The picture: Rising unemployment, chronic underemployment, people trapped in the vicious cycle of loans and morgages, crushing fear and the devastating reality of loan defaults and repossession of property, unfair and out of balance taxation, disproportionate emphasis on defense and military spending, poverty driven work migration, homelessness and near homelessness, use of modern tools of communication to control people’s minds and project official propaganda, astronomical and growing difference between haves and have-nots, official religious structures offering cheap and emotional fixes or short escape trips.
I am not speaking about our society, this is an image of Jesus’ Galilee and one way or the other an image repeated throughout the Roman Empire.
For several decades a new generation of archeologists dedicated themselves to diligent and meticulous unsung work and techniques, such as the tedious canvassing of the countryside for every shard of pottery or remains of little farmhouses and farm installations. “There is no question that we now know more about the world of early Christianity than any previous generation since the end of Antiquity.” (Quotation from R.Hosley and N.Silberman - biblical historians and interpreters of archeology.)
And for all those who are prepared and keen to listen and to have their eyes opened, it is a deeply transformative knowledge. Liberated from religious sentimental and ritualistic baggage, the biblical message suddenly starts to speak to the real world in which we live, and it starts to address our fears and our dreams, first by verbalizing them, and secondly by offering models of alternative thinking and living. It is a process of re-unifying and healing our faith and our lives again. This Sunday Jesus will talk to us about unemployment, how the economy of scarcity breeds crippling greed, and why God is not a free market capitalist. To paraphrase and combine Martin Luther or Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Divine grace is costly, but free and certainly not for sale!