they get here. They might be dole bludgers too? It’s probably for the best to keep this country strong and make it hard for others to get in.

 In this country religion probably isn't as strong as it used to be. There doesn't seem to be as many people worshiping as there used to be, but nobody seems to really mind what with all the money and expensive things to get.

 There are obviously many religions in this country. What with all the people coming and going it’s a bit much to tell them who they should worship. They might stop trading with us?

 Ok, Hands up those who are guessing Israel?

 We didn’t read the Old Testament reading today, but if we did it might have been a bit more of a giveaway. Israel is in a period of great prosperity and wealth under the rule of King Jeroboam II. Israelites are highly affluent and the envy of close nations.

Into this mix, the prophet Amos comes in with a message from God, but it isn’t a good one for the Israelites: Here’s the Old Testament read from “The Message”
 1-2 Woe to you who think you live on easy street in Zion, who think Mount Samaria is the good life.
You assume you’re at the top of the heap, voted the number-one best place to live.
Woe to those who live in luxury and expect everyone else to serve them!
Woe to those who live only for today, indifferent to the fate of others!
Woe to the playboys, the playgirls, who think life is a party held just for them!
Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain!
those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles!
They could not care less about their country going to ruin.
7 But here’s what’s really coming: a forced march into exile.
They’ll leave the country whining, a rag-tag bunch of good-for-nothings. 

 Come on Amos, surely it’s not that bad?
 Unfortunately it was that bad. In a few short years, Israel is attacked and they are all marched off into exile. All that money and wealth stripped bare. Nothing.

 We, too, could have played the guessing game with Australia in mind. How would we react if Amos appeared in our midst? Woe to us who live in luxury. All your building up of wealth. Where will it be when you die?

 Both the Israelites, and likely us too, are suffering from a deadly disease that is running rampant:
Affluenza, an influenza of affluence. The relentless pursuit of collecting stuff.
Once you have some stuff, rather than being happy, you desire even more stuff. Like a classic addiction, pursuing allfuence leads only more pursuit of affluence.
It spreads easily too. All you have to do is boast about your level of affluence to pass the disease on.

 Most people are infected with this insidious disease and are completely unaware that it threatens to destroy their eternal future. And saddest of all, most people do not even care. Whilst many are aware of the problem, they think that it is not going to hurt them or their families.

 Here today God is warning us of this danger and pleading for us to be alert, so that this problem does not destroy us. Through each of the readings today, God is seeking to make us aware of the dangers that are ever associated with this affluence - serious dangers.

 “Watch out!” he says, “these are distractions!”. “What good is there if you gain these riches, but lose out on the the gift of salvation and eternal life I am offering? What if you gained the whole world? It’s still nothing compared to this wonderful free gift placed before you.” I came down and died for you, and you’re playing with these baubles in the sand??”

 How are we to fight off this penchant for collecting stuff? It’s natural for us to do, and our bodies crave earthly desires too.

“Change my heart oh God Make it ever true,
Change my heart oh God, may I be like you”
With your eyes I can see the needs in others. With your hands I can be extravagantly generous With your voice I can spread the good news
Mould me and make me, this is what I pray.