Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
When I was a pastoral intern in Nebraska, we gave a Bible to each third grader on a particular Sunday. The Bible is a good gift; it’s a source of hope, love, encouragement, inspiration, and life. I told the congregation: pay attention. We are giving children a knife. As we heard this morning from the letter to the Hebrews: “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow.”
Scripture is sharper than a sword. Like a scalpel, it cuts through what is diseased and damaged, cuts through lies and confusion, cuts through the stories we tell ourselves to reveal the truth. The stories of scripture surprise, disturb, confound and with good intention cut. We and our children need help and practice to listen, to receive powerful, sharp, healing words of life.
This is one of those gospel passages that may hit us right between the eyes before we have time to duck. It’s guaranteed to make everybody squirm in their seats, at least a little, with at least a vague sense of inadequacy. We know that camels can’t go through eyes of needles. But then there’s that “for God all things are possible”, which adds a note of ambiguity to the whole thing. It sounds as if it might indeed be possible, with God, for a whole caravan of camels to ride through the eye of a needle. So did we get hit by a piercing arrow, or a bean bag?
Jesus’ teachings are often couched in ambiguity and exaggeration and seem designed to get us to puzzle it out. He sends us off scratching our heads, giving us the freedom to arrive at conclusions as best we can.