“Unbearable Words” A Sermon on Amos 7:7-15

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'” And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’—Amos 7:7-15

We have a prophet in both our readings this morning: Amos, the 7thcentury prophet, and John the Baptist, who is considered in Christian tradition to be the last of the prophets, the one who pointed beyond himself to Jesus the Messiah.

So what is a prophet? In the popular imagination a prophet is one who predicts the future, but in the Bible a prophet is one who speaks for God. The prophecies are often in the actual words of God. They often begin “Thus says the Lord.” The prophecy may make a prediction, but more often than not they utter a warning. Like a parent to a child saying, “If you keep doing that, the inevitable outcome will be this.”

Prophets have been described as being like the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine,” who reveal the danger of a gas leak before the others do. And sometime, like those poor canaries, prophets die, as we see in today’s reading about John the Baptist losing his head.

I am going to focus mostly on Amos this morning.

The Book of Amosis comprised of a series of short sayings called oracles, which would have addressed a particular situation. In some cases we can figure out what the situation was by what we know of the history of the time from other books of the Bible. Sometimes we can’t.

So what do we know about the prophet Amos? Not a lot, and mostly what he tells us himself. So we do that know he prophesied in the middle of the eight century BCE. And he was a shepherd from the small town of Tekoa, which was a few miles south of Jerusalem.

You need to know that by the time of Amos the nation of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms, Judah, in the South with Jerusalem as its capitol, and Ephraim to the North, with Samaria as its capitol. Just to confuse us Ephraim is sometimes called Israel. When Amos prophesies against “Israel” in today’s reading he is referring to the Northern kingdom and not the whole nation.

Ironically, Amos was from the southern kingdom of Judah, but God sent him to prophesy in the Northern Kingdom. We know that he prophesied during the reigns of King Jeroboam II in Ephraim/Israel and King Uzziah of Judah.

You also need to know that in Amos’ time the northern kingdom of Ephraim had grown very rich during the reign of Jeroboam II, as it was nicely placed near the mercantile powerhouse of Phoenicia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Phoenicians were great seafarers, and traded all across the Mediterranean Sea, bringing goods of all kinds into the region. Ephraim was just to the East of Phoenicia and many trade routes from the coast had to cross it. So it became very wealthy! But the wealth was not evenly distributed, the rich growing increasingly wealthy and the poor struggling to survive, what today we would call “income inequality.”

So Amos prophesied against the wealthy for their greed and lack of concern for the poor. He also prophesied against corrupt government practices, like courts that protected the rich against the poor for bribes. He describes in chapter 8 how economic tyrants “bought the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.” (Amos 8:6).

Amos saw this injustice and corruption threatening the very existence of Israel, both north and south, because the nation was not living up to the conditions of its covenant with God.

Now there were two schools of thought about Israel’s special covenant with God. First, there were those who believed that God’s choosing of Israel was unconditional and could never be revoked.

The other opinion, which Amos shared, was that Israel’s election came with responsibilities. There is a very important concept in the Old Testament around the Hebrew word sedekah, which is most often translated as “righteousness,” but can also mean integrity, justice, prosperity and salvation.

“Righteousness” is an attribute of God. But it is also the order of things that God has put into place for the well being of Israel. Amos believed the corruption and tyranny of the wealthy merchants and corrupt royal courtiers threatened the righteousness of the nation, and he spoke out against it in God’s name.

And by what measure can one judge whether a nation is righteous? The test for national righteousness is how it treats the most vulnerable of its citizens. In Patriarchal ancient Israel the most vulnerable were widows and orphans who had no male to give them status or protect them. Other vulnerable people were sojourners, that is, foreign migrants, who had no claim to the land. And finally, as in every society, the poor were vulnerable. This collection of “the last, the least and the lost” were being abused, and Amos saw that as a threat to the integrity of the nation.

In some of Amos’s oracles God calls for national repentance, a turning away from injustice and corruption. Repentance means changing direction. But in the passage we have for today it seems God has had enough and brings judgment against his people.

Let’s take a look at our passage. It describes a quite dramatic showdown between Amos and the royal chaplain, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. Imagine it as a professional wrestling match; one that is very much a mismatch on the face of it.

You need to know that after Israel had been split in two, Jeroboam I had set up cultic shrines in Bethel and Dan to consolidate political power through religious means by competing with the cultic center of Judah in Jerusalem. This first Jeroboam also put the old Canaanite symbol of fertility, the bull, a literal golden calf, in the cultic centers. The “high places” God refers to were where the old Canaanite deities were worshipped. The old Canaanite religion had never gone away. It was an agricultural religion of fertility and fecundity and remained popular. You may recall an earlier prophetic showdown around this issue when Elijah went up against the priests of Baal.

So Amaziah is the royal priest in the cultic center of Bethel, where they worship an image of a golden calf. And he works for, and is a spokesman for the King, Jeroboam II.

You can see there is a bit of a power imbalance for this showdown. Amaziah represents the king and the national official religion, the dominant power of the day. Amos is just a shepherd from “away,” as we used to say when I lived in Maine.

Nonetheless, God calls and sends Amos up to Ephraim/Israel to deliver an oracle of judgment. It takes the form of a vision.

In an act of prophetic imagination Amos sees God standing next to a building and holding a plumb line in his hand. Do you all know what a plumb line is? Do builders still use them? (Several people nod their heads.)

The builder’s plumb line was a weighted string used to make sure the vertical lines are straight and the building is made correctly. Amos’s vision implies that Israel was built correctly but was now out of line, off kilter, crooked. Its righteousness or integrity was so compromised that it was beyond repair.

So God says he will destroy the idolatrous high places and the corrupt sanctuaries, and he will rise against the House of Jeroboam with the sword.

These are unbearable words to Amaziah, and he reports them to King Jeroboam. He says of Amos, “the land cannot bear all his words.”

Then he tells Amos to leave Ephraim and go back to Judah.

He says to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’

What does Amos mean when he says he is not a prophet since clearly he is? The most likely meaning is that he is distinguishing himself from Amaziah, who was a professional court chaplain. He is saying, I am just a layman, a shepherd that God called to speak on God’s behalf.

It is quite a dramatic episode, but what is the takeaway for us.

It is always tricky to make strict analogies between Ancient Israel and modern America, but I do have two big ideas that arise from this text that I think are relevant for our time.

The first is the danger of religious nationalism. The rulers of Israel in Amos’s time had used religion to consolidate political power. Jeroboam I wanted the same kind of prestige that Jerusalem had as a cultic center, so he built shrines at Bethel and Dan that were idolatrous. Amaziah was his court prophet, speaking on behalf of the regime. But Amaziah was a false prophet, so God enlists Amos to speak on his behalf.

Today, there is a strong movement among some evangelicals who seek to turn America into a so-called “Christian Nation.” They often claim, against all the facts, that the founders and framers were Christian and intended us to be a Christian nation. It is true that many of the founders were Christians of one sort or another, but many of them were Deists and intentionally put in our founding document protections against government interference in religion and religious interference in government, the separation of church and state.

So today’s “Christian Nationalism” is a very bad idea. For one thing when they say “Christian” they don’t mean Christians like me or you, but Christians like them, with very rigid doctrines and a very narrow way of interpreting the Bible.

Furthermore, there is more than a touch of racism in “Christian nationalism” which has a long history of white supremacy. By “Christian nation” many of them mean “White Christian Nation.”

Furthermore, there is also more than a touch of misogyny in “Christian nationalism” in doctrines such as men being the head over women.

I have a daughter who is a UCC pastor. She’d be out in their idea of “Christian America.” In their “Christian nation” there would be no women deacons, no woman preachers, and wives would be required to submit to their husbands. You wouldn’t want to be in my shoes when I tell my wife that I am the head of the household and she must submit to my will.

And you can bet there would be no right for gay marriage in this “Christian nation.” And if they could harness the power of the state to enforce their social policies they could make it illegal to have an abortion, and they could deport non-Christian minority groups. If this sounds far-fetched I can assure you it is not. There are thousands of pulpits all over America that are pushing these very ideas this morning, and you can be sure that they are not hearing about God’s plum line from the Book of Amos.

The founders were rightly suspicious of giving any religion a privileged place in American life. You know I recently learned something interesting about Billy Graham. Did you know he was friendly with American presidents from Harry Truman right through Barrack Obama, and served as an informal advisor to them? But did you know the one president who never invited Graham to the White House? Can you guess?

It was Jimmy Carter. And that may seem strange and counterintuitive since both Graham and Carter were Evangelical Christians. But the thing is, Jimmy Carter is a Baptist, and Baptists historically have been very wary of religious entanglement with government. Roger Williams left our theocratic Massachusetts Bay Colony for Rhode Island so that he could have separation of church and state and freedom from governmental interference in religious matters.

Interesting, isn’t it? Now I don’t want to pick on poor Billy Graham, but it seems to me he was more like a court chaplain like Amaziah than a prophet like Amos. Did he ever criticize any of his President friends for some of their unjust and indefensible polices? Not that I can recall.

Anyway, whatever happened to Amaziah? Our text today ends with verse 15, but if you keep reading Amos says to Amaziah:

“Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.

You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,

and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

Therefore thus says the Lord:

‘Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,

and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,

and your land shall be parceled out by line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,

and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

Harsh! The implication is that by refusing to hear God’s word of judgment, Amaziah himself, the false prophet of the golden calf, will meet a harrowing fate.

So did Amos’ prophesy come true?

Not right away! Things often unfold slowly in God’s time. But yes, Amaziah suffered the same fate as all if Israel when it fell to its enemies. His wife was disgraced, his heirs were slain, his property was confiscated by the victors, and he was taken in exile, the home of unclean deities, and there he died. His priesthood came to an ignominious end.

So my point, and I did have one, is that religious nationalism is a bad idea.

The second takeaway from this episode is about righteousness. God is righteous and demands righteousness. So while being a Christian nation is a bad idea being a righteous nation is a good one.

This idea of societal righteousness was important to our Puritan ancestors, and, though it has never been fully realized, it remains in the DNA of American identity, although I fear it is fading fast. For example Dr. King powerfully employed this Biblical notion in his plea to our national conscience during the struggle for civil rights.

And the litmus test that the prophet’s used is still the right one. This is the question: How does a nation treat its most vulnerable members. And who are the most vulnerable today? Children for one and migrants for another, and if you are unlucky to be both you might be separated from your family and end up in a cage in a warehouse somewhere. I never dreamed I would see that in America.

So who else is vulnerable in our society? Religious minorities are vulnerable. The FBI has reported a dramatic rise in hate crimes two years in a row. Anti-Semitism and attacks on Muslims have increased. And we are in the midst of a national rethinking about the way our law enforcement officials treat racial minorities. And our income inequality is reminiscent of Amos condemnation of the greedy rich of his day, who could bribe courts in their favor. In our time the super-rich can, and do, buy politicians and elections.

So I would say we are failing the litmus test for national righteousness. It is true our building was never entirely straight from the beginning. When the Constitution was written we had enslaved human beings who were consider three fifths of a person. Only men could vote.

But we have come along way since then, and it looked for a while like the plumb line might eventually find that our house was no longer crooked. But today we are on many fronts moving backwards in justice and righteousness. And the idea of a righteous nation is not limited to one faith. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and secular people of good will can all work toward a society that cares for and protects its most vulnerable members.

But I do think there is a special role for the church, in that this notion of social righteousness is part of our story, as we see in Amos and in the teachings and actions of Jesus. And when we were baptized we all promised to “resist the powers of evil and injustice.” So it is my fervent hope and prayer that the church of Jesus Christ can be a community that seeks righteousness, and that we can hold up the plumb line of God’s righteousness to challenge and confront injustice and evil wherever we find it.

Because a pressing question for our time is this: can the soul of a nation be considered sound if it mistreats its most vulnerable members? The answer might be unbearable.

(I preached this sermon at the First Congregational Church of Great Barrington, Massachusetts on July 15, 2018.)

“Our Four Freedoms Report Card” A Devotion for Independence Day

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” —John 8:32

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address, which became known as the “Four Freedoms Speech.” As Europe was embroiled in WWII, and Pearl Harbor was just 11 months away, FDR put forth a summary of the democratic values that were under assault at the time. Continue reading

Paul on the Relationship of Christians to the Civil Authorities in Romans 13:1-7

Chapter 13.1-7 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans has been highly controversial and is a good subject for a lively conversation on just how Christians should view the government. The Christians that Paul is writing to lived in Rome, the capitol of the world’s biggest empire. Christians claimed that “Jesus is Lord,” the title that the Roman emperor, seen as a divinity, required. Could one say both “Caesar is Lord” and “Jesus is Lord?” Paul would say no, “there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” So was simply being a Christian an act of sedition against the state?

If this new transformed community said that Jesus, rather than Caesar, is the true Lord how shall they live in the heart of the empire? This is what Paul was addressing in Chapter 13.1-7. Continue reading

A tribute to Max L. Stackhouse

MAx 2(Yesterday our church, the First Congregational Church UCC of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, had a grand celebration for the life of Max L. Stackhouse. Our pastor, Brent Damrow, presided gracefully over a beautiful mosaic of spoken and musical offerings to remember and honor Max. Family, friends and colleagues shared their thoughts. There was a half hour of Bach organ prelude music by the Reverend Tim Weisman, Yo Yo Ma played a cello introit, an expanded choir sang an anthem under the direction of Tracy Wilson, and a choral benediction conducted by Joseph Flummerfelt. God was glorified and the promises of God were proclaimed. I was privileged to make some remarks. Here they are:)

I have been blessed to know Max for most of my adult life. I met him in 1971, when I started my studies at Andover Newton Theological School, where he was my teacher. Our paths have crossed ever since.

For three years I was a seminary intern at the church where Max and Jean and their family belonged. I was Dave’s 3rd grade church-school teacher. I must confess that I had one of those “Come to Jesus” moments when I realized that Professor Max Stackhouse’s child was in my class!

Eventually both Max and I ended up here in the Berkshires. Max was a frequent lecturer and guest preacher at the church I served in Pittsfield. After I retired we became fellow church members here in Stockbridge. Stockbridge was theological “holy ground” for Max, as two of his heroes, Jonathan Edwards and Reinhold Niebuhr, had lived here. Continue reading

“The God of the Far Off” Toward the Ministry of Inclusion

Prodigal sonWhat an extraordinary week this has been for our country! The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth liked to admonish the church that it must read both the Bible and the newspaper, because we Christians live in the world.

And what a week of news it was! There were two historic Supreme Court decisions that will change our national life in significant, and in my opinion, profoundly positive, ways.

On Thursday, by a 6-3 decision, the Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which makes health care available to all Americans.

And on Friday, by a 5-4 decision, Marriage Equality became the law of the land.

The reason I am here before you instead of our pastor Brent Damrow is that he is in Cleveland at the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, representing the Massachusetts Conference. I am sure he will have stories to tell about the celebrations taking place there, as our national church has been a long and tireless advocate for equal rights for the LGBT community and a supporter  of marriage equality.

I believe that these two historic Supreme Court decisions share a common idea, and that is the idea of “inclusion.”

And a third extraordinary event in our national life also happened on Friday. President Obama climbed into the bully pulpit in Charleston, South Carolina to give the eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the Emmanuel AME Church who, along with eight of his congregants, was murdered by a gunman while attending a Bible study at the church on June 17.

President Obama gave a stirring eulogy for Pastor Pinkney, but he was addressing not only those present, but also the nation. I’d like to share with you some excerpts of his eulogy:

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston . . . .the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he (the alleged murderer) failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace . . .

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace . . .

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

Martha and I were driving to Onota Lake in Pittsfield for a walk on Friday when the President’s eulogy came on the radio. We got to the parking lot at the boat ramp, but we didn’t get out of the car. We sat in the car until it was over, and when it was over I had tears streaming from my eyes.

The President was addressing the painful facts of racial relations in today’s America. He mentioned that in response to the massacre at the church the Confederate flag had been taken down in the South Carolina capitol and elsewhere. That flag, he said, was a symbol of our nation’s “original sin,” slavery.

The president had both the Bible and the newspaper in mind as he gave this incandescent speech. I don’t know of such a theologically astute presidential address since Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural.

And once again I would argue that inclusion is the big idea that binds all these events together. Inclusion.

I believe in the power of ideas to shape societies, and, as my teacher, mentor and friend, Max Stackhouse taught me, to examine where they come from and what they mean. So I want to do a little bit of that with you today about the idea of inclusion. Continue reading

“The Cross and the Church: The Soteriology and Ecclesiology of P. T. Forsyth”

Forsyth(Note: This article first appeared in the Andover Newton Review in 1992 (Vol 3, No. 1). It is the fruit of essays I wrote for my tutor the Revd. Donald Norwood during my 1989 sabbatical at Mansfield College, Oxford. I want to thank Professor Max Stackhouse for inviting me to submit it. This is the first time it is available on the Internet. RLF)

Part 1 The Church and Our Redemption

 The British Congregationalist P. T. Forsyth, 1848-1921, is above all a theologian of the cross, and it is this soteriological focus that dominates his understanding of the church. The church was created by the saving work of Christ, and, therefore, for Forsyth, it has no other principle or foundation. Everything in, of and about the church is informed by the work of Christ; questions of polity, ecumenism, church and state, ethics, the ministry, the sacraments, all these are seen through the lens of Christ’s atonement. Since Forsyth’s view of the atonement is profoundly corporate and universal, so too his understanding of the church is corporate and universal. This understanding of a corporate and universal church created by a divine act in the atoning cross of Christ gives Forsyth’s theology a truly catholic and truly evangelical character and accounts for his continued appeal to several branches of the church as a significant ecumenical theologian for our time. Continue reading

“By Their Groups Ye Shall Know Them”: Celebrating Max L. Stackhouse

Max Stackhouse FlyerWe had a very moving day today, as we celebrated Max Stackhouse at First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ,  in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, first in our morning worship, then followed by a first-rate public lecture on Public Theology by his former student, Dr. Scott Paeth, one of the editors of a new anthology of Max’s writings, Shaping Public Theology (Eerdmans, 2014). It was not lost on many of us that we were hearing about Public Theology in the congregation where Jonathan Edwards was the second pastor and Reinhold Niebuhr was a member.

Max, and his wife Jean, are well-loved, long-time members of this congregation, and many friends, former students, and colleagues were there. There was very special music from some of Jean’s colleagues at the New England Conservatory, and a beautiful letter/tribute was read from Yo Yo Ma, a board member of BITA, who was unable to be there because he was performing in Cleveland. It was a red letter day. Thanks to my pastor Brent Damrow for putting it all together and for giving me the opportunity to say a few words. Here they are:

“By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Matthew 7:20

 Max’s mentor, James Luther Adams, liked to expand on Jesus’s words “By their fruits ye shall know them” to say, “By their groups ye shall know them.” For me to list all the groups, societies, and institutions Max has founded or been active in would use up all my allotted time this morning

So I’d like to highlight two groups that Max and Jean created here in the Berkshires. When they moved here they planned monthly gatherings of the United Church of Christ clergy and their families in their home on Sunday nights. We’d all share a potluck supper, and then the children would retire to watch a video (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a favorite), and the weary pastors and spouses would go to the living room and enjoy friendship and good conversation.

The very first time we went there I firmly instructed my kids during the car ride to address Max and Jean as “Dr. and Mrs. Stackhouse.” When Max greeted us at the front door he knelt down low and said to them “We lived in India, and in India the children call grown-ups Auntie or Uncle, so you can call me Uncle Max.” Andrew nodded soberly and said, “OK, Dr. Stackhouse.” Those gatherings were a blessing to me and to my family, and to many clergy colleagues.

You all know about Max and Jean’s wonderful organization The Berkshire Institute for Theology and the Arts (BITA) that brought together artists, lay people, pastors and scholars for discussions, performances and fellowship. Again Max and Jean opened their home for a meal to the participants.

I mention these to illustrate the commitment that Max (and Jean, too) have to bringing people together to think and talk about important matters, and to share their life with others. Wherever they have lived or traveled around the world, and that list is also huge, they have made deep friendships and countless connections with all sorts of people.

I must confess that in addition to being my teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend, Max is also “a voice in my head.” I think Scott (Paeth) and other former students of Max will recognize how the Stackhousian voice lingers long after the studies are over.

What does this voice say? Well, to take just one example, Max, who is the son and grandson of Methodist preachers has an allergy to hyper-individualistic religion. “Pietism” is the word he uses to describe such impulses.

“Pietism” is a perennial danger for Christians and a regular feature of American religion, where the emphasis is on me: my faith, my experiences. So the Stackhousian voice in my head sometimes says things to me like, “Be careful, Rick, that your faith doesn’t become too individualistic, too private, because faith, though personal, is not private. Your faith is about you, but it’s not all about you.”

Some view a congregation as a collection of beautiful cut flowers collected as in a vase. The beauty is in the individual spirituality, which each person brings to make a beautiful bouquet.

Max, or at least the Stackhousian voice in my head, rejects that view. For Max participation in a congregation is more corporate and organic than that. He might prefer to think of us more like a tree with common roots.

He wants us to think of ourselves as bound together by shared covenants and commitments that are thicker and more transcendent than the sum total of our individual spiritualities. Which is to say that our personal faith is shaped, formed, strengthened and enriched in life together as a congregation.

He wants us to always be asking big questions, such as, “What does it mean to live life together under God?” “What does it mean to be the body of Christ?” He wants us to think about important words such as covenant and vocation.

He believes that out of this shared life and these deep conversations comes a world-transforming Christianity, like that of our Reformed and Puritan forbears, that helps shape our larger community and society.

You can read in Max’s many books the arc of his Christian Social Ethics, but you can also clearly see in his life and commitments the embodiment of his thinking, the caring for peoples and societies by attending to the way they organize themselves and by how they think about who they are together under God.

I give thanks to God for Max’s part, and Jean’s too, in my life and the lives of my family, and also in the life of this congregation. Amen.

(For a podcast of the whole service go here)